Introducing the Ultimate Behavioral Science Playlist

By Aline Holzwarth
Illustrations by Matt Trower

Music can be therapeutic, and powerfully so. The late neurologist, naturalist and historian of science Oliver Sacks noted in his book Musicophilia a “deep and mysterious paradox, for while [emotive] music makes one experience pain and grief more intensely, it brings solace and consideration at the same time.” And while music can bring tears to the eyes and warmth to the heart in normal times, the opportunity for music to heal in the time of COVID-19 is greater than ever. Yes, there is no time that we need music more than right now.

Times of shared crisis — when we collectively experience acute stress and pain — can bring people together, and this dismal time is no exception. The impact of the novel coronavirus has brought behavioral scientists together in many ways. It has brought us together to not only conduct research at lightning speed or to advise on behavior change interventions to help slow the spread of the virus, from handwashing to sheltering in place, but to share the love through musical notes: vocals and snare drums alike.

As people across the globe feel a rising sense of solidarity, we realize that we have more in common than our stereotypes have led us to believe. And what better metaphor is there for the harmony of humanity than the melodies of music? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it best when he noted that music is the universal language of mankind. The power of music defies language and cultural barriers, placing us all on the same plane.

“Music is the universal language of mankind” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In this spirit, we behavioral scientists have joined together 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.

The Behavior Framework is used by practitioners as part of the behavioral diagnosis and intervention design process.

And so, without further ado, …drumroll please… we present to you the ultimate behavioral science playlist.

Here is the full playlist:

Thanks to our contributors

The creators of this playlist are an impressive suite of behavioral scientists: researchers past and present from the Center for Advanced Hindsight (Dan Ariely, Jonathan Corbin, Perry Wright, Jonathan Cloughesy, Troy Campbell, Ingrid Melvaer Paulin and Aline Holzwarth), Tim Houlihan and Kurt Nelson of Behavioral Grooves, Zarak Khan and Erik Johnson of Action Design, Alain Samson of, Samuel Salzer of Habit Weekly, Evan Nesterak of Behavioral Scientist, Omar Parbhoo and Dan Connolly of ideas42, Jeff Kreisler of PeopleScience, and Dan Egan of Betterment.