Jonathan Freedman, and Psychological Reactance

This is taken from SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence. 

Jonathan Freedman, psychological reactance is a very popular term in the anti-child-spanking community of parents. If you dig into the research behind the movement you will find his name. You will also find this study cited repeatedly. Freedman didn’t study how to change a child’s behavior in the moment. He studied how to influence lasting change.

Freedman knew that in 1965 most boys of seven to nine years obeyed their parents as a result of the threat of spanking. Spanking was the gold standard of parenting then. There was not an anti-child-spanking community, in fact it was just the opposite.

Spanking in Monaco

Consider this Sunday Dec. 12 1965 article in the Chicago Tribune titled Princess Grace Does the Spanking in Monaco.

-In a rare interview with this reporter, Princes Grace discussed how she raised her family.

“Children need much love and affection,”she said, “but also some discipline. “I’m rather severe with mine.”jonathan freedman, psychological reactance

Did Rainier ever apply a hairbrush to his offspring like ordinary fathers?

“Well, sometimes I use my hand on them,” she replied.

“Prince Albert,” his mother said, “already is being taught that it will be his duty one day to govern the principality,” and she added: “It is fairly easy to teach him. He is quiet, and thinks a lot.”-

He is Quiet and Thinks A lot

Any parent of a toddler knows what a relief those moments of silence can be. The article is not asking about the validity of spanking or if the family used spanking. It asked how did the family used spanking and who did it.

This occurred in the fractured era of Churchill’s death, LBJ’s Great Society, the start of the Vietnam War.It happened during the assassination of Malcolm X and the racial tensions in the American South with Dr. Martin Luther King leading the charge. In that backdrop, the validity of spanking was not on the forefront of societal happenings. The quick peace and quiet it brought must have been a huge relief.

But a small experiment happening in this pivotal moment in history would go on to influence the parenting style of the nation.

This excerpt from Readings in Managerial Psychology by M. Boje explains it best.

Jonathan Freedman

“An experiment by Jonathan Freedman gives us some hints about what to do and what not to do in this regard.

Freedman wanted to see if he could prevent second to fourth grade boys form playing with a fascinating toy. But only because he had said that it was wrong to do so some six weeks earlier. Anyone familiar with seven to none year old boys must realize the enormity of the task. But Freedman had a plan. If he could first get the boys to convince themselves that it was wrong to play with the forbidden toy, perhaps that belief would keep them from playing with it thereafter. The difficult thing was making the boys believe that it was wrong to amuse themselves with the toy-an extremely expensive, battery controlled robot. (This was in 1965)

Threats vs. Options

Freedman knew it would be easy enough to have a boy obey temporarily. All he had to do was threaten the boy with severe consequences should he be caught playing with the toy. As long as he was nearby to deal out stiff punishment, Freedman figured that few boys would risk operating the robot. He was right. After showing a boy an array of five toys he warned them, “It is wrong to play with the robot. If you play with the robot I’ll be very angry and will have to do something about it.” Then Freedman left the room for a few minutes. During that time, the boy was observed secretly through a one-way mirror. Freedman tried this threat procedure on twenty-two different boys, and twenty-one of them never touched the robot while he was gone.

Success?

So a strong threat was successful while the boys thought they might be caught and punished. But Freeedman had already guessed that. He was really interested in the effectiveness of the threat in guiding the boys’ behavior later on, when he was no longer around. To find out what would happen then he sent a young woman back to the boys’ school about six weeks after he had been there. She took the boys out of the class one at a time to participate in an experiment. Without ever mentioning any connection with Freedman, she escorted each boy back to the room with the five toys and gave him a drawing test. While she was scoring the test, she told the boy that he was free to play with any toy in the room. Of course, almost all the boys played with a toy. The interesting result was that, of the boys playing with a toy, 77 percent chose to play with the robot that had been forbidden to them earlier. Freedman’s severe threat, which had been so successful six weeks before, was almost totally unsuccessful when he was no longer able to back it up with punishment.

It is Wrong . . .

But Freedman wasn’t finished yet. He changed his procedure slightly with a second sample of boys. These boys, too, were initially shown the array of five toys by Freedman and warned not to play with the robot while he was briefly out of the room because, “it is wrong to play with the robot.” But this time, Freedman provided no strong threat to frighten a boy into obedience. He simply left the room and observed through the one-way mirror to see if his instruction against placing with the forbidden toy was enough. It was. Just as with the other jonathan freedman, psychological reactancesample, only one of the twenty-two boys touched the robot during the short time Freedman was gone.

The real difference between the two samples of boys came six weeks later, when they had a chance to play with the toys while Freedman was no longer around. An astonishing thing happened with the boys who had earlier been given no strong threat against playing with the robot. When given the freedom to play with any toy they wished, most avoided the robot, even though it was by far the most attractive of the five toys available (the others were a cheap plastic submarine, a child’s baseball glove without a ball, an unloaded toy rifle, and a toy tractor.) When these boys played with one of the five toys, only 33 percent chose the robot.

From the Inside

Something dramatic had happened to both groups of boys. For the first group, it was the severe threat they heard from Freedman to back up his statement that playing with the robot was “wrong.”It had been quite effective at first, while Freedman could catch them. Should they violate his rule later, though, when he was no longer present to observe the boys’ behavior, his threat was impotent and his rule was, consequently, ignored. It seems clear that the threat had not taught the boys that operating the robot was wrong, only that it was unwise to do so when the possibility of punishment existed.

For the other boys, the dramatic event had come from the inside, not the outside. Freeman had instructed them, too, that playing with the robot was wrong, but he had added no threat of punishment should they disobey him. There were two important results. First, Freedman’s instruction alone was enough to prevent the boys from operating the robot while he was briefly out of the room. Second, the boys took personal responsibility for their choice to stay away from the robot during that time. They decided that they hadn’t played with it because they didn’t want to. After all, there were no strong punishments associated with the toy to explain their behavior otherwise. Thus, weeks later, when Freedman was nowhere around, they still ignored the robot because they had been changed inside to believe the they did not want to play with it.”

Jonathan Freedman, Psychological Reactance

Freedman proved that, at least in young boys playing with robots, forcing them to act a certain way did not change their minds about acting that way. Threats only created the desirable situation in the moment, but it did not create lasting change. In fact, a natural, psychological reaction that we all experience probably had the opposite effect from Freedman’s demands. This natural occurrence is called psychological reactance…………Quick and Stephenson 2008 study proved that dogmatic language initiated psychological reactance. The following are examples of that language.

  1. Imperatives such as must or need
  2. Absolute allegations, such as  cannot deny that or this issue is extremely serious.
  3. Derision towards other perspectives, such as any reasonable person would agree that

We can see that demands get us the opposite of what we are after. In contrast, messages that are less dogmatic do not provoke psychological reactance such as.

  1. Allusions to choice such as you have the chance to or we leave the choice to you
  2. Qualified propositions such as there is some evidence that or their issue is fairly serious.
  3. Avoidance of imperatives or derisive language. Rather than saying, “Take out the trash,” say, “Please take out the trash.”

Psychological reactance explains why so many people have lost their influence on society. From Harry Markopolos, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, and possibly you. Are you making demands, or offering options? How much more influence could you have if you simply changed how you speak?

Nick Leeson

SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence studies how influential people are similar to those with ASD. Nick Leeson is a great example.

The Influence of Nick Leeson

Nick Leeson may not be a household name, but he did change the world. His influence has everything to do with the psychology of trust and the bureaucracy of hundreds of years of business.

Would you trust the same bank that held the Queen of Englands money? What about a bank that survived WWI, WWII, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars? Would you feel comfortable having a checking account at the same bank that financed the Louisiana purchase?

If you said yes, you would have been correct, for over 230 years. For two centuries you could’ve slept peacefully knowing that one of the most stable financial institutions in the world was looking after your hard-earned money.

That is until January 16th, 1995.Barings Bank

On that day this British behemoth of money and history was shaken to death by an earthquake. Not physically as in the earthquake reduced the building to a pile of rubble. In fact that would have been a simple fix for the good people at Barings Bank. The earthquake that figuratively piled up Barings Bank happened in Kobe Japan.

Other than exposing the steel and concrete foundations of buildings and fissures in the Japanese ground, the earthquake also exposed a single man, whose fraud and deceit went unnoticed by Barings for years. He caused over $1 billion of losses and murdered a business pillar of England.

That man is Nick Leeson.

The Unusual Suspect

Nick Leeson is exceptionally average looking. He is neither handsome nor ugly with nothing remarkable about his appearance. In fact, if a police sketch artist needed a good starting point from which to draw a middle aged, average caucasian male, Nick’s face would be a perfect place to start.

He does not look like the single protagonist of a multi-year fraud that shook the financial world. Of course he does not look like a man who did time in a prison with members of the notorious Triad gang.

But he is both.

In 1992, Nick Leeson became the manager of Barings Bank in Singapore. He seemed an obvious choice because of his stellar record of producing enormous returns from his trading. It seemed the combination of the Asian market and the spectacular track record of Leeson would be recipe for success.

Except . . .

But, Leeson began exceeding the limits of Barings regulations. His unauthorized trades went directly agains Barings policies. He was speculating that the Nikkei 225, Tokyo’s version of the DOW Jones Industrial, would make massive gains.

In 1990 the Nikkei had reached heights over 38,000 JPY or Yen. During Lesson’s tenure at the Tokyo office of Barings, he watched this particular index slide lower and lower until it was hovering around 20,000 JPY.

In the mind of aggressive traders this was a great opportunity. The index was on sale and at some point it had to bounce back, or so Leeson thought. So he broke rank, created a fake account numbered 88888 to hide his illegal trades and heavily wagered that the Nikkei would rumble back.

This went on for three years without anyone at Barings auditing Leeson’s activity. For three years one man had unchecked access to all of the money managed by one of the oldest banks in existence, and was never audited.

Sliding Deeper

Regretfully during that time the Nikkei slid deeper and deeper into the abyss. Every time it did Barings lost, unchecked money from the 88888 account. So Leeson, like a drunken gambler who lost the rent money, was in a position to cover his losses. And he did it by doubling down on the Nikkei, which would, in turn fall again causing the momentum of the snowball to grow along with it’s massive size. 

Then Leeson made his biggest mistake. He bought the equivalent of millions of dollars of futures in, what he thought, was a hugely underpriced Japanese market on January 16th, 1995.

But Nick Leesons timing was horrible. 

The very next day, January 17th, 1995, Kobe Japan was torn to pieces by a 7.2 earthquake. What seemed to be an undervalued market was crushed along with billions of dollars of buildings, infrastructure and 6000 people. Twice the amount killed in the US during the attacks on 9/11.

The Beginning Of The End

As the world pulled their money out of the Asian market, the Nikkei 225 was reduced from it’s former glory at over 38,000 JPY to less than 15,000 JPY that summer. Nick Leeson made a few attempts at a fast recovery, none of which worked out. When it was all over he left Barings Bank completely broke. His three year tryst lost Barings $1.4 billion and cost over 1000 people their jobs. Many workers, drinking in pubs in England had more money in their pockets than their bank did, as long as they didn’t work for Barings.

Incredibly, when the dust settled Leeson was only sentenced to 6 1/2 years of a possible 80+ year sentence. Of the 6 1/2 years he only served four. Today, the man who crushed Barings is a world famous speaker, author and by most accounts a success. 

The public is still curious how Nick got away with such a short sentence.

The answer has everything to do with the people around Leeson, and their thresholds. 

Thresholds

In May of 1978 the American Journal of Sociology published Mark Granovetter’s Threshold Models of Collective Behavior. Up to that point conventional wisdom held that people either did or did not participate in activities such as spreading rumors, riots, and protests. Either you were comfortable in socially disagreeable settings or you weren’t, the thinking went.

But Granovetter didn’t believe that to be true, so he set out to prove that it wasn’t. In the study he describes his findings in the context of riots. Who does and does not participate in riots and at what point will a typical non-rioter change their mind and join the riot.

His findings show that people are not binary in their thinking, even though most of us claim to be. We feel like we are or are not the type of person who would join a riot. But that isn’t true. The truth is that most of us are not the type of person to join a riot unless a certain number and type of person is rioting. If the people from our church, and our parents and one of our grandmothers are rioting we may decide to join.

The Magic Number

This unknown number of people who have to be rioting for us to join is our riot participation threshold. Some of us have a threshold of 1. All it takes is one person to throw a rock through a window for us to join in. Others may be a 5 and still other are a 30, and need the whole neighborhood to join before they will participate.

In the study Granovetter explains it this way.

-Imagine 100 people milling around in a square-a potential riot situation. Suppose their riot threshold are distributed as follows: there is one individual with threshold 0, one with threshold1, one with threshold 2, and so on up to the last individual with threshold 99. This is a Riotuniform distribution of thresholds. The outcome is clear and could be described as a “bandwagon” or “domino” effect: the person with threshold 0, the “instigator” engages in riot behavior-breaks a window say. This activates the person with threshold 1; the activity of these two people then activates the person with threshold 2, and so on, until all 100 people  have joined. The equilibrium is 100.

Now perturb this distribution as follows. Remove the individual with threshold 1 and replaced him by one with threshold 2. By all of our usual ways of describing groups of people, the two crowds are essentially identical. But the outcome in the second case is quite different-the instigator riots, but there is now no one with threshold 1, and so the riot ends at that point, with one rioter.-

The Reality

Granovetter goes on to explain the reality of threshold distribution. That in a group of 100 there is a mean, or average threshold. As each individual has a threshold, so does the group. If the mean threshold of the group is 25, once 25 people are rioting, the entire group joins in and the riot explodes, sometimes literally. The riot can go from a small group of disgruntled people, to a national event depending on the thresholds of the people involved.

But if it weren’t for the people with low thresholds, the 1’s and 2’s in the group, nothing would happen. The group may have a mean threshold of 25, but if the first 25 people don’t start rioting, the group remains docile.

Every group has a mean threshold before the group acts as a whole, and the dynamic of the group and the situation play a big role as well. Imagine for a moment that same group of rioters is watching a movie in a theater. 

Now what is the mean threshold of the group to walk out of the movie?

Who Is Involved?

It all depends. If the group is rioting out of frustration over a white cop shooting an unarmed black student at a local college with no apparent reason, and the movie is about the struggles of growing up as a black youth in a large city, the group probably won’t leave the theater at all. They have a very high threshold

But if the group is rioting because they are heavily Christian and the Ten Commandments was taken off of a public building, and the movie has swearing, nudity and R-rated content, the mean threshold of that group to leave the theater, in the very same movie is much lower than the previous group.

Dr. Fallon

Dr. James Fallon, the neuroscientist I discussed in an earlier post, who learned that he was a psychopath, offers a perfect example of group thresholds in his book. Between 1990 and 1991 he was in Kenya, when he witnessed an example of mirror neurons at work.

(You may remember that we discussed mirror neurons in an earlier post involving Bernie Madoff, Milton Erickson and mirroring.)

Dr. Fallon explains that he and his brother Tom found themselves in a village led by an elder named Bernard. This was near the Ugandan border and most of the villagers had ever seen a white person, let alone played golf. He and his brother had a set of golf clubs and found a spot in which to practice. This piqued the curiosity of the villagers. After they watched Dr. Fallon and his brother both hit golf balls, Dr. Fallon asked if they would like to learn. This is the story as told by Dr. Fallon.

The Elder

-Among the 100 or so amassed there, a few brave souls stepped forward, including the family elder. A gentleman of about 80 years who was dressed in a full suit and a hat with a Christian cross emblazoned on it. They first watched as I flubbed a shot about 30 yards drawing a chuckle from Bernard and a belly laugh from Tom. 

Tom stepped forward and blasted a 3 wood to the very end of the field and there were gasps of awe from the gathered clan. Then the elder stepped forward, grabbed one of the clubs, an implement he had never seen, let alone used before, and took a quick and furious swing at the teed up golf ball. He whiffed if but no one made a peep. Then within 3 seconds, as if clearing a field with a scythe, he swung at the ball again, catching it on the sweet spot, and the ball took off about 150 yards, with a hint of a slice. 

The Reaction

Applause erupted from all of us. Then one-by-one very man, woman and child stepped forward and missed with the first swing and then nailed the ball with the second. Some of the adult men drove the ball more than 200 yards. This was an example of the mirror neuron system cranking away with all cylinders firing. The next year when I visited the village it was like they had created their own two-hole golf association, an effect I had never intended to curse them with in the first place.- 

In Dr. Fallon’s example, the village had the perfect threshold and influencers for golf, a hideous curse of a game, to infect the entire village. Apparently the elder had a threshold of either 1 or 2 for the game of golf. He need only see Dr. Fallon and maybe his brother Tom golfing before he felt comfortable enough to give it a try. Perhaps the next person who tried had a threshold of 1, 2 or 3, or perhaps their threshold was that the elder had to try first before they would.

This is the crux of influence. The dynamic of thresholds and context is the heart of persuasion and influence. In order to affect a groups behavior, that group needs the mean number of people to make the change first. Those people must have a low threshold and be the right influencers to instigate the change, or it won’t happen. But if that recipe is not just right, the blaze will to catch on.

Justine Sacco and Twitter

For instance, why did Justine Sacco’s tweet go viral? When she wrote, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” she only had 170 followers, which is nothing in the world of Twitter. Let’s also realize that there are tweets happening daily from people with whom  we are familiar, that are just as inflammatory as this one, but don’t go viral and ruin careers.

Here are just a few inflammatory remarks made on Twitter by famous people that didn’t ruin careers.

World famous movie critic, Roger Ebert tweeted, “Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.” after the death of Ryan Dunn from the Jackass movie franchise. Ryan died in an alcohol involved car accident with his friend Zachary Hartwell.

Kanye West wrote, “An abortion can cost a ballin’ nigga up to 10gs maybe a 100. Gold diggin’ bitches be getting pregnant on purpose.”

Finally, after a highly publicized domestic violence incident in which Rihanna was left battered by her then beau Chris Brown, Amanda Bynes tweeted, “@rihanna Chris Brown beat you because you’re not pretty enough”

Those tweets may have spread and become famous, but did not garner near the reaction that Justine’s did. These are people whose tweets are often read by more people in one second that Justine had on her entire account.

The Tipping Point

But Justine’s tweet found it’s way to a man named Sam Biddle. He was the editor of Valleywag which was a leg of Gawker media. When what he saw as a racist tweet from a senior IAC employee he was at his threshold for sharing and mocking a tweet. He shared it on Valleywag’s blog where it exploded and went on to get over 200k responses from an audience with a very low threshold for social shaming.

The opposite happens when a group has a very high threshold for something. In a situation where change needs to happen, if the group is resistant to the change, or lacking the influencers to reach the threshold, the culture of, “this is how it’s done around here” runs rampant. Unfortunately for the customers of Barings bank, the employees had a very high threshold for pointing out glaring problems

For example, the now famous 5-8’s account where Nick Leeson made the illegal trades, showed up every day in the bank’s fledgeling IT department. Every day when the odd account number showed up, the IT professional would simply delete it off of his screen, rather than investigate.

Nick Leeson explains the culture around the fraud in an interview with Nick Batsford on CORE Finance. He says, “I was never challenged, lots of diaspora, technology not communicating with each other, people not asking sensible questions and any challenges that were made were completely superficial, easily to divert, pretty much me just giving cock and ball answers on the spot as the questions were asked.”

He faked it and no one had the appropriate, personal threshold to question what he was doing.

The Sentence Explained

This is part of why Leeson received such lenient sentence. Yes he perpetrated a fraud that ruined entire lives. Certainly he lied, cheated and stole. But he did it in a bank with over 200 years of experience. The people who trusted Barings did so based on their sheer amount of time they had been on the planet. When you have been in business 230 years you should have some regulations in place, which they did.

Unfortunately no one wanted to be disagreeable enough to enforce those regulations. The IT person didn’t take the time to check account number 88888. Leeson’s own management let him facilitate this fraud for three years. Much like Bernie Madoff, it may never have come to light if it weren’t for outside forces. In Bernies case the 2008 sub-prime lending collapse, in Nick Leeson’s case, an earthquake.

So Nick Leeson gets a portion of the blame, but so does Barings, for allowing a culture with such a high threshold to exist. The Board of Banking Supervision of the Bank of England launched an investigation led by Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer who released a report on July 18, 1995. Lord Bruce of Donington, in the House of Lords’ debate on the report, said:

A Scathing Report

-Even the provisional conclusions of the report are interesting. I should like to give them to the House so that we may be reminded what the supervisory body itself decided at the end of such investigation as it was able to make. It stated on page 250:

“Barings’ collapse was due to the unauthorised and ultimately catastrophic activities of, it appears, one individual (Nick Leeson) that went undetected as a consequence of a failure of management and other internal controls of the most basic kind”.

The words I venture to emphasise to your Lordships are these:

“as a consequence of a failure of management and other internal controls of the most basic kind”.

Nick LeesonNoble Lords who have read through paragraph 14.2 of the report will be aware that it specifies these deficiencies. The report states:

The Report

“Management teams have a duty to understand fully the businesses they manage”.

Really! They really have to understand the businesses! I would have thought that it was an elementary assumption to make that the controllers should understand the nature of the businesses they are trying to control. The next requirement is this:

“Responsibility for each business activity has to be clearly established and communicated”.

Hooray for that! I wonder how businesses in this country manage in their generality to continue without that qualification. The third requirement is:

“Clear segregation of duties is fundamental to any effective control system”.

Tut, tut! We are now treating the real elementum of the whole art and science of management, and it needs to be repeated here. The report continues:

“Relevant internal controls, including independent risk management, have to be established for all business activities”.

Common Sense

Hooray for that! These are matters of plain, ordinary common sense. One does not need to be an accountant or a management consultant to be aware of that. Finally:

“Top management and the Audit Committee have to ensure that significant weaknesses, identified to them by internal audit or otherwise, are resolved quickly”.

Well, well, well! These are all respects which this control body finds were absent from Barings. Do noble Lords really know what is being said? It is being said that Barings ought not to have been authorised bankers from the beginning, because any business — I do not care whether it is a whelk stall (one must not insult whelk stall owners in the context of this catastrophe) or what — knows that these are the basic conditions for the continuance of the business. It seems to me that the Bank of England ought never to have authorised this concern without verifying that all these conditions were in place.-

In other words, Barings threshold for questioning their own business was way out of whack.

And so is ours.

To understand why, click here.

David Hawkins and Kindness in POW Camps

autism

How important is kindness in the art of persuasion? This excerpt from SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence answers that very question.

David Hawkins

In June of 1957 a young Mike Wallace was broadcast into the homes of America. The white smoke drifting up from his cigarette bore a stark contrast to the black background behind him, and the colorless video accentuated the contrast even more. He opens with, “My guest tonight is the youngest U.S. army turncoat of the Korean War. You see him behind me,” a picture of a young, handsome man flashes on the screen next to Wallace. He continues. “He’s David Hawkins of Oklahoma City.” The screen goes dark. Suddenly the words, The Mike Wallace Interview flash across the black backdrop with cigarette smoke wafting behind the words as they are simultaneously spoken by a man with a deep voice. For some reason there is the sound of a drum being struck twice. Then the interview starts. This is the point where the irritation for Wallace becomes visible.

Turncoats

He fidgets with some papers as he explains, “Three years ago the United States was stunned by an announcement from war-torn Korea. U.S. army private David Hawkins and 20 other prisoners of the communists have become turncoats,” Wallace over pronounces the word turncoats. He continues, “they had renounced their own country and disappeared behind red China’s bamboo curtain.” Hawkins is quietlyDavid Hawkins smoking behind him, leaning on the arm of his chair to the right. Wallace partially swivels around, not facing Hawkins but instead, speaking to him from the left side of his face, as if the empty blackness behind Hawkins was more worthy of his attention.

“Dave,” Wallace says, “let me ask you this.” He goes on to explain that the New York Times had published a piece suggesting that the “turncoats” hadn’t really converted to communism, but that they had committed crimes against their own, and didn’t want to face whatever punishment the U.S. had in store for them.

A Warmer Welcome

Hawkins had been captured shortly after his 17th birthday. He was shot, lost conciseness, and when he awoke the first words he heard were, “We are friends. We are not going to hurt you.” He was in a Chinese communist hospital, and this was much warmer welcome than the one he received from Mike Wallace.

The Korean War, like any war, was a complicated political and fundamental contention that, at it’s core, pitted capitalism against communism. WWII resulted in the division of Korea along the 38th parallel. The communist controlled, north side butted squarely against the U.S. occupied south. In 1950 the communists from the north crossed the 38th parallel, sparking what would be the Korean War and a debate between communism and capitalism that still rages, in one version or another, today.

50/50 Chance

As Hawkins awoke to hear the kind words of his doctor, there was no doubt he was uneasy. At the time there were basically two halves of the communist enemy. There was the North Korean half, which often did not recognize the Geneva Convention mandates. Frequently, South Korean POWs were used as labor for military purposes, which is strictly forbidden by articles 49-57. Or they were indoctrinated to communism, then assigned to the most dangerous battles and positions in the war. The stance of the Koreans in doing this was, why kill ours, when we can kill theirs.

The Other Half

Then there was the Chinese half of the North Korean army. They also frequently ignored the Geneva Convention guidelines, but for a much different reason. They adhered to the Confucian Code. Although Confucianism is a deep system of actions and beliefs, it is often described as being built on three values.

  1. Filial Piety. Respect for parents and elders.
  2. Ritual. Observance and adherence to systematic signs of respect and faith.
  3. Humaneness. Caring and empathy for other humans.

In other words, if you were captured by the North Korean army, you could be captured by a Korean enemy that used you as fodder, or by a Chinese enemy that viewed you as an equal. Hawkins, along with mountains of others, had been captured by the Chinese.

Students

So many soldiers were captured that the Chinese army had to hire hundreds of staff to manage the POW camps. Amongst those hired was Zhou Shangun, a translator.  She said of the POWs, “They didn’t know our policy. They didn’t know if we were going to kill them, or force them to do hard labor or keep them in China forever and not let them return home. So they worried a lot.”

But most, at that point had little to worry about. Qian Meide, who was also a translator said, “My supervisor asked me to read the regulations to the POWs. It began with Dear Students. I was very surprised and asked why, because to me they were prisoners and we were their captors. My supervisor said yes, they are students and you are instructors.”

Complete Equality

The Chinese often held lectures and classes for the prisoners, athletic events between camps and essay contests for the POWs. It was the latter that produced the comments of U.S. soldiers, which the Chinese used as propaganda. After the soldier had experienced unexpectedly kind treatment, great meals, and lectures explaining the communist view of the world, the Chinese captors would offer small prizes to the winners of essay contests. More often than not, the winners of these prizes had dotted their essays with small, pro-communists statements. After all, these men had come to Korea with the purpose of killing the Chinese. Now, those same Chinese were treating them better than some had ever been treated at home. William White, a black POW said of the Chinese, “For the first time in my life, I have witnessed complete equality.”

Influence

In his fabulous book, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini explains why the Chinese offered small prizes for men who won these contests. He explains that, not only were the little, pro-communist statements great for propaganda, but they also held a deeper, psychological power. The power of written commitment.

The prizes for these essay contest were kept purposefully small. Cialdini explains that items such as small bags of rice went to the winners. The reason was the Chinese wanted their POWs to own what they had written. They needed the authors to think that they themselves believed the small incremental shifts that were happening in their opinions. If a prisoner was offered something very valuable for his winning essay, he could explain away his writings. But no one would compromise their beliefs for a bag of rice, would they?

Not a Simple Answer

The answer is not simply yes or no. It depends on the value they placed on the rice. They would not place massive value on a bag of rice, if they were being treated as guests rather than prisoners. Imagine the poor souls detained in the Korean POW camps. If they were offered the opportunity to build a bridge rather than fight their own, on the front lines, in the most dangerous places, for the enemy, just for writing a pro-communist essay, it would be easy to explain away writing almost anything.

A Bag of Rice

But what is a bag of rice to a man who is so healthy, he is competing in athletic events? The reason a bag of rice was a small prize had everything to do with the condition of the recipient. In an article by Reuters named, American POWs remember life in Japanese prison camps, Wayne Miller explained that their food ration was usually two bowls of rice, with little meat or vegetables. Imagine offering that prisoner a bag of rice for a sentence degrading capitalism. That bag of rice could double his calories for a day. When you are starving, that is a huge reward. But, the men under the kinder, Chinese control in Korea weren’t starving, so the bag of rice seemed small, and the sentence written supporting communism seemed their own.

David Hawkins Explains

Not long after the contentious beginning of the Mike Wallace interview with David Hawkins, Wallace is finally facing Hawkins. He asks, “You became a turncoat…Why? What did you have against the United States?”

Hawkins voice is soft and quiet. He answers, “Well Mike it wasn’t actually that I had, uh, something against the United States.” He stops. Perhaps the longest pause during the interview. Hawkins seems to be searching for his actual feelings. He goes on, “I underwent the, uh, mass indoctrination program that the Chinese, uh, instigated in the camp, and there was a lot of things that they told me that, uh, sounded to me like common sense.”

Welcome Home

As part of the agreement of peace, a 90-day window was offered to any soldier to consider, or reconsider his choice. If they had initially renounced their citizenship, they could change their mind and choose a repatriation plan. After denouncing the U.S. two soldiers did change their mind. Edward Dikenson and Claude Batchelor returned home. They were both immediately court-martialed. Their repatriation plan included prison sentences. Batchelor served 4 1/2 years and Dikenson 3 1/2, but both were sentenced to much more.

Lewis Griggs, one of the “turncoats” said in a televised interview, “Even if I had wanted repatriation, the fate of Dikenson and Batchelor would stop me.”

Kindness caused US soldiers to choose to stay with their captors in Korea. It’s one of the things that make those on the autism spectrum so influential, and it could be the thing that helps you take your influence to the next level.

NUMMI

NUMMI changed the way management is done in the US. SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence explains how.

In 1982 General Motors was forced to shut down the Fremont California plant. It was widely accepted that Fremont was the worst auto factory in the world. Commenting on the employees at Fremont, Bruce Lee, not the martial artist but the manger for the western region for United Auto said, “It was considered the worst workforce in the automobile industry in the United States.” 

NUMMI

But, on Dec. 10th, 1984, Toyota had renamed the plant New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. or NUMMI, and began making Chevy Novas. But many were skeptical about the success of the new plant. Most of that skepticism came from part of the agreement GM had made with UAW. The part in question was that NUMMI had to hire 80% of laid off employees from the original plant. These were the same people who were, “the worst workforce in the automobile industry.”NUUMI

Rumors of on the job antics including prostitutions, drinking, drug use and purposeful sabotage of the vehicles at the Fremont plant were admitted by many of those who performed the acts themselves. Prior to the 1982 shut down, the plant resembled more of a brothel/bar combination than a workplace. But, GM had one rule that was always obeyed. That rule was, the line doesn’t stop. As chassis rolled into workers areas on the never stopping line, workers had to assemble it as it went. Henry Ford had pioneered the assembly line and GM wasn’t about to stop the process that had been working for almost a century. 

The Price of Stopping

The rumor was that it costs $15,000/minute to stop the line. So the culture of Fremont was one of, drinking on the job, prostitution in the parking lot, drug use at work, but never, ever stop the line. If an employee had a problem installing their given piece of the car, that employee would mark the car and let it continue down the line. Often the repair would not be made until the car was fully assembled. 

Toyota’s Idea

This was the mindset and culture of the workers Toyota had agreed to re-hire. The question on everyones mind was how could they turn this around? The answer was with kindness, in the from of fixture in Toyota plants called andon chords, and a completely different management style.

In the book Smarter Faster Better, Charles Duhigg tells story of Rick Madrid, an employee of Fremont and NUMMI who had travelled to Japan to see what Toyota manufacturing looked like. He watched a worker struggle with a bolt. Rather than continue, the worker pulled an andon cord. The entire line stopped at the end of the station. As it did, the mans direct leaders took orders from him, handing him tools and assisting him with the bolt. Once the bolt was fixed the man pulled the cord and work resumed.

Rick Madrid

Madrid said of the event, “I just couldn’t believe it. Back home I had watched a guy fall in the pit, and they didn’t stop the line.” In Jan 1985, a month after the opening of the plant, Tetsuro Toyota, the newly appointed president of the plant, was observing the assembly lines. Duhigg explains that Toyota watched an employee struggle with a particular tail light installation. As the man struggled Toyota approached him, read the name on his uniform and said, “Joe, please pull the cord.”

“I can fix this sir.” Joe said. Toyota repeated himself, “Joe, please pull the cord.” Eventually Toyota guided Joe’s hand to the andon cord and they pulled it together, stopping the line. Joe, overcoming his fear, fixed the tail light. Toyota bowed to Joe afterwards and said, “Joe, please forgive me. I have done a poor job of instructing your managers of the importance of helping you pull the cord when there is a problem. You are the most important part of this plant. Only you can make every car great. I promise I will do everything in my power to never fail you again.”

From Last to First

This simple cord and kind gesture from Toyota instantly put the management and the workers at NUMMI on the same side rather than at each others throats. by 1986 their productivity was higher than any other GM plant and double what it had done when it was GM Fremont. It happened with essentially the same work force and in about one year. The main difference was that workers were not judged for stopping the line, and management was kind enough to help.

This is the opposite of how people like Democritus, Rick Barry, and Harry Markopolos tried to influence society. They were missing the kindness and generosity they needed to make the type of change NUMMI made to the American workforce landscape.

To understand how autism and influence are tied together, click here.

Heuristics and How We Really Make Decisions

Heuristics

You will completely change your influence, once you understand heuristics. They are a large topic covered in SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence.

Heuristics

A huge portion of potential influencers spend mountains of time finessing their message, campaign or product, and less time developing the personality of the influencer or messenger. This is a huge mistake. That the message, campaign or product has to be high-quality and good for the audience should be a given. But focusing on small details around the product or message is a mistake if the messenger doesn’t resonate with the audience because of  little known psychological quirks called heuristics.

In the incredible book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, he unequivocally proved that the personality of the messenger is not only pivotal, but actually has more to do with influence than the messages themselves.Gladwell described the real reasons doctors are sued for medical malpractice. And it has much less to do with medical malpractice than we think.

Lawsuits

Gladwell writes, “The overwhelming number of people who suffer an injury due to the negligence of a doctor never file a malpractice suit at all. Patients don’t file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care. Patients file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care  – and something else happens to them.”

He continues,

-Recently the medical researcher Wendy Levinson recorded hundreds of conversations between a group of physicians and their patients. Roughly half of the doctors had never been sued. The other half had been sued at least twice, and Levinson found that just on the basis of those conversations, she could find clear differences between the two groups.

Medicine or Bedside Manner?

The surgeons who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued did (18.3 minutes versus 15 minutes). They were more likely to make “orienting” comments, such as “First I’ll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over” or “I will leave time for your questions” – which help patients get a sense of what the visit is supposed to accomplish and when they ought to ask questions. They were more likely to engage in active listening, saying things such as “Go on, tell me more about that,” and they were far more likely to laugh and be funny during the visit.”

Interestingly, there was no difference in the amount or quality of information they gave their patients; they didn’t provide more details about medication or the patient’s condition. The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients.-

In a nutshell, the personality of the doctors determined if the patient would sue them for medical malpractice, not the quality of care. Gladwell goes on to explain situations where patients wanted to sue because they felt they were given inadequate care. But when they realized the suit would hurt the people in the office whom they liked, they chose not to continue. 

Personality

This is the power of personality. It is a measuring stick by which most of us gauge the degree of influence we allow someone to have in our lives. We do not accurately evaluate every decision, purchase or vote and come up with rational choices. The personality of the influencer is what researchers call a heuristic, in the context of influence. Heuristics are gauges, or rules of thumb that we have gathered to make processing information easier, and often they are very often wrong.

In Richard Thaler’s book Misbehaving, he explains some of these mistakes in practical, real life, economical examples. He explains that a man who suffers from hay fever mows his own lawn. When asked why he doesn’t hire a kid from the neighborhood to mow the lawn for $10 the man says it isn’t worth it. In other words he would rather save $10 by mowing a lawn and suffering through the hay fever.

Loss Aversion

So, in logical, analog terms, hay fever is worth $10 to that man. But when he is asked if he would mow a different lawn of roughly the same size for $20 the man says absolutely not. This thinking is irrational. If hay fever is worth $10 to the man then it should definitely be worth $20.

But the man is reacting to a heuristic that behavioral analysts call loss aversion. As a rule we over-value what we already have to very inaccurate results. The man with hay fever is valuing the $10 he is saving more than the $20 he would earn mowing the other lawn.

Loss aversion is an example of an irrational heuristic that influences most people. But these heuristics, irrational or not, are usually the guardrails of our decisions. They offer us the ability to make decisions in multiple contexts.

Two Cord Puzzle

In 1931 a psychologist named Norman Maier found one heuristic during a very simple experiment. Maier was interested in understanding how people solve problems. He devised a puzzle that has since become known as the “two cord puzzle”. Maier hung two cords from the ceiling of his lab. The cords were far enough apart that people could not grab each at the same time. Then he asked people to come up with ways to tie the two ends of the cords together.

A Solution

Most participants came up with solutions that involved using the items in the lab to reach one cord while holding the other. Extension cords were tied to the end of the ropes, poles were used to hook the end and pull the two cords together and other miscellaneous solutions were created. But Maier had another solution in mind. He wanted to see how long it took people to come up with his solution. So he continued asking the participants to come up with new ways to solve the puzzle, until they ran out of ideas.

The Right Solution

Maier was looking for the participants to swing one rope in a pendulum fashion. Then they could grab the other rope and catch the swinging rope when it came towards them. Very few participants worked out this solution, until they were given a seemingly accidental clue.

During the experiment, Maier would walk around the lab until, when people had run out of ideas, he would brush against one of the ropes and set it swinging motion. Most people would arrive at Maiers solution, after seeing the swinging rope.This experiment showed how easily we can be nudged with a solution to a problem without realizing it.

But that wasn’t the interesting part.

The fascinating part came after the experiment ended.

My Solution

Only one-third of the participants realized they’d been given a clue when Maier bumped the rope. The other two-thirds explained they arrived at the solution themselves. They fully believed they solved the puzzle, without help, even though they didn’t.

The majority of participants were easily persuaded to solve the puzzle Maiers way, with Maiers help, the whole time thinking it was their idea.

It happened through a psychological concept called priming.

Priming

Imagine I show you pictures of delicious food for 30 seconds. Then I blindfold you and expose you to the smells of those same great dishes. Then I quickly remove the blindfold and in front of you is a whiteboard with the letters S-O-_-P. I ask you to fill in the missing letter. You will most likely spell the word soup. In fact you probably thought that was the answer before I explained it.

But, with a little priming I can change the answer.Heuristics

Imagine now that I showed you images of dishes being cleaned, brooms and clean laundry. Then I blindfold you and expose you to the smell of lemony cleaners and bleach and pull off your blindfold to the same puzzle.

S-O-_-P now becomes soap.

Priming is another example of a heuristic, like loss aversion. Our thinking, decision making and even memory is affected by the context of the situation.

M-I-L-K

Remember, heuristics are shortcuts or rules of thumb that our brain uses to speed up our decision making process. They are, for the most part a good thing. But they can be very easily manipulated and with them, so can you. The priming heuristic is one of the most commonly manipulated heuristics.

Here is an example of the priming heuristic in action.

Ray is an eighth grader who wants to play a joke on his little brother Tom. He tells Tom to spell the word white, which Tom does. Then he asks what color paper plates are. Tom says they are white. So far he’s two for two. Ray then tells Tom to spell the color of snow, which of course is w-h-i-t-e.

Finally Ray tells Tom to spell what cows drink as fast as possible. Tom thinks he’s being tricked into spelling white again. So he smugly spells m-i-l-k. Ray laughs and explains to his very primed little brother that cows drink w-a-t-e-r.

A Tool

Priming is a very powerful, psychological tool. It can be used to help people get in the right mindset before a talk, help people with diets and even improve marriages. But manipulators can use this tool to influence their victims into thinking that poor choices were their idea. They corrupt the mind of the innocent with thoughts that lead others to the actions they are trying to illicit.

Priming is just one example of a heuristic that effects our decision making. Other examples include:

Consistency heuristic

a heuristic where a person responds to a situation in a way that allows them to remain consistent.

Absurdity heuristic

is an approach to a situation that is very atypical and unlikely – in other words, a situation that is absurd. This particular heuristic is applied when a claim or a belief seems silly, or seems to defy common sense.

Common sense

a heuristic that is applied to a problem based on an individual’s observation of a situation. It is a practical and prudent approach that is applied to a decision where the right and wrong answers seems relatively clear cut.

Contagion heuristic

causes an individual to avoid something that is thought to be bad or contaminated. For example, when eggs are recalled due to a salmonella outbreak, someone might apply this simple solution and decide to avoid eggs altogether to prevent sickness.

Availability heuristic

allows a person to judge a situation on the basis of the examples of similar situations that come to mind, allowing a person to extrapolate to the situation in which they find themselves.

Working backward

causes a person to solve a problem by assuming that they have already solved it, and working backward in their minds to see how such a solution might have been reached.

Familiarity heuristic

allows someone to approach an issue or problem based on the fact that the situation is one with which the individual is familiar, and so one should act the same way they acted in the same situation before.

Scarcity heuristic

is used when a particular object becomes rare or scarce. This approach suggests that if something is scarce, then it is more desirable to obtain.

Rule of thumb

applies a broad approach to problem solving. It is a simple heuristic that allows an individual to make an approximation without having to do exhaustive research.

Affect heuristic

is when an individual makes a snap judgment based on a quick impression. This heuristic views a situation quickly and decides without further research whether a thing is good or bad.  Naturally, this heuristic can be both helpful and hurtful when applied in the wrong situation.

Authority heuristic

occurs when someone believes the opinion of a person of authority on a subject just because the individual is an authority figure. People apply this heuristic often in matters such as science, politics, and education.

List referenced from http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-heuristics.html

Final Thoughts

Heuristics can become very powerful tools. But they are something that can be manipulated into unethical and even illegal actions. Psychopaths use heuristics, often to control their victims. ABC used heuristics to a very unfortunate end. Jonathan Freedman taught us about psychological reactance using heuristics in young boys. It’s important to use heuristics to help people, not to manipulate them. It is said that the difference between a good influencer and a bad one is as follows. The good one gets people to do something the people want. The bad influencer gets people to do something the influencers wants.

Which one are you?

To learn more click here.

Deleese Williams

In SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence, the case of Deleese Williams is pivotal.

In the craze of the “extreme makeovers,” televisions shows were making over everything from antique vehicles to people. One of those people was Deleese Williams. She knew her looks were not equivalent to those of her friends or family. It was not that she had an awkward haircut, wore odd clothes or didn’t know how to apply makeup. Her differences were structural. From the shape of her eyes to the size of her jawbone, Deleese looked different.

Family

But Deleese had one thing that she could count on. Her family had, by most accounts, always supported her. It was, in a way, her lifeboat in a rough ocean. The support of her family had kept her going. But then, the cliched dream of a little girl turned princess became a possibility. 

When the producers of the ABC show Extreme Makeover choose Deleese as an episode of their show, most of the family looked past the process of the transformation to the end result. The idea that Deleese would have the opportunity to stand amongst society without standing out would be a dream come true. But there was a critical part of the process that would have lasting repercussions which no one saw coming.

The Ugly Duckling

During the pre-operation consultations and scheduling process, the producers of Extreme Makeover created the ugly duckling segment of the show. This included the background, photos and interview with friends and family of the soon-to-be transformed subject. The producers knew interviews about what a wonderful person the subject was would only go so far. They needed those closest to the future princess to say just how ugly she really was prior to the transformation.deleese williams

This proved difficult in the case of Deleese. Her family was so supportive and loved her so deeply, that the producers had to coach them into admitting she was ugly. They had spent her entire life supporting Deleese, loving her, and telling her just how beautiful she was. But eventually family members broke. Her mother-in-law admitted that, “I never believed my son would marry such an ugly woman.” Kelly McGee, Deleese’s sister, who had always been a huge source of support, was coached and coerced by the producers to admit difficulties about their childhood because of how Deleese looked. They put words in her mouth to help her describe her ugly sister.

“The Truth”

Painful words, that were coached and pulled from the family members, hurt Deleese. But this was what the producers wanted. They had Deleese watch as the family said the disparaging things the producers leveraged out of them. The goal was to catch the pain Deleese felt when she heard “the truth.” Deleese secretly listened in from an adjacent room as they recorded her hearing just how ugly her family actually thought she was. The producers had successfully captured the hurt and pain they were looking for. But it would all be okay once the process was over. Deleese was hearing about the old version of herself, not the new, elegant, beautiful version that was yet to come.

Bad News

Deleese was alone in her hotel room in Los Angeles, reading her pre-op instructions when a producer showed up with bad news. The dental surgeon had just informed the show that the recovery time for Deleese would not fit into the shows schedule. It was going to be a much longer wait than they had anticipated and so, as the lawsuit against ABC states, the producer said to Deleese, “You will not be getting an extreme makeover after all…It doesn’t fit in our time frame. You will have to go back to Texas tomorrow.”

Deleese broke down. She said, “How can I go back as ugly as I left? I was supposed to come home pretty.”

Kelly

But, Deleese did go home, exactly as she had left, only she was crushed. And the hurtful things the producers of the show had coached out of her family could not be unsaid. The pain of those admissions proved too much for her sister Kelly, and on May 25, 2004 she overdosed, leaving behind two children.

This heartbreaking story has so many variables that it has been included in many national and international newspapers and was a huge part of Jon Ronson’s book, The Psychopath Test.

Debt

It is hard to over-state the crushing blow that a momentary lapse in judgment had between Deleese and Kelly. Certainly the pain and hurt of the few harsh sentences hung between them in the four months before Kelly’s suicide. Kelly, even though she was prodded into hurting Deleese, had hurt her. She had an emotional debt towards her sister that she couldn’t pay. Kelly couldn’t unsay what she had been manipulated into saying. There was no way to even the score.

Balanced Reciprocity

Balanced reciprocity, or the even exchange of emotion, explains how decades of kindness between sisters can be washed away by moments of callous.

In 1965, an anthropologist named Marshall Sahlins studied reciprocity in humans around the world. By 1965 he claimed that there are three distinct types of reciprocity–generalized, negative and balanced or symmetrical. The following are examples of each.

  • Generalized reciprocity is an open-ended offering. For instance, if you help a stranger change a flat tire, you don’t finish the transaction with a contract binding that person to help you pull weeds next weekend. We help because we are part of society. If deleese williamsthat stranger never returns the favor, it won’t stop you from being generous next time. This is a completely altruistic exchange. 
  • Negative reciprocity is the attempt to get something for nothing. It is the act of taking from society without adding any value in exchange. This is not the person in the above example who is the beneficiary of a kind act. Think Bernie Madoff and other con-men. They are the vacuums of society sucking goodness and trust from the world.
  • Balanced or symmetrical reciprocity is tit for tat. Perhaps the best example of balanced reciprocity is a gift exchange, in which each gift must be purchased for a certain dollar amount. Not a spending limit, but a situation where each gift cost the same as the others. This is the perfect example of balanced reciprocity. It is the even exchange of actions, gifts or emotions. 

Reciprocity

We get what we give.

Deleese, even if only for a moment, was judged by the comments pulled from her sister by the producers of a fleeting television show. Once we understand the power of balanced or symmetrical reciprocity, it’s easy to see how someone who is not critical of others would hold more influence than those who are. We can understand how psychopaths manipulate us, how con-men are successful, but also how we can be honest and gain more influence at the same time.

To learn more about the link between autism and influence, click here.

Psychopathy, Autism and Influence

Psychopathy and autism have a very curious link. Both offer a peek into the mind of natural influencers, but there is a startling difference.

Would you admit to a crime you didn’t commit?

What if you thought you were guilty?

In 1985, Helen Wilson was brutally raped and murdered in Beatrice Nebraska. In 1989 Ada JoAnn Taylor confessed to the murder. Today she says that sometimes she can still feel the fabric from the throw pillow in her hands as she suffocated the life out of the sixty-eight year old grandmother.

Taylor’s life was anything but average in 1985. She was the product of years of abuse, a failed foster care system. JoAnn suffered with drug and alcohol abuse and was diagnosed by Dr. Wayne Price with  borderline personality disorder. She had given up her parental rights to the daughter she had at a very young age at the request of Dr. Price. But with the help of a young, gay, pornographic film star named Joseph White, she was attempting to get her rights back.

During the same time, a hog farmer named Burdette Searcey made a promise to the daughter of Helen Wilson. He promised to solve her mothers murder. Burdette felt the need to be involved and perhaps needed a reason to get off of the pig farm. In two short years, Searcey was deputized in Gage County and took on the case full time.

The department was working from two perspectives.

1. The authorities at the time decided the murderer was a homosexual, because of the details of the rape.

2. They had also determined, from sample taken at the scene, the culprit had type B blood.

In March of 1989 Secrecy had an arrest warrant issued for Taylor and her gay friend Joseph White. The warrant was issued on the basis that White was a homosexual. Also, they had the testimony of a seventeen year old whom the Beatrice Police Department described as “a maybe retard,” who said the friends had talked about committing the murder.

White was arrested. During his interrogation he said the idea that he had committed a murder was, “pure, deep bull****.” The next day Taylor was arrested. During her interview she explained that she, “blocks a lot of bad things out,” and that, “there’s a lot in my childhood I can’t remember.”

It was at this point that her old counselor, Dr. Wayne Price was brought in. He explained to the duo that their recollection of the murder might come to them segmented, a piece here and a piece there. Or that it might occur in dreams. This shift in the conversation is subtle and was a psychological trick to turn the conversation from “did you do it” to “how did you do it.” Taylor said, “In my head and in my heart, I know I wasn’t there.”

But that didn’t persuade Dr. Price or Searecy.

Admission

Finally Taylor broke. She admitted to the murder. But there were flaws in her admission. For example, she explained how the event happened in a house. Her description of the house resembled one where she had been abused as a child. Only after it was revealed toBeatrice Six; Psychopathy her that the murder had taken place in an apartment did she “remember” it that way.

Unfortunately for Searcey neither Taylor nor White had type B blood. After some prodding, Taylor admitted that she thought her childhood friend, Tom Winslow may have been involved. He was also believed to be homosexual. After his arrest, questioning and some unconventional memory recollection, he admitted he may have been involved.

But Winslow had the wrong blood type as well.

Helen Wilsons niece, Debra Sheldon was brought in for questioning. She was acquainted with Taylor and White during the time of the murder. After unconventional interrogations White admitted that she also may have played a role in the murder.

Her blood wasn’t type B either.

An Entire Gang

And so the slippery slope was slid, with one person being coached into a confession. Then the evidence would not line up. So the confessor points to another possible culprit. This pattern was repeated until, all told, 6 people were implicated in the murder and rape of Helen Wilson. They were Ada JoAnn Taylor, Thomas Winslow, Joseph White, Kathy Gonzalez, James Dean and Debra Shelden. 5 of the six admitting to their involvement. Only White proclaimed his innocence throughout the ordeal.

Wrongfully Imprisoned; PsychopathyThe group was called the Beatrice six. They were sentenced to decades in prison. Joseph White was the only one to go to trial because he was the only one that wouldn’t confess. Three of the other five testified against him as part of a plea bargain to reduce their sentences.

Problems

James Dean admitted that he was there during the rape and murder. He offered testimony that was very descriptive of the event. His story was that White and Winslow committed the rape. He said that Taylor held a pillow over the face of Wilson which ultimately lead to her death. Shelden admitted she was there, but tried to intervene. In her description, White struck her and she didn’t remember much after that point. Almost all of the descriptions came from very unconventional tactics with, as James Dean said in a 1989 deposition, 70-90% of his recollection coming from dreams.

But those admissions weren’t the only problems with the case.

The jury that convicted the group was not informed that the fingerprints from the scene did not match any of the alleged participants in the crime or the victim Helen Wilson.

The jury also never learned that the DNA samples taken from the crime scene were possible matches for Gonzales and Winslow, but that one man who was a perfect match had been ruled out by Joyce Gilchrist.

Black Magic

Gilchrist was nicknamed “Black Magic” for her ability to make DNA connections that other forensic examiners couldn’t. She was able to make those connections because they were repeatedly wrong. Michael Blair was sentenced to death for murder based on Gilchrist’s testimony that his hair matched hair found at the scene. This turned out to be false. Curtis McCarty spent 20 years on death row after Gilchrist mishandled his evidence. He was released in 2007 but has not received any compensation. Jeffery Pierce was convicted of rape based on Gilchrist’s evidence despite having an airtight alibi. Peirce was released in 2001 after 15 years in prison when the DNA evidence was re-examined and found to be inaccurate.

If manipulating the truth at the expense of human life is a sign of psychopathy, Gilchrist fits the bill.

Her testimony or evidence led to the execution of 11 people. But in this case, she ruled out a man named Bruce Allan Smith, a name that will become extremely important.

Sentences

Ultimately White was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Winslow plead no contest as part of a plea bargain and received 50 years in prison. Gonzalez, Dean and Shelden all received 10 year sentences and Taylor received 10-40 years after each plead guilty to their part in the crime.

Sheldon, Gonzales and Dean were released after four and a half years. White and Winslow appealed over and over. They were repeatedly denied until 2007. During that appeal DNA testing proved the murderer to be Bruce Allan Smith, who had been dead for 15 years at the time of the appeal. Gage County eventually was ordered to pay $28 million to the Beatrice six who had almost unanimously admitted to the crime. The group collectively spent over 70 years imprisoned for a crime in which they had no involvement, but admitted to committing.

How is it that not just one, but multiple people remember committing a murder that none of them had commited?

Priming

In 1931 a psychologist named Norman Maier may have found the answer with a very simple experiment.

Maier was interested in understanding how people solve problems. He devised a puzzle which has since become known as the “two cord puzzle”.

Maier hung two cords from the ceiling of his lab. The cords were far enough apart that people could not grab each at the same time. Then he asked people to come up with ways to tie the two ends of the cords together.

Most participants came up with solutions that involved using the items in the lab to reach one cord while holding the other. Extension cords were tied to the end of the ropes, poles were used to hook the end and pull the two cords together and other miscellaneous solutions were created. But Maier had another solution in mind. He wanted to see how long in took people to come up with his solution. So he continued asking the participants to come up with new ways to solve the puzzle, until they ran out of ideas.

The Right Solution

The solution Maier was looking for was to swing one rope in a pendulum fashion. Then participants could grab the other rope and catch the swinging rope when it came towards them. Very few participants worked out this solution, until they were given a seemingly accidental clue.

Maier would walk around the lab during the experiment until, when people had run out of ideas, he would brush against one of the ropes and set it swinging. Within a minute of this seemingly careless clue, most people would arrive at Maiers solution.

This experiment showed how easily we can be nudged with a solution to a problem without realizing it. But that wasn’t the interesting part. The fascinating part came after the experiment ended.

Whose Idea?

Only one-third of participants in Maier’s experiment realized they’d been given a clue when Maier bumped the rope. The other two-thirds explained that they arrived at the solution themselves. They fully believed they had solved the puzzle, without help, even though their own thinking did not instigate the solution to the problem.

The majority of participants were easily persuaded to solve the puzzle Maiers way, with Maiers help. But, in the end, the whole time they thought the solution was their idea.

It happened through a psychological concept called priming.

S-O-_-P

Imagine I show you pictures of delicious food for 30 seconds. Then blindfold you and expose you to the smells of those same great dishes. Then I quickly remove the blindfold and in front of you is a whiteboard with the letters S-O-_-P. I ask you to fill in the missing letter. Instinctively you will most likely spell the word soup. In fact you probably thought that was the answer before I explained it.

But if I show you images of dishes being cleaned, brooms and clean laundry, then blindfold you and expose you to the smell of lemony cleaners and bleach, then pull off your blindfold to the same puzzle, you will probably spell soap.

It is an example of a heuristic. The context and situations we are in affects our thinking, decision making and even memory. Remeber, heuristics are shortcuts or rules of thumb that our brain uses to speed up our decision making process. They are, for the most part a good thing. But they can be very easily manipulated.

Here is another example of the priming heuristic.

Cows

Ray is an eighth grader who wants to play a joke on his little brother Tom. He tells Tom to spell the word white, which Tom does. Then he asks what color paper plates are. Tom says they are white. So far he’s two for two. Ray then tells Tom to spell the color of snow, which of course is w-h-i-t-e. Finally Rays tell Tom to spell what cows drink as fast as possible. Tom thinks he’s being tricked into spelling white again and smugly spells m-i-l-k. Ray laughs and explains to his very primed little brother that cows drink w-a-t-e-r.

I even used it in an earlier chapter of my next book. I wanted the reader to link Hindenburg the man with the Hindenburg blimp tragedy. So I wrote the following.

Hindenburg had a burning dislike for Communism, which drove many of his actions. He was chosen to lead his people often in battle and politics, and his name has gone down in history. His actions sparked a famous, worldwide event and qualified him for the secondHindenburg chapter of this book, but probably not for the reason you think.

Timing, Priming and Psychopathy

Priming is a very powerful, psychological tool. It’s a tool that manipulators can use to influence their victims into thinking that poor choices were their idea. Psychopathy can cause a person to manipulate others with priming. They corrupt the mind of the innocent with thoughts that lead to the actions they are trying to illicit. In a junior high school joke it can be funny. In a book it can bring out the feelings or memories the author wants.

But when lives, prison or even money is on the line it is purely manipulation.

The Interview

Ada JoAnn Taylor’s black hair is streaked with grey and cut short during her interview. She looks haggard and exhausted. It seems like she has spent years missing sleep. There is one moment during the three minute interview when she appears to twist her face into the closest representation of a smile that she can seem to muster. It happens when she uncovers a ridiculous truth about the investigation. Price, her one time mental therapist, was also a part-time sheriff’s deputy who aided in the interrogations.

The same man whom she had trusted to give her advice about her mental health years earlier was now advising her. “We know you did this,” she quotes Price, “we know you suffocated her. If you’ll just concentrate on your dreams your memories will come back. You’ve just repressed your memories.”

The cord had been set in motion.

Then the interviewer says, “but the suggestion that you may have done it was enough to get you to admit.” Right on cue, Ada JoAnn Taylor begins repeating, verbatim what the interviewer is saying, immediately after she says it. It is almost as if the interviewer is now doing the priming.

Taylor says of Price that being privy to her background and psychological state gave him access into how best to manipulate her. She says that he knew, “if we tell her something hard enough she’s going to listen to it. She’s gonna accept it.” Price helped wrongly convict 6 people of murder.

Psychopathy; Manipulating Others to the Outcome You Want.

She says that Searecy would tell her the police knew she had suffocated Wilson with a pillow. It is the tormenting false memory that still runs rampant in Taylors mind. She says she can still visualize herself holding the couch pillow that choked the life from Helen Wilson.

Unfortunately that false memory is more false than we think. Wilson was not suffocated with a couch pillow. She was wrapped in a blanket that cut off the air around her. But in Taylors mind, that’s not how it happened. Because during the priming from the Gage County sheriffs department, that isn’t what they told her. They told her it was a pillow.

The video ends with Taylor saying, “Wow, they got me to say I did (it). How screwed up was I?”

Manipulating someone using priming is a sign of psychopathy. But reacting to priming isn’t screwed up. It’s normal, even when the person reacting isn’t.

Heuristics

Priming is just one example of a heuristic that effects our decision making. Other examples include:

  • Consistency heuristic

    This heuristic where a person responds to a situation in a way that allows them to remain consistent.

  • Absurdity heuristic

    This is an approach to a situation that is very atypical and unlikely – in other words, a situation that is absurd. This particular heuristic is applied when a claim or a belief seems silly, or seems to defy common sense.

  • Common sense

    This is a heuristic that is applied to a problem based on an individual’s observation of a situation. It is a practical and prudent approach that is applied to a decision where the right and wrong answers seems relatively clear cut.

  • Availability heuristic

    This allows a person to judge a situation on the basis of the examples of similar situations that come to mind, allowing a person to extrapolate to the situation in which they find themselves.

  • Familiarity heuristic

    allows someone to approach an issue or problem based on the fact that the situation is one with which the individual is familiar, and so one should act the same way they acted in the same situation before.

  • Scarcity heuristic

    This is used when a particular object becomes rare or scarce. This approach suggests that if something is scarce, then it is more desirable to obtain.

  • Affect heuristic

    This is when an individual makes a snap judgment based on a quick impression. This heuristic views a situation quickly and decides without further research whether a thing is good or bad.  Naturally, this heuristic can be both helpful and hurtful when applied in the wrong situation.

  • Authority heuristic

    This occurs when someone believes the opinion of a person of authority on a subject just because the individual is an authority figure. People apply this heuristic often in matters such as science, politics, and education.

List referenced from http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-heuristics.html

Psychopathy and Heuristics

Perhaps the most valuable and commonly manipulated heuristic is the authority heuristic. We established earlier that psychopaths share a chemical imbalance with those on the autism spectrum. They both either lack or have rouble processing oxytocin. But the psychopaths use our own heuristics against us to get what they want. Those afflicted with psychopathy position themselves as experts to gain the trust of unwitting victims on a very regular basis.

Buridan’s ass is a philosophical paradox in which a donkey is placed the same distance between two perfectly equal bales of hay. In another version of the problem the donkey is equally hungry and thirsty and is the same distance between food and water. The donkey can’t decide what it wants more. It dies from an inability to choose, not from malnutrition.

In the world of the psychopath, we are the donkey and they control the hay. Only they do not think in the best interest of anyone but themselves. The outcome of any situation must eventually benefit them either socially, financially or by satisfying some urge they have.

PCL-R

It is very difficult to diagnose psychopathy without the aid of functional magnetic resonance imaging, or an FMRI. It is not realistic to perform expensive medical procedures on every criminal suspected of psychopathy. So a system was developed by a man who is now considered the leading authority on psychopathy. Dr. Bob Hare spent decades developing and teaching his now famous psychopath checklist to those who deem it valuable. It is the gold standard for determining if a person/criminal is or is not a psychopath when FMRI isn’t available. Today, authorities decipher average criminals from psychopaths using the Hare checklist. It is called the Psychopath Checklist Revised or PCL-R. The following is an overview of the characteristics from checklist.

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behavior problems
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Criminal versatility

Criminals are judged based on how many of the traits from the list they have and to what degree. The higher a person scores on the list, the more likely they suffer from psychopathy. The list can be highly subjective, because each characteristic is a spectrum, like autism. But once one registers as having a certain degree of psychopathy, they are widely regarded as unable to be rehabilitated by the vast majority of psychologist and criminal justice systems.

The Killer and the Author

Unfortunately we have learned the difficulties of rehabilitating those with psychopathy the hard way. Take the case of Norman Mailer and Jack Abbott.

In 1980 Random House signed Jack Abbott to write his book, In the Belly of the Beast. It was about his time spent in federal prison for charges from robbery to the stabbing murder of a fellow inmate. The book would include excerpts of his letters to pen pal and fellow author Norman Mailer.

Norman MailerMailer was the popular author of books such as The Naked and the Dead, The White Negro and The Executioners Song which is depicted from the execution of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore. Mailer was seduced by the writing of Abbott during his research into the criminal life. Abbott not only signed his publishing contract, but was also paroled and set free with Mailers help. He would burst on to the literary scene a newly freed man. His freshly released book, In the Belly of the Beast, was scheduled to launch his new, free life.

The Review

On July 19th 1981, the New York Times Book Review published a review of the book shortly after it’s release. The reviewer, Terrence Des Pres, a Colgate University professor, wrote that the book was “awesome, brilliant, perversely ingenuous; its impact is indelible, and as an articulation of penal nightmare it is completely compelling.”

The positive review of the book was fabulous press that didn’t last long. It would be usurped by another story. A story more intriguing than one of a newly released felon with a knack for writing. On the morning before the review of his book was published, Jack Abbott stabbed Richard Adan in the heart. Mr. Adan was a waiter at the restaurant Abbott and two women were visiting. The fight happened when Abbott asked to use the bathroom. Mr. Adan explained to Abbott that the restroom wasn’t available because the restaurant didn’t have accident insurance.

So Abbott murdered him.

Manhunt

Abbott’s positive book review ran the same day that police announced the manhunt for the murderer. Abbott personified many of the traits from the PCL-R after his capture, . He acted as his own lawyer. (grandiose sense of self-worth, lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity and irresponsibility) He berated Mr. Adan’s widow in court for crying over the loss of her husband. (lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect, callous/lack of empathy and poor behavioral control)

In fact, the notes from he trial read like a description of exactly how to prove one’s psychopathy according to the PCL-R. Abbott even had the gaul to publish another book after the murder called My Return, for which he was promptly sued and lost $7.5 million.

But it isn’t surprising that a lifelong criminal is a psychopath. It also comes as no surprise that he was able to manipulate Mailer into assisting his release from prison and his lucrative book contract.

But was Mailer manipulated? 

Norman Mailer

When we peek into Mailers life, the story, as unbelievable as it is, gets even stranger..

In The White Negro, Mailer wrote this about fictional young thugs murdering a shop owner.

“It can of course be suggested that it takes little courage for two strong 18-year-old hoodlums, let us say, to beat in the brains of a candy-store keeper, and indeed the act – even by the logic of the psychopath – is not likely to prove very therapeutic, for the victim is not an immediate equal. Still, courage of a sort is necessary, for one murders not only a weak fifty-year-old man but an institution as well, one violates property, one enters into a new relation with the police and introduces a dangerous element into one’s life. The hoodlum is therefore daring the unknown, and no matter how brutal the act, it is not altogether cowardly.”

It seems Mailer thought that if two strong young men, beat in the brains out of a weak, older candy store owner it was not cowardly, but daring. Perhaps this view of murdering the weak is what drove him to his next stunt.

On November 20th, 1960, Mailer ended an argument with his wife, Adele Morales by stabbing her in the back and chest, trying to force the two and a half inch knife into her heart, and almost succeeding.

Just a Knick or Two

He appeared at the hospital after the stabbing to lecture the surgeons about the dimensions of Adele’s wound. Immediately afterwards he appeared on The Mike Wallace Show to plug his mayoral candidacy. During the interview he spoke of knives and swords as symbols of manhood. Long after the event he would complain that Morales would show off her huge scar to convince people Mailer had used a much bigger knife. After his arrest he served only 17 days in Bellevue for psychiatric evaluation, then probation for the attempted murder.

Mailer lost in his race as mayor of New York City in 1969.

He has been quoted as saying of the stabbing that he only wanted to give his wife “a knick or two.” Then in his famous argument with Gore Vidal on The Dick Cavette Show he dismissed the whole thing saying, “we all know I stabbed my wife.

Women’s Rights?

Mailers silver tongue and manipulations garnered him the support of Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem for his next political campaign. Abzug and Steinem were women rights activists, supporting a man who tried to murder his wife.

When Mailer came the the rescue of Jack Abbott, helping launch his writing career and free him from prison, had he found untapped talent or just someone he understood? Were they brothers in psychopathy? It’s hard to argue against the similarities between the two, except their standings in society. It is also hard to argue the influence both men had over their collective worlds.

The Influence of Psychopathy

Bob Hare explains that typically 1% of the general population are psychopaths. 25% of prison populations are psychopaths, but 60-70% of the violence in prison is instigated by psychopaths. That is an enormous amount of influence and persuasion.

Not all psychopaths are horrible violent murderers. Psychopathy functions on a spectrum like autism.  As I explain in my book SWAY, Dr. James Fallon discovered, by accident, that he is a psychopath. He has lived a very successful life.

The defining characteristic of a psychopath is not violence and bloodshed. Dr. Fallon admits that his relationships have little emotion involved. Fortunately for those around him, his urges had more to do with advancing psychology than murder.

So in psychopathy, the person is lacking adequate oxytocin processing capabilities. Those on the spectrum also lack oxytocin processing capabilities. Both wield influence because of their chemical deficiencies. They are not dependent on social outcomes like neurotypicals. But what differentiates the two? How is one form of influence positive and the other negative?

The Answer

The solution could make up the content for an entire book. But I think the simple answer  is laid out in a quote from Dr. James Fallon, who said this,

“People with autism lack theory of mind but not empathy, while people with psychopathy lack empathy but not theory of mind.”

Empathy is the difference in positive influence and destructive influence.

The Link Between Influence and Autism

Autism hasn’t always been considered a disability. In some of the most brutal and barbaric cultures, people with autism had incredible influence. In this article we will examine one of those stories which comes from the book SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence.

Adjectives

Think of a loved one you have lost. I’m sure you remember their face, or a particularly memorable event you shared. You may remember their home, car or clothes. At some point you will probably think of an adjective that describes something about them. 

“Grandma was a fabulous cook, grandpa was a kind man,” or, “uncle Allan was a bad drunk.”

But you don’t remember them as that adjective.  AutismEven if you do think of your loved one as fabulous, you most certainly don’t call them that adjective as their name. You don’t say, “I miss fabulous Grandma.”

The Man With an Adjective for a Name

Ivan Vasilyevich’s adjective not only describes almost the whole of his person, but it also became his name. His actions have defined him for centuries, replacing his full name with an adjective in English. That adjective is terrible.

Ivan the Terrible

By 1543 Ivan had witnessed the torture of countless people. Ivan’s own uncle Yuri, who challenged his birthright to the throne, was tossed in a dungeon and starved to death. His mother, Jelena Glinsky, died suddenly after ordering the execution of other family members. It was poisoning, administered by angered relatives of murdered opponents that killed her. Prince Ivan Obolensky was beaten to death by his jailers for his loyalty to Glinsky, within a week of her death.

A Reign of Terror

Finally, on December 29, 1543, Ivan ordered Prince Andrew Shuisky arrested and executed. He had Shuisky thrown to a pack of starving dogs. This was the symbolic beginning of Ivan’s reign over Russia. 

He was 13.

During his governance, it was nothing for Ivan to have people drawn over powder kegs and blown up. People were tortured and murdered in front of their families and boiled or skinned alive. 

In one story, Ivan had a peasant stripped naked and used her as target practice. Ivan’s weapon of choice was a staff with a pointed, metal, spear tip affixed to the top. In a fit of rage he ran the same spear through the skull of his favorite son, killing him. The death was the culmination of an argument between the two. Ivan had beaten his pregnant daughter-in-law and caused the miscarriage of his own grandchild during a prior fit of rage.

The Peasant Who Changed Everything

At one point a peasant approached Ivan and rebuked him for not paying attention during church. So Ivan did something unthinkable. 

He sat up and paid attention in church. 

Remember, Ivan thought nothing of committing horrible acts to clergy, during church, in front of the congregation. He also used peasants as target practice. But when Ivan was approached by this peasant in church something different happened. The peasant did the modern equivalent of grabbing Ivan by the ear. He told Ivan to sit up straight and pay attention, and Ivan did.

In fact, not only did Ivan listen, he sent the peasant a gift, which the peasant gave away publicly!

Lent

This same pauper once engaged Ivan during Lent, in which observers, including Ivan, abstained from meat. As he approached Ivan at dinner, he dropped a large piece of bloody meat on the table in front of Ivan. Ivan explained that he did not eat meat during Lent. The peasant said, “You eat and drink the blood and flesh of those you kill and torture.” In other words, “Ivan, you are so deplorable, that eating this steak during Lent is not really going to matter when it comes to your salvation.”

How did Ivan react? By acting as a pallbearer at this mans funeral years later, when he died of natural causes. It was plainly obvious that Ivan loved, and listened to this man. In fact, it seems that this person had carte blanche when it came to speaking into Ivan’s life, more so than any other person.

The Peasant Remembered

If you visit Moscow today, just outside the Kremlin stands a beautiful building. It’s oversized domes and intricate paint scheme makes the building stand out as a unique, worldwide treasure. Most people have seen it in pictures because it is one of the most photographed pieces of architecture in the world.

It’s name is St. Basils Cathedral, named after the pauper who had so much influence over Ivan, Vasily Blazhenny or simply, Basil.

Basil

At the age of 13, (oddly the same age as Ivan when he ordered his first execution) Basil dedicated his life to Christ and remained for over 70 years. He wore very little clothing, even during the harsh Russian winters. Basil had an incredible sense of passion, lived in the moment and opened the doors to a much deeper and higher sense of worship than those around him. He was not typical, but he fit the description of a very small group of people throughout history who acted similarly. They were called, “The Holy Fools of Russia,” and they seemed to have something that others did not.

So what did Basil have that made him so dedicated, so passionate and so influential? How could a man, with almost none of the typical makings of stature in his culture, who spoke so bluntly, become revered and beloved by the tyrant who murdered his own son?

Basil’s Gift

Some historians believe Basil had an incredible brain anomaly that caused him to act the way he did. People affected by this anomaly have a surplus of synapses, or connections between brain cells. This happens when the natural pruning of these synapses which usually takes place in our brain, doesn’t occur the way it should. It has many symptoms and causes different results in the people it affects. Historically it has gone by many different names.

Today it is most simply know as autism.

This article is reformatted from the introduction of SWAY, The Unlikely Connection Between Autism and Influence. 

We think we are the most advanced society in history, but we are wrong. Our view of people with autism is dwarfed, even by the standards of ancient, and often brutal societies. Are we missing the mark when it comes to our view of autism? Find out here.

The Case for Autism

John Donavan and Caren Zucker explained this rationale in their bestselling book, In a Different Key, The Story of Autism. The following is an excerpt.

-Half a millennium ago, a Russian shoemaker named Basil, born around 1469, was spotted walking about naked in winter, spouting incomprehensible utterances, while remaining inattentive to his own needs, even for food. The populace did not see this as madness. autismThey thought, rather, that they were witnessing extreme holiness. The Russians called this “foolishness for Christ” and reared Basil’s self-abnegation as courageous, difficult, and a pious path, which Basil took in order to allow Christ to speak through him. Even the tsar-Ivan the Terrible- who was known to have waiters executed for serving the wrong drink at dinner, let Basil criticize him in public. He believed Basil could read his thoughts, and he took it to heart when the wandering shoemaker scolded him for letting his mind wander in church. It was said that Basil was the only man Ivan truly feared.

The Autism Idea

In 1974, a pair of Russian-speaking scholars at the University of Michigan suggested that something other than pure foolishness or holiness might have been at work in Basil, and in a few others with similar stories. Natalia Challis and Horace Dewey dove deeply into the available accounts of Basil’s life and some thirty-five other “Holy Fools” of bygone days, all recognized as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church. Challis’s and Dewey’s academic specialty was Russian history and culture, not autism. But Dewey had a son, born in the 1950’s who had been diagnosed with autism, and that gave him insights into the behaviors of the ancient wanderers. He came to believe that autism, not insanity or divinity, might explain the Holy Fools’ behavior.

“Unhampered by Society’s Preconceptions”

This set of individuals were “unhampered by society’s preconceptions” and content to live in a state of social isolation. Certain of them were wedded to rituals. They noted that Basil’s tolerance of extreme cold which let him “walk barefoot on the frozen Volga”  was reminiscent of how some people with autism appear indifferent to extremes of cold, heat, or pain. The Holy Fools were also observed to get by on limited sleep and food-again, similar to some people with autism.

While some remained mute, several were known to echo the words of others, and still others spoke in riddles. And legend has it that some blurted out what they were thinking into the faces of the powerful. That tendency was a major part of what endeared the Fools to the Russian public. In a culture where few dared to question authority, their impertinence was reminiscent of the great prophets of the Old Testament.-

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Is Autism Influential?

Was autism the secret tool Basil used to influence one of the most horrible people that lived? Could the personality of those on the autism spectrum lend itself, in some ways, to persuasion and influence? Consider a person you know with autism. If you are realizing that some of the traits they exhibit do seem persuasive, you are not wrong.

In July of 2017, verywell.com published their Top 10 Positive Traits of Autistic People. The article garnered some negative reviews because of the generalization of people on the spectrum. People with autism are referred to as being on the autism spectrum. Autism results in set of personal characteristics somewhat different from what we consider average. But not every person with autism has all of the characteristics listed on the spectrum.

 The Autism Spectrum

For example, some of the characteristics on the spectrum are as follows:

  • Intense or focused interests
  • Repetitive body movements such as spinning or hand flapping
  • Unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects
  • Insistence on sticking to routines
  • Sensory sensitivities including avoidance of everyday sounds and textures

(You can learn more at autismspectrum.org.au)

A Range, Not a Definition

Though these are a few of the behaviors on the spectrum, not every person with autism will exhibit all of these behaviors. While Down Syndrome is quantifiable; every person it affects has an extra chromosome, autism is not, and because of that, the symptoms vary. For example a person with autism may insist on routines, but might not show repetitive body movements. Because the range of behaviors can be so varied, the term “autism spectrum” is used to describe the set of possible behaviors of a person with autism.

Some Traits

But the people at verywell.com believe that most people on the spectrum share a common set of endearing characteristics. They are:

  1. People with autism rarely lie
  2. Those on the autism spectrum live in the moment
  3. People with autism rarely judge others
  4. Those on the spectrum are passionate
  5. People with autism are not tied to social expectations
  6. Those with autism have terrific memories
  7. People on the spectrum are less materialistic
  8. Those with autism play fewer head games
  9. People on the autism spectrum have fewer hidden agendas
  10. Those with autism open new doors for neurotypicals

People With Autism Speak the Truth

These are obviously not scientific explanations or descriptions of people with autism. But I think it’s fair to say, at least anecdotally, the people on the spectrum whom I have met do live up to this high praise. Think of it. Frequently someone on the spectrum will say things that seem socially inappropriate. But it is usually inappropriate because it is awkwardly true and said passionately without judgement. Simply a momentary fact, most of us wouldn’t say. They call neurotypicals on our facades at times and in places we think awkward. This very common trait associated with autism is the embodiment of numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 10 from the list. It is hard to argue these traits and, when shown in the proper light, these traits are endearing.

This article is reformatted from the introduction of SWAY, The Unlikely Connection Between Autism and Influence. 

We think we are the most advanced society in history, but we are wrong. Our view of people with autism is dwarfed, even by the standards of ancient, and often brutal societies. Are we missing the mark when it comes to our view of autism? Find out here.

Just Personality Traits

Most of the items on the list are really just personality traits many of us would love to have more of. We can all play fewer head games or judge others less. At least some of these positive traits describe a personality that is not only attainable, but influential. It is the description of a person that is someone to whom I am likely to listen.

Is the personality verywell.com describes also common in influencers? Could their list be a little-known set of influential characteristics that inherently reside with those on the autism spectrum? Are those characteristics integral in ethical persuasion or principled influence?

How Pivotal is Personality?

Were these the keys to Basil’s personality that put him in such high regard in the eyes of the serial sadist, Ivan?

And just how pivotal is personality when it comes to persuasion and influence? What mattered more, who Basil was, or what he said and did?

A huge portion of potential influencers spend mountains of time finessing the message, campaign or product.But they spend less time developing the personality of the influencer or messenger. This is a huge mistake. That the message, campaign or product has to be high-quality and good for the audience should be a given. But focusing on small details around the product or message is a mistake if the messenger doesn’t resonate with the audience.

Influence and Medicine

In the incredible book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, he unequivocally proved that the personality of the messenger is not only pivotal, but actually has more to do with influence than the messages themselves. I arrived at this conclusion when Gladwell described the real reasons doctors are sued for medical malpractice. And it has much less to do with medical malpractice than we think.

Gladwell writes, “The overwhelming number of people who suffer an injury due to the negligence of a doctor never file a malpractice suit at all. Patients don’t file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care. Patients file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care  – and something else happens to them.”

Two Groups

He continues,

-Recently the medical researcher Wendy Levinson recorded hundreds of conversations between a group of physicians and their patients. Roughly half of the doctors had never been sued. The other half had been sued at least twice, and Levinson found that just on the basis of those conversations, she could find clear differences between the two groups.

The surgeons who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued did (18.3 minutes versus 15 minutes). They were more likely to make “orienting” comments, such as “First I’ll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over” or “I will leave time for your questions” – which help patients get a sense of what the visit is supposed to accomplish and when they ought to ask questions. Those were the group more likely to engage in active listening, saying things such as “Go on, tell me more about that,” and they were far more likely to laugh and be funny during the visit.”

No Difference in Care

Interestingly, there was no difference in the amount or quality of information they gave their patients; they didn’t provide more details about medication or the patient’s condition. The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients.-

In a nutshell, the personality of the doctors determined if the patient would sue them for medical malpractice, not the quality of care. Gladwell goes on to explain situations where patients wanted to sue because they felt they were given inadequate care. But when they realized the suit would hurt the people in the office whom they liked, they chose not to continue.

The Influence of Personality

This is the power of personality. It is the engine that drives influence. It is a measuring stick by which most of us gauge the degree of influence we allow someone to have in our lives. We do not accurately evaluate every decision, purchase or vote and come up with rational choices. In the context of influence, the personality of the influencer is what researchers call a heuristic. Heuristics are gauges, or rules of thumb that we have gathered to make processing information easier. Often they are very often wrong.

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Real World Examples

In Richard Thaler’s book Misbehaving, he explains some of these mistakes in practical, real life, economical examples. He explains that a man who suffers from hay fever mows his own lawn. When asked why he doesn’t hire a kid from the neighborhood to mow the lawn for $10 the man says it isn’t worth it. In other words he would rather save $10 by mowing a lawn and suffering through the hay fever.

So, in logical, analog terms, hay fever is worth $10 to that man. When he is asked if he would mow a lawn roughly the same size for $20 the man says no. But this thinking is irrational. If hay fever is worth $10 to the man then it should definitely be worth $20.

The man is reacting to a heuristic that behavioral analysts call loss aversion. As a rule we over-value what we already have to very inaccurate results. The man with hay fever is valuing the $10 he is saving more than the $20 he would earn mowing the other lawn.

Irrational Heuristics

Loss aversion is an example of an irrational heuristic that influences most people. These heuristics, irrational or not, are usually the guardrails of our decisions. They offer us the ability to make decisions in multiple contexts.

But context can often change the heuristic.

Imagine I approach you in a shopping mall and ask your help with a math question. You agree to help, so I present the following problem. There are two pieces of railroad track, each one is a mile long, laid end to end. The tracks are secured at each end and touch in the middle. The railroad tracks each expand by one inch, into each other lifting the middle in the air. Also imagine they do not flex. Instead they are perfectly rigid, forming a triangle with the ground as the base. Here is the question, how high do the tracks raise?

Two Inches

The average guess is two inches. Each track expands an inch and there are two tracks so two inches. Most people use the information readily available as a heuristic, make a guess and move on.

Now suppose you are in a geometry class. The topic is pythagorean theorem or the measurements of right triangles. Your teacher explains that any triangle with two equal legs can be divided into two right triangles. This is done by drawing a line from the point of the triangle to the center of the hypotenuse. The newly drawn line can be measured by applying the pythagorean theory to each triangle. It works as long as you know the length of the other two legs. Then she explains the same problem a different way. The leg of a right triangle is 5280’ or one mile long. The hypotenuse of the same triangle is 5280’ 1”, one mile and one inch. She hands you a calculator and asks, “what is the length of the other leg?”

The Right Answer is . . .

Now the context is different but the problem is the same. You have the formula and you have a calculator. In just a few seconds you arrive at the right answer, which is 29.6 ft. Notice that the average answer of two inches is way off. The heuristics or rules of thumb we use in the absence of all of the information is often extremely wrong.

The context of the mall scenario is so different than the classroom. Even people who know the pythagorean theory, and have a calculator on the phone often get the answer wrong. Most of us would need to be in the presence of the right context in order to arrive at the right choice. Even if we have access to all of the necessary information. But most of our decisions and choices are made in a context lacking complete information. Which is why the personality of the influencer usually affects the choice of the majority of consumers more than facts or data.

The Fundamental Attribution Error

When we cast our vote we don’t usually do it with a full set of information. Typically our logic goes something like this, “I am a gun-owner and he supports the NRA,” or, “I have glaucoma and she supports medical marijuana.” We don’t think in actual terms like, “She supports medical marijuana, unless Congress has been overwhelmingly filled with right-wing candidates on the back of a huge growth of Christianity and she thinks the constituents are moving away from supporting legalized medical marijuana.” That is foolish. We assign people fundamental attributes and assume those attributes span every situation.

Typically we say, “Thomas is kind.” We don’t say, “Thomas is kind, unless he didn’t sleep all night, and the barista is rude and messes up his order.” This is called the fundamental attribution error. It is another heuristic or rule of thumb that we use to make decisions in multiple contexts to make our life easier. It would be impossible to go into every decision armed with all of the information about that situation. So in our day to day dealings with people, we assign fundamental attributions to them. If the messenger attracts poor fundamental attributions, it won’t matter what the message is.

The Truth About Influence

Heuristics, context and fundamental attributions are why the personality of the influencer is so critical.

Book purchases are a perfect example. People do not buy books because of the information in them. If that were true then people would need to read the book before they buy it to find out if the information is worth paying for. People buy books based on their view of the author, or the personality of the friend who recommended it, or the context of their need and the answer promised by the cover. But no one purchases a book because they have read it and evaluated the information first, and then choose to buy it. Hardly any influence is made in that manner. The personality of the messenger, the context of the situation and fundamental attributions almost always hold sway over influence and persuasion.

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The Message or the Messenger?

So when the message, product or candidate is a decent choice, the consumer uses context and the personality of the influencer to make their choices. If we spend our time polishing and honing the product or message, but we get the messenger wrong, it won’t matter. People choose influencers using heuristics, context and fundamental attributions, not spec sheets and charts.

Incredibly, history has proven some of the traits from the list to be pivotal in creating that influential messenger. Our ideas can only spread when they are offered by the right person. That person is someone whose personality of positive fundamental attributions, can build a heuristic of trust and create the context in which influence grows.

SWAY

In my book SWAY, I dissect a few of the personality traits on the list of positive attributes of people on the autism spectrum. I look back at history and find people who had the opportunity at influence. In each section of the book I explore one person who used a trait from the list to exercise influence, and one person lacking the trait, who was unable to leave their mark.

Understand that when we studied someone with influence, it didn’t necessarily mean these were people who advanced society. In some cases the most influential people used a trait, or the science behind the trait, to influence humanity for the worse.

Six Influential Traits

In the book, I focused on six of the traits which I found to be common in the history of influence. They are:

People with autism are passionate

Those with autism rarely judge others

People on the spectrum play fewer head games

People with autism are not tied to social expectations

Those on the autism spectrum live in the moment

People with autism open new doors for neurotypicals

Some of History’s Examples

I examined the story of a man who had every opportunity to save an immeasurable number of babies and their mothers. His passion and use of it had everything to do with the amount of influence he had. We explored a businessman who acted completely contrary to the world around him, and what effect it had. The book dives deep in the world of psychopaths and determines the degree of their influence and what science tells is so effective and ineffective about their persuasion.

We recount the story of one of the originators of the concept of the atom. What trait on the autism spectrum did he use and how was it received?

9/11 and The Queen of England

We look closely into the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the psychology that led up to the attack and how it could’ve been avoided.

Plus we explore how one person single-handedly caused the fall of a 230+ year old bank that, up to that point, had survived WWI, WWII, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and financed the Louisiana purchase. We explain how that person, exploiting one trait from the autism spectrum, caused the collapse of the bank that held the Queen’s money.

And that isn’t all.

History, Autism and Influence

History is ripe with examples of successful and failed influencers. The personality of the influencers seems to be the common denominator in the amount of persuasion each person had. What’s more, the specific parts of their personality that had the most effect on their influence seem to fit within the six characteristics from the autism spectrum that we examined.

My hope is that SWAY will do four things.

  1. Help you sniff out the charlatans and crooks who try to coerce influence by manipulating one or more of the traits, or the science behind the trait.
  2. Spread the idea that it is more important and effective to develop the messenger, than to manipulate the message.
  3. Help you have more influence for the positive changes you are trying to make.
  4. (Perhaps most important) Shine a different light on those with autism.

Society considers 16th century Russia a brutal and barbaric place. But were they ahead of us when it comes to their view of autism? Did they know something we have forgotten?

Find out here.

How Alan Turing Changed The World

Alan TuringThe following is sampled from my book, SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence. Alan Turing changed the world. In the movie The Imitation Game, Turing’s life is reduced to a riveting, two hour story. In reality, his was much more complex.

The End is Near

I have very bad news. The world is ending. Not only is the world ending but I know when and how. It won’t be pretty, but I can show you how to manage this catastrophe. Now for the scary part, the date is. . .

This sentence has been finished inaccurately by countless fortune tellers, cult leaders and outright wacko’s. (Just to clarify, that is wacko as in mentally unstable person, not Waco the town in Texas where David Koresh and the Branch Dividians met their demise.)

The scenario has played out almost the same way many times over. A charismatic leader amasses a following. They all believed in something that runs slightly contrary to the general, accepted belief. He (it’s usually a man,) is able to persuade the followers of this belief using a line of reasoning, or an interpretation of ancient text that supports what he preaches.

The followers rally, the movement grows and suddenly their group gains momentum. The believers begin preaching to each other, explaining how the predictions, beliefs and prophecies of the leader have played out in their own life. Now it isn’t just the leader preaching the new “truth,” it is everyday people teaching other, everyday people.

A Message

Then it happens. The leader has found a symbol, a sign or a message explaining the world will end. Of course the followers believe him. He no longer has the status of man, he’s superhuman, a deity or a prophet.

Thanks to his status he knows exactly how the followers should handle this upcoming catastrophe. He explains the protocol for the event. Belongings are sold, modifications are made and every detail is addressed in haste to make sure the group is on the proper side of the rapture.

Then, on the date and time the prophet promised it happens.

Nothing.

The sheep-headed god doesn’t show up, the comet doesn’t hit nor do the poles of the earth reverse abruptly.

As a result, all of the intelligent people who witnessed this silliness walk away from the cult, right? A rational person would take this a sign that the leader is wrong, wouldn’t they?

Well, no.

In a blistering display of arrogance, seemingly normal people not only don’t walk away from the cult, but they double down and their faith grows stronger. They refuse to admit defeat and explain away or rationalize what happened.

Harold Camping

Think this is an exaggeration? Let’s take a look at Harold Camping.

Harold Camping was the popular Christian radio personality on the Oakland-based radio show, Family Radio. He was one of the original co-founders of the show in 1958. As an engineer, Camping drew very educated listeners, many of whom were engineers like him. The mission of he and his co-founder Dick Palmquist was to spread the Christian gospel as far and wide as possible. But almost 40 years after the founding of the show, the message took a dramatic change.

In the 1990’s, Harold began interpreting the Bible. He made a few calculations and discovered that the end of the world was prophesied within the pages. Thanks to a little math and insight partnered with a lot of speculation, Camping calculated the date to be September 4, 1994, or maybe September 6. After all, no one is perfect. Hence the name of his book, 1994? (Yes, the question mark was part of the title.)

Camping convinced people to sell their homes and donate the money to the show. People cashed out their life saving and offered it up to spread the message. After all, what good is a pile of money when the world is about to end?

It Came

Then it happened. It didn’t happen. September 4 and 6, 1994 came and went with nothing more than a few showings of Saved by the Bell, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air on TV and Boyz II Men songs playing on the radio.

So what was the result? Did Family Radio fold up and die after listeners learned they had given all of their money to a fraud?

In a word, no.

Millions More

Between 1997 and 2011, Family Radio accepted $216 million in donations alone. This money came from a wide spectrum of listeners. Highly educated listeners to high-school dropouts supported the cause. At the time the station also enjoyed big profits from the sale of some assets.

Being flush with cash, Camping (amazingly) stumbled upon the errors in his previous calculations. He found the new calculations pointed to May 21, 2011. For the media blitz to spread this new revelation, the station had over $100 million of listener money to spend. That is $100 million offered up freely by people who were, for the most part, completely aware of the previous failed prediction!

Again, May 21, 2011 came and went.

Harold Camping’s obituary on April 10, 2014 in the Telegraph says this about his listeners.

Such was their generosity, that by 2011 his radio network owned 66 stations in America alone with assets worth $120 million.”

Is It Odd?

If the words unthinkable, or odd come to mind, you aren’t alone. Most of us on the outside of these cults feel the same way. But if it were a one-off, strange occurrence, wouldn’t it be isolated? Surely there wouldn’t be more examples like this, would there? Camping was far from the only person who bore out this cycle of predict, be wrong, grow influence.

Credonia Mwerinde

Credonia Mwerinde predicted the end of the world on December 31, 1999. When it didn’t happen, her followers stuck around because Mwerinde changed the date to May 17, 2000. On that day the world did end for many of them when, at the gathering a bomb exploded in their church. The resulting investigations found over 300 previously murdered bodies under the church, bringing the death total to around 3000 people.

Lee Jang Rim

Lee Jang Rim predicted the end to 20,000 people in his South Korean church called Dami Mission. The date was to be October 28, 1992. But Rim was in prison on that date for fraud. Even still followers gave up their worldly possessions, children and even committed suicide in preparation for the event. Even though October 29, 1992 showed up as scheduled, Rim still has a following today under his new name Lee-Dap-gye.

Robert Miller

Robert Miller founded Elohim City, which has been linked to alt-right hate groups such as the KKK and Neo-Nazis. Miller predicted the beginning of the end would be August of 1999 during a heated, international race war. Despite being incredibly wrong the church not only survived, but currently operates under the leadership of Miller’s son.

What causes such illogical actions from seemingly smart people? (Remember, a large part of Camping’s audience were extremely well educated.)

The answer in layman’s terms is arrogance. Scientifically it’s called cognitive dissonance. These irrational followers were so sure they hadn’t donated their life savings to a fraud, they talked themselves into believing the unbelievable. It was easier for them to tell themselves and the world, “I wasn’t wrong when I sold my house and gave the money to Camping,” than it was to say, “I blew it.” They were much too arrogant to admit their mistake.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance takes many forms.

Imagine the person who wants to be environmentally friendly. They recycle, grow their own vegetables, clean with green chemicals and drive a huge, gas-guzzling SUV. Yes, they drive a vehicle proven to put out more carbon and use more fuel than most. How can that be? That should be a complete contradiction to what they believe.

The market has offered these people the perfect out for their cognitive dissonance. They can buy carbon offsets to ease the mental burden they have from buying the SUV. Because they can’t live with the thought of hurting the environment, they believe that buying carbon credits, which go to fund environmentally friendly projects, offsets their own environmentally harmful actions.

But this isn’t true.

Yes, buying carbon credits often goes to fund positive environmental projects. But does it really offset their SUV, or private jet emissions or massive homes?

Absolutely not.

The Truth

It is the equivalent of eating doughnuts today because you are going to work out extra hard tomorrow. The fact is that you can work out extra hard tomorrow without eating the doughnuts today. The doughnuts are fattening, and the SUV burns a lot of fuel, period.

You can’t buy back environmental damage with carbon offsets. The damage still occurs. Buying carbon offsets is a tax on the conscious of progressives who can’t live the lifestyle they preach. It is well-funded cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is nothing more that our natural ability to tell ourselves, “the rules don’t apply to me.” We rationalize our decisions in the face of mounting evidence and if unchecked, develop arrogant behaviors as a result. It is very natural, hard to overcome and common to most people. But there are a few (I’m sure you can imagine who they are) who don’t fall into the cognitive dissonance trap.

The Enigma Code

Enigma was the most complex encryption machine of its time. It was how the German military coded their communication during WWII. It looked like a larger version of a typewriter. With a set of keys on the bottom and corresponding letters on a board above the keys. Except the upper set of letters weren’t keys, they were lights. As the typist wrote the message, each letter pushed triggered a different letter to be typed. That letter lit up on the board as each key was pushed.Alan Turing

After each letter was pressed, a rotor turned one click, changing the encryption for the next letter. This was amazingly ingenious and made the code nearly impossible to break, unlike basic encryptions.

For instance if I were to use a simple encryption to code the word book, it might look something like this.

cppl

The cipher for this code is that each letter of the word is written using the following letter in the alphabet. So b becomes c, o becomes p and k becomes l.

Making The Obvious Difficult

This type of encryption is simple to decode. You can plainly see there is a double letter in the middle of the word. Pair that with the fact that it is a four letter word, with the first and last letters being different from each other and it becomes fairly easy to understand the code.

But the ever-changing style of the Enigma code made that type of translation impossible. The word book would not have a double letter corresponding to the double o in the word. But the word type could have a double letter. It was pure gibberish.

And it was a huge pile of gibberish.

The rotor had 26 different positions. But that’s not all. After the first rotor completed a full, 26 position rotation, it triggered another rotor to move one click, and the cycle was repeated 26 more times, with 26 more encryptions. Then, click, another set, then another until the second rotor completed 26 different positions. Then began the third rotor.

The Numbers

All said, there were 17,000 different encryptions before the process repeated itself. But that is only if you start the machine at the beginning of the rotor cycles, which the Germans did not do. Each day they would start by setting the rotors at different positions. Those Enigma codesettings were key. The Allies had Enigma machines, but without knowing what rotor positions to set the machine at for any given code, they were useless. And because the code was regulated by different rotor positions at the beginning of each day, there was a possible 159 million, million, million encryptions just in one day.

Then, at midnight, the Germans would change the original settings for each Enigma machine. The Allies then started the process of decoding 159 million, million, million possibilities all over again. It was an exercise in futility. In a word, it was hopeless.

Enter a man named Alan Turing.

Alan Turing

Alan did not fit in. In the incredible movie, The Imitation Game which follows the story of breaking the code of Enigma, a saying comes up again and again.

“Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

Alan Turing was a person who, for a time, no one imagined anything of.

From an early age, Alan did not fit the image of a young, male child in England at the time. He was slight, quiet and obsessed with learning, especially math and science. So much that when he was 13 he was scheduled to start at the Sherborne School. It was a high level boarding school in Sherborne, 60 miles from his home in Southampton.

Dedication

But the 1926 General Strike in Britain killed business and travel, including Turing’s ride to his new school. Fully encompassed in his passion for learning, Alan rode a bicycle the 60 miles and stayed overnight for the opportunity to attend Sherborne. Knowledge was his best friend, as long as that knowledge came in the form of math or science.

But he struggled with the classics, such as Latin. In one report his Latin teacher explained why Allan was second to last in his class this way. “He ought not to be in this form of course as far as form subjects go. He is ludicrously behind.”

The headmaster of the school explained that Allan was, “the sort of boy who is bound to be a problem for any school or community.”

Allan did not fit in.

Outside The Box

During his tumultuous young adulthood he studied the work of John von Neumann and Einstein to name a few. It was work from brilliant men like these who inspired Turing to imagine greater things and to solve unsolvable problems. In his torrent of ideas he came up with the idea that would save well over 20 million lives and revolutionize the world.

The Universal Turing Machine was a large piece of hardware that could compute multiple calculations or problems that were fed into it. It was a revolution in machinery. To think that a machine could be made for the purpose of solving virtually any problem was unthinkable.

But WWII provided the opportunity for Turing to prove his machine with the onset of Enigma.

It was mathematically impossible for people, regardless of their intelligence, to solve a riddle with 159 million, million, million solutions every day. There simply were not enough people or time to make that happen. Turing knew that it would take a machine, with a massive computing ability to break Enigma.

Fighting And Losing

England was suffering the burden of war. All practical commodities were being used to support the war effort. To ease the burden, the US was sending provisions across the Atlantic to replace the deviated supply. But most of those provisions, along with the crew of the boats World War IIthey were on, landed not in the UK, but in the bottom of the cold, deep ocean. German u-boats plagued the supply efforts relentlessly, and the messages directing those u-boats were floating through the air, for anyone with basic radio knowledge to intercept. But they were written in German, and coded with Enigma.

The Allies had Enigma machines. They had German translators. All they needed was the cipher, and Allan Turing built the machine (the Turing Universal Machine) that could do it. His idea, along with the help of a few brilliant assistants, built the answer at Bletchley Park. The machine and Turing are credited with ending the war two years sooner that thought possible, and saving 20 million lives.

Allan Turing Had A Secret

But Allan had a problem. He habitually broke one of England’s most stringent laws. The Labouchere Amendment outlawed homosexuality.

From his youth, Allan identified as a homosexual. There are multiple accounts of his attraction to Christopher Morcom, a childhood friend who died as a teenager, affecting Allan deeply. It is also speculated that he attended Kings College in Cambridge because of their well-known leniency towards homosexual behavior.

But on March 31, 1954, Judge J. Fraser Harrison found Allan Turing guilty of indecency. His sentence was the option of prison, or chemical castration and probation. At this moment in time Allan Turing would have been well within his rights to choose prison, over admitting there was something wrong with him that needed treatment. In fact, in most court cases the defendant has a sense of cognitive dissonance, explaining away why their circumstances don’t warrant punishment.

Allan did not.

Acceptance

He accepted the “cure” set forth by the courts. He took his court ordered prescriptions without fail. By all accounts he was a model criminal, acting in accordance to the government attempting to fix his homosexuality.

But on June 7th, 1954, just two short months later, Allan Turing was dead.

He had died from eating a poisoned apple. Allan often ate an apple before bed. It was in his routine. He also was fond of Snow White and the idea of the poisoned apple in that story. His death has been officially ruled a suicide. Many have speculated he was poisoned. Neither is a fitting end to the 41 year old man, who didn’t fit in, saved millions of lives and changed the world.

Chemical castration is not something we, as a society would consider a “cure” for homosexuality.

Curing Autism?

But, in classrooms and laboratories all over the world, countless people are searching for a “cure” for autism. But whom would we cure? Autism is a spectrum. There are those on the spectrum who suffer physically, but there are also those who only suffer socially. Do they need cured because of how we feel about them?

Of course there are those on the spectrum who would benefit greatly from this cure, but there are those who would simply lose some odd social quirks along with the amazing gifts that come with their specific brand of autism. They would become slaves to the interpretations of others emotions, intoxicated with fake trust from oxytocin triggered by ill meaning culprits and victims of cognitive dissonance. Would their lives be better if they were cured?

Just Like Us

Maybe they would have the opportunity to be just as arrogant as the rest of us. “Curing” autism would perhaps infect the patients with the same cognitive dissonance, which was missing in Alan Turing, that the cult members had. Perhaps they would lose their influence and intelligence along with their social tick, or shy demeanor that makes neurotypicals uncomfortable.

Alan TuringAllan Turing had severe impairment of social interactions, he was completely obsessed with his work, he lived by a set of routines, had many non-verbal communication problems and had some trouble with motor skills. All of which would classify someone today with Aspergers syndrome. But in 1954, the world wasn’t out to cure social awkwardness, they set out to cure homosexuality.

In 2017 a law was established, retroactively pardoned men convicted and “cured” of homosexuality in the UK.

It is called the Alan Turing law.

To find out more about the link between autism and influence, click here.

I Fired a Good Person Yesterday

Yesterday wasn’t easy. I fired a key employee, who was a good person.

He yelled at me. He threw his credit card on the table. He threatened to come back later. He called me a coward.

He had put another team members safety in jeopardy. We learned that he was using company money for personal purchases. He was irritating to a lot of the people around him, including our customers.

And yet, it was hard to fire him.

Along the list of bad things he had done was a long list of great things he had done, days he was indispensable and things we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for him.

From the outside looking in, the choice to let him go was easy, but inside the business, actually doing it is another story.

If you are an entrepreneur, or want to be one, understand that you live in a grey area. Your choices are rarely cut and dry. They are nuanced. They have magnitude and direction and multiple outcomes and effects. The choices aren’t “Should I pay taxes.” They are more like, “How much should I pay in taxes?”

Entrepreneurship brings freedom. The freedom to work how you want, the freedom to build what you want. But it also brings struggle. The struggle to support many families, the struggle to build the right culture and the struggle to fire good people, even when they deserve it.