How to become a better mind reader and guess what people think

How to become a better mind reader and guess what people think

Few months ago, I did a small presentation at EMC Consulting about how to become a better mind reader. The session was a success, so I decided to write a post about it. The talk aimed to teach how to develop mind reading skills using the later scientific research on mind reading. 


Mind reading and science 

Mind reading is a skill that we use every day with colleagues, clients, and friends. We do it everyday, but we’re pretty bad at it. You may think that mind reading is science fiction, but in reality the scientific research is taking the subject really seriously. Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago, is investigating about intuitive human judgment and why we are so bad at it even thought it’s something that we practice everyday.


Why we are so bad

We tend to reason about other people mental state by starting with our own and the adjusting to other people. The problem is that we got massive micro knowledge about ourselves, but others people don’t have this knowledge. It’s like looking at the world with the microscope, while other people use a broad lens to judge us. We see ourself in lots of details, but other sees us under a much broader lens.  Epley did many experiments in mind reading, or what he calls intuitive. Two experiments are particular interesting.


Experiment one: pose for a picture 

106 participants were asked to pose for a picture. Then they were told that a group would rate them in either a day or a month. They had to predict those ratings. Epley guessed that participants were going to be more accurate for predictions made in the future, because people think about the future using broad, high-level perspective. He was right. The group guessing the rating of the day after, were mentioning detailed trail such as ‘look tired’ whereas the group guessing the rating of one month ahead were more general, like ethnicity, for instance ‘Asian woman’.


Experiment two: put yourself in someone else shoes 

He replicated the study to test weather putting yourself in someone else shoes was more effective than thinking about your opinion in the future. Participants we told to adopt the prospective of another students, who might see the picture from a different prospective. The strategy of putting yourself in other people shoes was of little help. It was better to think of your opinion in one month ahead. Using a similar lens the other people will use, not a microscope but a broad lens.


The lesson to learn 

If you want to understand how others see you, put away the fine-grained details and take a ‘big picture’ look at yourself. If you’re worried that other people will judge you too harshly for a mistake, try to zoom away from the details and look at the various bits of info that people take into account when thinking about you. Likewise, if you want to understand how others see themselves, start focusing on the details you will use to judge yourself. As Epley says, ‘This strategy will not turn other minds into an open book, but it should, under the right circumstances, make other minds somewhat easier to read’.


The future of mind reading

Many researchers are investigating about mind reading. Now there is even a technology that can read your mind. The last place of privacy was your thoughts, but now there is technology that can read your mind. It’s called FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance). The machine measures neural activity by measuring the change in the blood oxygen level in the brain. If a person is thinking about a particular image the machine can see the pattern. When you think about a concept, particular part of your brain light up. For instance, if you think about a hammer there are some parts of your brain that light up. This means that the concept hammer has similar pattern across people.

Ethical  implications

The use of this technology, also defined BCI (Brain Computer Interaction) pose many ethical implication. For instance, if this technology is used in government interrogation techniques, does the participant need to consent, and what about the accuracy of the results? Also, if the technology is not accessible to everyone, it pose the owner of this technology above the other people who does not have access to this technology.


Mind reading could be the next big thing in human interaction. Why would you use your voice to give instruction to your phone if you can use your brain wave? This mobile prototype can give an idea of how could be interactive with a mobile phone that can read your brain waves.

User Experience at the FT Digital Conference 2012

User Experience at the FT Digital Conference 2012

Last week,I had the opportunity to attend the FT Digital 2012 conference. My talented friend Gioia was one of the event organizers. Here are my notes from the event.

Main themes

1. How to profit from the rise of social data?

Social data (data collected by smartphone, social networks and blogs) are used to create better experience and refine solutions rather than generating new ideas.

Chad Hurley of Delicious describes the use of social data as refinement tools, not as a tool that can drive innovation. Google agrees with the idea that user experience is a key tool rather than the data; this reminds us of their motto: ‘focus on the user and the rest will follow’.

Personalization, relevance and transparency are key concepts for social data. Collect relevant and transparent data that help personalize services.

Several questions arose during this conference. How do you make sense of the data? Do companies who acquire more data win? No, companies need help in understanding their data instead of obtaining a large amount of data. For instance, Adobe is hiring several web analysts that use users feedback to improve Adobe’s products.

2. How to deliver value in a multiplatform world?

How to make content available in multiplatform and multi-device? What are the strategies companies are using at the moment?

Most companies mentioned the importance of focusing on user experience rather than on the platform. Disney said that users’s behaviours are important; their behaviours need to be observed and services need to change to accommodate users’ needs.

The trend for mobile platform is growing. Sky said that 60% of its market is now on mobilealthough the use of tablets is growing too.

Few companies mentioned to be platform agnostic such as Disney and BBC. BBC prefers to invest in HTML5; they initially develop for browsers and then change it slightly according to devices.

Companies are aware of the differences among devices, for instance how mobile is more suitable for personal interaction on the go, and how tablets are used for social interactions and family shopping (Ebay). BBC said ‘ we develop an experience relevant to the platform but converge is key’.

Developing for a specific platform is too expensive. What if a new platform or device comes into the market? For instance, Kindle Fire is a booming platform in USA (…

It’s also about strategy.  An interesting example is NY Time and Boston Globe, who use different strategies although they are part of a parent company . NYTime develops apps for each product, whereas Boston Globe uses HTML 5 to fulfill the needs of different products.

3. How to make money?

Another problem for the companies is the fragmentation of the market.

Wikipedia introduced the important for giving free and good content to attract consumers, but howis this strategy feasible for other companies?

An emerging way to charge users is micropayment, the app store model –a good example of model that follows the needs of users and allows users to buy items when they want at affordableprices. It’s interesting to note that the introduction of Spotify has increased the number of songs legally sold online rather than support piracy.

4. What about other Medias?


One of the main concerns of the music industry is piracy. The proposed way to solve this issue is by following consumers’ habits; they can provide affordable and accessible music and create the content in ways that appeal to users. They can support the user to pay by impulse (the app model of micropayment) and provide a multiplicity of payment options. Technology has been driving innovation in the last 12 months. Mobile is also an important emerging trend for the music industry.


Reading behaviors are changing. People are now using readers and tablets more frequently instead of physical books. Tablets are appropriate for casual readers; e-readers are suitable forbookworms. For example, on the KOBO platform, there are people that read more than 30 books a month. However, although e-readers are popular they are not replacing physical books. People that own e-readers are still buying paperbased books.


People are watching TV online – this provides a big quantity of data for companies in the TV industry so that they can provide a personalized service. Most companies of the TV industry are now investing on digital channels.  At the FT’s Digital Media Conference, Channel 4 reveled a new hybrid TV channel which will be shaped by online social media – 4Seven.

How can you search for TV programs? It might be interesting to have TV search engine tools that allow viewers to find suitable TV programs online.

Social media creates a deeper engagement to TV programs, but the number of people that use social media is still a fraction of the people that watch TV shows.

5. Voices from successful companies

Various companies such as Walt Disney and Dreamworks who attended this conference sharedtheir success stories. Walt Disney described that user experience is a key tool; they want to be where the consumer is and deliver high quality contents. DreamWorks mentioned how to keep a culture of innovation alive. Their secrets are to provide security and a culture that allow failure. They hire a good mix of right and left-brains from artists to scientists. They usually hire graduates and want their animators to have acting skills.

David Jones from Havas delivered an interesting speech. David works for a consulting company. He wrote books such as ‘Who cares win’. He believes that social media will make businesses more responsible because people’s ‘actions are visible to anyone within social media. According to his book, the rules of social media are transparency, authenticity, and speed. Regarding the consulting world; he mentioned the need to be patient with clients who cannot invest in big projects due to the recession.

 6. More thoughts

In general, I heard the world ‘cannibalisation’ frequently during the conference. Does this mean that companies are scared?

User experience was also mentioned many times – the importance of understanding users and learning their behaviours, are key competitive advantages and a way for companies to survive in this competitive market.

Companies are actually aware of current changes in the market due to technology, although they need help in understanding how to make the most of this phenomenon.


New Interactive Labels at Caffe Nero

Posted from: W12, UK

Caffe Nero’s introduced interactive labels to promote their Panini range. I’ve spotted this label in the Euston’s store. 

The label is smartly located where the queue usually is, so that people can’t miss it while they are waiting to order their daily Cappucino.

The video tells a story of Piero, who makes Panini for Caffe Nero. ’ Piero rests all our ciabatta doughy for 24 hours…’ is the beginning of the story.

This is a brilliant idea;  the interactive label helps to surface information that is traditionally hidden to consumers, such as how the panini are made and who produces it.

You may argue that Piero is a fictional character created for marketing purpose, but the story is still engaging. It creates a deeper connection with products, promotes trust into the brand, and more importantly It made me wanting to buy one of their Panini even more.

I’m sure we will see more of this in the near future.

The art of communication: The imago dialogue

The art of communication: The imago dialogue

I came across a communication technique developed by Sophie Slade called ‘ The imago Dialogue’. I’ve been practising this technique with my husband and found it really useful.

Often when we communicate, we don’t really listen. Our pre-conceptions and fears are an impediment from having good conversation.

Slade’s technique is based on the following steps: summarise, validates and empathizes. The listener is open, surrender completely to the speaker. The listener empty himself of fears and pre-conceptions.

First, the listener must summarise his understanding. The idea is to mirror what the other person has sad. ‘What I am hearing you say is…’ Making sure that the other person says all he/she wanted to say: ‘Is there more about that?’

After, we’re sure that we really understood the other person, we can validate the other person view by trying understanding his feeling: ‘It make sense to me that you feel like that give that.’

Finally, we can talk about our feeling, so the other person knows how do we feel about the situation.

A example of conversion I had with my husband using this technique

HUBBY: Are you available to talk right now?

ME: Sure. What up?

HUBBY: I would like to talk about Christmas. I know we decided to stay in London this year, like we did last year. This year, I would like to spend Christmas with friends. Last year, we didn’t organise anything special. I want to know your intention and organise Christmas with you.

ME: summarising: I see. So you want to discuss what to do for Christmas, because you didn’t like the way we spent Christmas last time. (In this last sentence I wasn’t listening and I did interpreted his thoughts.  He never said that he didn’t like last Christmas)

HUBBY: No, I want to organise Christmas with you. I know some of our friends will be in London; it will be nice doing something together.

ME: Validating: I see. Christmas is important for you, it does reminds you of family time, and therefore you want to spend it with friends.


ME: I’m happy that you want to talk about Christmas. I didn’t realise how Christmas was important for you. Let’s talk about it.

Try this technique with your partner, friends, and at work. You will see the difference. 


Phases of couple relationship

Being a couple is not always easy. Think about a couple like donkeys bonded by a rope, and you’ll understand that the following picture depicts the phases of couple relationship.


At first, the donkeys are moaning because they cannot forage food where they like. The rope that bonds them together doesn’t allow moving freely. When the desire to foraging where they want become stronger, their relationship suffer even further. Until the couple agree on supporting each other in achieving their desires.


An happy ending, until history repeat it self.