More 59 Seconds

As I’ve said before, I like 59 Seconds. I’m trusting the author to fairly summarize the research, even though I know he’ll sometimes over-sell it.


This chapter was a little less exciting for me. It mostly seems to be about people brainstorming in groups.

Unconscious mind

Distract your conscious mind when you’re stuck. Or just put the task away and come back later (especially in a different environment). At the very least, this may allow you to let go of a fixed mental box. Track a dot as it moves across the monitor (the saccadic eye exercise in Brain Workshop might do, even though it’s not continuous motion). Watch cars or birds as they move across your window.

Encourage analogy

Look for advice from similar situations. Think of how some other person does something like what you want to do. Change of perspective, or just useful clues? It should help, either way. Imagine what happens if you did the opposite of what you think will help.

Flowers and plants

These help encourage creativity and play. Why? Doesn’t matter. Red is associated with danger, green with positivity and relaxation. Green ink -> 30% more anagrams solved than red ink (maybe red is harder to see, too). But on the other hand, pictures or video windows of nature scenes don’t work well. Green paint might help.

Fresh Blood

In groups, rotating out a new collaborator helps on average. Maybe this is just because in the study, the transaction was to take 1 person out of each group and move them to the next, on the same task. So naturally this person would be stealing all the cool (types of) ideas from their previous group. But I still have a weak belief that this helps beyond that effect (or maybe the study did control for it by using different people or tasks).


Priming matters a lot in general. Our brain associates things with other things. Trigger one thing and it triggers associated things.

Put people in front of computer wallpaper showing dollar symbols, and they behave in a more selfish and unfriendly way, giving less money to charity and sitting farther away from others.17 Give interviewers a cup of iced coffee, and they unknowingly rate interviewees as colder and less pleasant.18 Add a faint smell of cleaning fluid to the air, and people tidy up more thoroughly.19 Put a briefcase on a table during a meeting, and people suddenly become more competitive.20

So, expect to be inspired by watching or thinking about other great creators. Or, glance at a piece of art that suggests creativity. A picture with 12 identically colored crosses inspired less creativity than one with 1 of the 12 colored differently. Images like these are somehow “creative-priming” compared to the boring all-same versions:

Wise_9780307593269_epub_003_r1 Wise_9780307593269_epub_004_r1

Pull yourself toward your desk to increase creativity. Push down on the desk to decrease it (we have a long association of pushing away things we don’t like).

If you’re more stressed, you’ll be less creative (more focused). All stress is physical, but there are different types, still. The brain uses blood. Different parts of the brain are boosted/suppressed by stress. People unscramble anagrams (10%) faster when lying down than when standing up - probably because of physical stress.

(from Seth Roberts: if you’re walking on a treadmill, you’ll enjoy studying more; standing up is no help. suggests walking/learning priming)


Cookies taken from a nearly-empty jar taste better than cookies from a full jar (scarcity).

Researchers failed to produce any measurable “hard to get” attraction effect from first contacts in online dating. Since that failed, they tried enlisting prostitutes; also no effect.

However, if you appear to be GENERALLY hard to get but SPECIFICALLY easy for your mark, then they are more excited about you (because you probably won’t reject or publicly humiliate them, but you won’t embarrass them with your reputation of being easy; you’re a more impressive prize).

For females: latex bra inserts. A cup: 13, faked B cup: 19, faked C cup: 44 (approaches by men in a nightclub), and 15%,18%,24% (hitchhiking success rate).

Touch the upper arm of someone you need help from. Brief touch = 20% more successful panhandling. I don’t think this is all intimidation. This also makes women (and probably men) more receptive to cold approaches, even in public (physically attractive, confident young men apparently have a 20% success rate in getting a woman’s number after an appearance-compliment and offer for drinks that night, but only 10% without touching).

Touching is high status and dominant, even if not intimidating to the recipient.

Succesful men and women in speed-dating get people talking about themselves, with fun/offbeat queries, probably because they’re a refreshing change from the conventional interaction (and fun/playful/leading people are attractive).

“If you were on a hit show, who would you be?” “If you were a pizza topping, what would you be?”

Mimic someone (repeat exactly their words back to them, or just their body language), and they report feeling a closer emotional bond. Don’t be too obvious and they won’t notice.

People seem to be able to detect that you act interested in everyone (in a speed-dating environment, irrespective of whether they eavesdrop or are just perceptive of your progression with them implying a fixed agenda). They hate that. Maybe you’ll be unfaithful, or maybe it means you’re low status and grateful for anything you can get.

Women avoid (in planning on long-term commitment) men who seem too attractive AND too high status, probably figuring they won’t be able to keep them.

Women claim kindness is what they’re looking for. What they really want is bravery. For impressing women, rock climbing, skateboard/snowboard/bmx/etc, soccer, and hiking are attractive. Aerobic and golf aren’t. For impressing men, aerobics, yoga, gym (but not bodybuilding).

Scary first date = they think they’re excited about you.

Get them to disclose personal info. It will need to be reciprocal, and if it wasn’t safe small-talk, you’ll feel intimate. For example:

1. Imagine hosting the perfect dinner party. You can invite anyone who has ever lived. Whom would you ask?

2. When did you last talk to yourself?

3. Name two ways in which you consider yourself lucky.

4. Name something that you have always wanted to do and explain why you haven’t done it yet.

5. Imagine that your house or apartment catches fire. You can save only one object. What would it be?

6. Describe one of the happiest days of your life.

7. Imagine that you are going to become a close friend with your date. What is the most important thing for him or her to know about you?

8. Tell your date two things that you really like about him or her.

9. Describe one of the most embarrassing moments in your life.

10. Describe a personal problem, and ask your date’s advice on how best to handle it.

Get a tame woman to accompany you and dote on you, laughing at your jokes, etc. When she slips away, the other women will want you.

Act lukewarm at first (I’m generally hard to get) but warm, peaking toward the end (but I’m really into you).

Slow developing, real smiles. Tilt your head (note: I actually looked this study up. It’s students scoring CG characters on a screen. But there’s an indirect citation to Frey 1999 that actually talks about (laterally?) tilting your head toward either who you’re looking at or talking to; unfortunately it’s in German).

College students’ first impressions: women want a man with 2 previous partners (but not more) and men want a woman with 4. 0 is bad.

Sustained eye contact => attraction. But people consider it hostile and will avoid it unless there’s an excuse or a willingness to be attracted. (study used a fake “ESP study” scenario to bypass natural defensiveness)
Rather than chatting about topics that you both like, try talking about things you both dislike – people feel closer to each other when they agree about dislikes rather than likes.

I don’t know if I believe this. It’s normally risky to talk shit about others; people associate the shit with you. But maybe that doesn’t apply given attraction, or given that they agree.

In relationships

Active listening almost never happens (“I understand the way you feel when you say XYZ …”) and so isn’t useful in predicting breakups in real relationships. Maybe it would help if you could do it.

The female usually raises a difficult issue, presents an analysis of the problem, and suggests some possible solutions. Males who are able to accept some of these ideas, and therefore show a sense of power sharing with their partner, are far more likely to maintain a successful relationship. In contrast, couples in which the males react by stonewalling, or even showing contempt, are especially likely to break up.

Maybe. You could just as well say that reasonable demands from the female are necessary in order for the man to be able to please.

New joint activity involving physical contact. Dancing, if you haven’t been.

Men estimate how pleased a woman will be by some stereotypical romantic gesture more pessimistically than women.

Identified as maximally romantic by some portion of women:

  1. Cover her eyes and lead her to a lovely surprise—40 percent

  2. Whisk her away somewhere exciting for the weekend—40 percent

  3. Write a song or poem about her—28 percent

  4. Tell her that she is the most wonderful woman that you have ever met—25 percent

  5. Run her a relaxing bath after she has had a bad day at work—22 percent

  6. Send her a romantic text or e-mail, or leave a note around the house—22 percent

  7. Wake her up with breakfast in bed—22 percent

  8. Offer her a coat when she is cold—18 percent

  9. Send her a large bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates at her workplace—16 percent

  10. Make her a mix CD of her favorite music—12 percent

It’s easy to remember negative emotions. Maybe 5 times easier.

Negative remarks are returned in kind more than positive ones.

Write (privately) about your feelings about the relationship. Then you’ll tend to express more positive things to your partner.

Think about how others’ relationships are worse than yours. This will make you happier with yours than if you only think of what’s good about it in isolation.

If you have some real criticism of your partner, follow it with “but [a reason it somehow it makes me love them]”.

Keep cool objects in the entertaining-room those that have a history with your partner (gift, shared purchase, vacation, etc.)

Thinking about your love for your partner should decrease your specific interest in sexy bodies.