Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Do you have your best meetings in Starbucks?

Interesting programme on Horizon (BBC2) tonight, How to Make Better Decisions.

I thought the guy who writes equations to help people decide whether to chat someone up, or buy a pair of shoes, was a complete quack. Or at least I did, until on came the guy who thinks we make decisions based partly on precognition of the future.

But I was very impressed by the research on priming. Now I know (or at least I have known) a lot of this stuff, and recognise that contextual factors can significantly influence the decisions that people make. But I never thought this could come down to a hot cup of coffee.

Lawrence Williams, a researcher at Yale asked people to hold a drink for them while he took their details. These people then had a short conversation with Lawrence’s colleague, Randy. And they were then asked to decide whether Randy would be a suitable candidate for a project manager role. Whether the drink was hot or cold had a significant influence on people’s perception of Randy, even though they had held the drink several minutes beforehand.

So next time you’re asked out to Starbucks for a meeting, just be aware you might end up making more positive decisions than you’d intended.