Behavioral Science Playlist: Reminders

By Aline Holzwarth

Illustrations by Matt Trower


We have joined together with other behavioral scientists to compile a playlist of over 5 hours of songs from a diverse range of genres that each, in some way or another, exemplify the principles of behavioral science. These songs are organized by the categories of the BEHAVIOR Framework (a mnemonic for remembering different behavior change strategies: Bias, Ego, Habits, Appeal, Visceral, Incentives, Others, Reminders), and will be released with their descriptions in the coming weeks, one category at a time.


A little nudge can go a long way. Because we tend to overvalue the present and discount the future, reminders can behaviorally transport us to the future when we need to think long-term and take an action now that will benefit our future selves. Pre-commitment does this by establishing a plan for the future before the future comes, successfully avoiding all the pain of actually having to execute the plan. By putting your credit card in a block of ice (which is painless now), you won’t be able to use it later (when you would feel the pain of having to stop yourself from purchasing something you want) — at least not until a substantial “cooling off” period, at which point you may no longer have to have the thing you were tempted to buy.

One simple way of carrying out a pre-commitment is by setting an implementation intention, or by specifying concrete details around a plan (how? when? where? with whom?) so that it is more easily remembered and more likely to be executed. Perry Wright identifies an example of implementation intentions in Richard Dawson’s post-genre masterpiece, “Jogging,” which he says “skips listeners from stone to stone along a stream of consciousness and the passing thoughts that accompany any jog. In the course of improving his mental and physical life, the narrator has discovered the necessity of jogging as a specific action on his journey, suggesting the behavioral principle of implementation intentions—that we are more likely to achieve our goals if we specify when, where, and how we will carry out the actions we need to achieve them.”

Sometimes an implementation intention can come in handy, but other times all we need is a simple memory aid. Jonathan Corbin found an example of this is Vulfpeck’s song ”1612.” He says, “1612* was the code to the guy’s Air B&B that he was subletting. People kept calling and texting him asking him for the code, so he ended up just turning the code into a song! Now that’s one way to remember!”

These displays of reminders in music (and more) appear in the ultimate behavioral science playlist, a compilation of songs that demonstrate common behavioral principles. These songs are organized by the categories of the BEHAVIOR Framework (a mnemonic for remembering different behavior change strategies: Bias, Ego, Habits, Appeal, Visceral, Incentives, Others, Reminders)

In collaboration with behavioral scientists from eight cooperating organizations (Action Design, Behavioral Grooves, Habit Weekly, behavioraleconomics.com, ideas42, Behavioral Scientist, PeopleScience and Betterment), we are pleased to share the ultimate behavioral science playlist with you. We hope you enjoy it, and share it with one other person!

Listen to the Ultimate Behavioral Science Playlist:

 

Songs About the Behavioral Principle: Reminders

 

Implementation Intentions

Jogging

Richard Dawson
Perry Wright
Contributor, Center for Advanced Hindsight

"I know I must be paranoid
But I feel the atmosphere
'Round here is growing nastier
People don't smile anymore

There's no such thing as a quick-fix
But jogging has provided me
A base on which to mould my time
And let my worries go a while"

Richard Dawson’s post-genre masterpiece, “Jogging,” skips listeners from stone to stone along a stream of consciousness and the passing thoughts that accompany any jog. In the course of improving his mental and physical life, the narrator has discovered the necessity of jogging as a specific action on his journey, suggesting the behavioral principle of implementation intentions—that we are more likely to achieve our goals if we specify when, where, and how we will carry out the actions we need to achieve them.

Reminders

1612

Vulfpeck
Jonathan Corbin
Contributor, Center for Advanced Hindsight

"Sometimes I write a little song
So you don't forget it
Sometimes I write a little song
You remember the lyrics, what u say!
That's the code to my heart
I go, one six, one two
Doo doo doo... Star oh oh"

1612* was the code to the guy’s Air B&B that he was subletting. People kept calling and texting him asking him for the code, so he ended up just turning the code into a song! Now that’s one way to remember!

Present Focus

Nobody

Mitski
Aline Holzwarth
Contributor, Center for Advanced Hindsight

"Venus, planet of love
Was destroyed by global warming
Did its people want too much too?

Did its people want too much?"

In her song “Nobody,” Mitski illustrates how present focus can lead us to ignore the future in order to satisfy our whims of the moment. Climate change is the model specimen of present focus bias, a manifestation of humans taking too much without considering the long-term impact of their actions.

Present Focus Future Self Psychological Connectedness

7 Years

Lukas Graham
Samuel Salzer
Contributor, Habit Weekly

"Soon I'll be sixty years old, my daddy got sixty-one
Remember life and then your life becomes a better one
I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once
I hope my children come and visit, once or twice a month
Soon I'll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me"

In “7 Years,” Lukas Graham takes a look back at times that have been and also attempts to look forward to what might become. We generally struggle with considering our future selves, and research has shown that we tend to undervalue future gains over present ones. Perhaps we can all take a lesson from Mr. Graham and imagine how life might look like when we’re older, and why not put an automatic monthly transfer to our pensions savings account while we’re at it.

Present Focus Self-control

Teal

Joan Shelley
Perry Wright
Contributor, Center for Advanced Hindsight

"Like a glimpse into cold, dark space
Where I go when I've been short with you
And bad with words
And I have hurt
The tender things around me

I used to break your window for the immediate relief
To tear apart summer stuffy in stale rooms
For fresh air, and wind, and waves
Creating the work for winter"

Joan Shelley paints a tender portrait of a relationship through the conceit of a coastal home in her song “Teal” — how she finds herself lashing out and injuring her love in suffocating times, breaking a window as the most immediate way to get fresh air. But she reflects that this immediate relief brought by her haste only creates additional work to be done in the coming winter months. In this way, she illustrates the behavioral principles of present focus bias (people focus on the here and now even when their choice is not good for them in the long term) and lack of self-control (instead of delaying gratification, people act on present desires).