Greg Hoffman



Sticky Brain Teasers from the book Made to Stick

Sticky Brain Teasers
By Chip and Dan Heath,
Authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Test the Curse of Knowledge With Tappers and Listeners

Take a song like "The Star-Spangled Banner" and tap out the rhythm to a friend on a table. Ask your friend to listen and guess the name of the song. Do you think your friend will guess right?

A 1990 study on this experiment showed that listeners guessed only 2.5 percent of the songs (3 out of 120 attempted). Before the listeners guessed the song, the tappers were asked to predict if the listeners would guess correctly. They predicted that the odds were 50 percent! Why the discrepancy? When a tapper taps, she is hearing the song in her head, but the listener can't. The problem is that the tapper has been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for her to imagine what it's like to lack that knowledge. This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.

The tapper/listener experiment is reenacted every day across the world between CEOs and frontline employees, teachers and students, politicians and voters, marketers and customers, writers and readers. All of these groups rely on ongoing communication, but, like the tappers and listeners, they suffer from enormous information imbalances. You can quash the Curse of Knowledge with the six principles of stickiness.

The Simplicity Test

Spend ten to fifteen seconds, no more, studying the letters below. Then write down as many letters as you can remember.


If you're like most people, you probably remembered about seven to ten letters. That's not much information. Compactness is essential because there's a limit to the amount of information we can juggle at once.

Now try the exercise again. The letters are the same but are grouped differently. Once again, study the letters for ten to fifteen seconds, then close the book and test your recall.


Chances are you did much better the second time. Suddenly the letters meant something, which made them easier to remember. In Round 1 you were trying to remember raw data. In Round 2, you were remembering concepts: John F. Kennedy, the FBI, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, UPS, NASA, the IRS.

The Concreteness Test

1) Think of five silly things that people have done in the world in the past ten years.
2) Next, think of five silly things your child has done in the past ten years.

Most people can think of about the same number of things for each exercise–even though your child's actions are a tiny fraction of the world! Why? Because concreteness focuses your brain.

The Velcro Theory of Memory Test

Read each sentence below slowly. As you move from one sentence to another, you'll notice that it feels different to remember different kinds of things.

Remember the capital of Kansas
Remember the first line of the song "Hey Jude"
Remember the Mona Lisa
Remember the house where you spent most of your childhood
Remember the definition of "truth"
Remember the definition of "watermelon"

Each command to remember seems to trigger a different mental activity. Memory, then, is not like a single filing cabinet. It is more like Velcro. If you look at Velcro up close, you'll notice that one side has lots of tiny hooks and the other has lots of tiny loops. When you press the two sides together, a huge number of hooks get snagged inside the loops, and that's what causes Velcro to seal. Similarly, your brain hosts a staggering number of loops. The more "hooks" we can put into our ideas, the easier it will be for people to remember.

The Choice Paralysis Test

A group of students were given the following choice of how to spend one evening:

1. Attend a lecture by an author you admire who is visiting just for the evening, or
2. Go the library and study?

21 percent decided to study. Suppose instead they had been given three choices:

1. Attend the lecture by an author you admire who is visiting just for the evening.
2. Go to the library and study.
3. Watch a film that you've been wanting to see.

Do you think they answered differently? Remarkably, when a different group of students were given the three choices, 40 percent decided to study -- double the number who did before. Giving students two good alternatives to studying, rather than one, paradoxically makes them less likely to choose either. This behavior isn't "rational," but it is human. A consistent finding in the psychology literature is that too many choices can be paralyzing. If your ideas help people prioritize among options, you can rescue them from the quicksand of decision paralysis. That's why finding the core of your idea is so valuable.

Copyright © 2009 Chip and Dan Heath co-authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die



Pending Review: Made to Stick

I'm reading this book over the weekend for a review here on the blog. Here is a sampling of what it is about:

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
By authors, Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 2, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400064287
ISBN-13: 978-1400064281

Product Description
Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas–business people, teachers, politicians, journalists, and others–struggle to make their ideas “stick.”

Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the brothers Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the “human scale principle,” using the “Velcro Theory of Memory,” and creating “curiosity gaps.”

In this indispensable guide, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds–from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony–draw their power from the same six traits.

Made to Stick is a book that will transform the way you communicate ideas. It’s a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures)–the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of “the Mother Teresa Effect”; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice. Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stickshows us the vital principles of winning ideas–and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.




Tana Hoy Announces New Teleseminar - Benefits of Gemstones and Crystals

America's Foremost Psychic Medium, Tana Hoy, announces his first teleseminar for 2009 on a topic close to his heart and highly requested by his devoted fans - the benefits of gemstones and crystals.

The hour-long live teleseminar will be available to anyone who purchases a seat through Tana Hoy's website, prior to the February 10, 6 p.m. PST phone conference. The teleseminar will also be available for purchase on his website for those who miss the event.

"If you aren't aware of the magical powers of gemstones and crystals, or how you can use their powers to enhance your everyday life, then this is your chance to learn about how you can use them," Hoy said. "I will teach you how to choose the right gemstone or crystal for healing, meditation, balance and protection. You will also learn how to clean and properly care for your gemstones and crystals, as well as how to tune and program them to manifest whatever you desire."

Hoy is known to thousands of people nationwide as a spiritual consultant, and is famous for his very rare psychic gift - being able to communicate with the other side. Hoy not only hears spirit guides and guardian angels, but he can physically see them too. He first became famous when he predicted the Oklahoma City bombing live on national radio only 90 minutes before it happened.

For the last year, Hoy has been sharing his knowledge through a series of psychic courses to help others understand how they can develop their own natural psychic powers. Past teleseminars have included dream interpretation, developing psychic ability and harnessing the psychic power of water.

During this gemstone and crystal teleseminar, you will learn: how to block negative energy, how to release stress and worry, how to achieve deeper relaxation, how to heal your soul energy, as well as how to harness positive dreams, so that you can sleep better and feel invigorated the next day, according to Hoy.

"I want you to understand the magnificent power inside gemstones and crystals, and to teach you how you can combine different stones to attract money and success, relieve fear, anxiety and worry, along with much more," Hoy added.

To pre-register, visit and purchase the course for $39.97. The February 10 course runs live from 6-7 p.m. PST (9-10 p.m. EST).

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