Dr. Maya Shankar: The Science of Decision Making | E126

Dr. Maya Shankar: The Science of Decision Making | E126

Dr. Maya Shankar: The Science of Decision Making | E126

Want to make better decisions?

In this episode, we are talking with Dr Maya Shankar, behavioural scientist and podcast host. Maya is currently the Senior Director of Behavioral Economics at Google and is the Creator, Host, and Executive Producer of “A Slight Change of Plans”, a podcast with Pushkin Industries. Maya previously served as a Senior Advisor in the Obama White House, where she founded and served as Chair of the White House’s Behavioral Science Team — a team of scientists charged with improving public policy using research insights about human behaviour. In 2016, Maya served as the first Behavioral Science Advisor to the United Nations.

Maya completed a post-doctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience at Stanford, after receiving a PhD from Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and a B.A. from Yale in cognitive science. She has been profiled by the New Yorker and has been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American, Forbes, and on NPR’s All Things Considered, Freakonomics, and Hidden Brain.

Today’s episode discusses Maya’s childhood as a violin prodigy, how she became a student at Juilliard’s pre-college program, and her career journey. We’ll also talk about Maya’s job at the White House, some common behavioural scientist concepts like the Sunk Cost Fallacy and Nudging, and how we, as humans, can make more realistic decisions.

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Follow Hala on Clubhouse: @halataha

Check out our website to meet the team, view show notes and transcripts: www.youngandprofiting.com


02:44 – Maya’s Childhood and Hand injury.

05:41 – How Maya got into Julliard

08;29 – Maya’s lessons as a pro violinist.

11:19 – What is Behavioural and Cognitive Science.

22:35 – The Sunk Cost Fallacy.

25:50 – When is it time to move on?

27:21 – Maya’s Journey in Obama’s White House.

35:02 – Being Creative and Optimistic in every situation.

37;39 – What is Nudging?

44:02 – Why is it hard to change people’s minds?

46:29 – Nudging in business and professional life.

50:27 – How to make realistic decisions?

53:30 – The Peak End Rule.

54:05 – The IKEA Effect

54:32 – Maya’s Podcast.

59;48 – Maya’s Secret to Profiting in Life

Mentioned In The Episode:

Maya’s Podcast, A Slight Change of Plans: https://mayashankar.com/podcast

Maya’s Website: https://mayashankar.com/

#126: The Science of Decision Making with Dr. Maya Shankar

[00:00:00] Hala Taha: You're listening to YAP, Young And Profiting Podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and profit. Welcome to the show. I'm your host, Hala Taha. And on Young And Profiting Podcast, we investigate a new topic each week and interview some of the brightest minds in the world. My goal is to turn their wisdom into actionable advice that you can use in your everyday life.

[00:00:27] No matter your age, profession, or industry, there's no fluff on this podcast and that's on purpose. I'm here to uncover value from my guests by doing the proper research and asking the right questions. If you're new to the show, we've chatted with the likes of ex FBI agents, real estate moguls, self-made billionaires, CEOs, and bestselling authors. Our subject matter ranges from enhancing productivity, how to gain influence, the art of entrepreneurship, and more. If you're smart and like to continually improve yourself, hit the [00:01:00] subscribe button because you'll love it here at Young And Profiting Podcast.

[00:01:04] This week on YAP, we're chatting with Dr. Maya Shankar, behavioral scientist, and podcast host. Maya is currently the senior director of Behavioral Economics at Google and is the host and executive producer of A Slight Change of Plans, a podcast with Pushkin Industries. Maya previously served as a senior advisor in the Obama white house as the chair of the white house behavioral science team, and was charged with improving public policy, using research insights about human behavior. In 2016, Maya served as a first behavioral science advisor to the United Nations.

[00:01:39] Maya completed a post-doctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience at Stanford. After she received a PhD from Oxford on a road scholarship and a BA from Yale in Cognitive Science, she has been profiled by the New Yorker and has been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American, Forbes, and NPR.

[00:01:56] And today's episode, we discuss Maya's childhood as a violin prodigy [00:02:00] and her career journey. We'll also talk about her job in the white house, some common behavioral scientists concepts, like the sunk cost fallacy and nudging and how we as humans can make better and more realistic decisions. Hey Maya, welcome to Young And Profiting Podcast.

[00:02:16] Dr. Maya Shankar: Hey Hala, so lovely to be here with you.

[00:02:19] Hala Taha: Yeah, me too. I'm really excited for this conversation, human behavior and the science of decision-making, the science of change. These are all things that I'm really passionate about. I love talking about them on my podcast. And so you're super impressive. You worked at the white house, you worked at the United Nations.

[00:02:35] You work for Google now and you lead their behavioral science teams there. So really interesting stuff, but we always like to start from the beginning. So let's talk about you growing up. And from my understanding, you are super talented at the violin and the violin was essentially your whole life, but when you were 15 years old, you had a very traumatic hand injury that kind of changed the way that you [00:03:00] thought your life would be thereafter.

[00:03:01] And you had to switch careers. So talk to us about what it was like for you as a child, a teenager how you got into the violin and then maybe how you transitioned to some of the stuff you're working on now.

[00:03:12] Dr. Maya Shankar: Absolutely. Yeah. So violin, as you mentioned, was my entire life as a kid. When I was six years old, my mom went up to our attic and brought down my grandmother's violin that she brought with her all the way from India when she immigrated here in the seventies.

[00:03:25] And I think my mom had just met to show me the instrument. I don't think she expected that I would be instantly captivated by it, but I was, and I really took to it. And my mom says that she never had to ask me to practice. It was just one of those genuine passions that I had as a child. And I can't say that for many of the other things I was asked to do in school.

[00:03:48] So she knew that it was very rare. And then when I was nine years old, Things started to get a little bit more serious. And I was starting to realize, Hey, maybe this violent thing could be my life. [00:04:00] Like maybe this could be a career. And so I ended up auditioning for the Juilliard School of Music in New York.

[00:04:06] And I was accepted into their pre college program. And that began weekly trips every Saturday from Connecticut to New York in which my mom and I would get up at 4:30 in the morning, go to New York on the train. And I spend about 10 hours in the day studying the violin. And then as you can imagine like that, the intensity of that spirit things start to get even more serious.

[00:04:28] And then in high school, it's like Perlman. Who's the greatest violinist of our time invited me to be his private violin student. And that was a incredible vote of confidence for me, because I think so many when we're in competitive environments, it can be very intimidating. You're not sure if you have what it takes to succeed and him taking you on as a student, I think really helped me appreciate, oh wow.

[00:04:52] He could actually be a violinist and GoPro. So unfortunately what happened is that when I was 15. [00:05:00] I was in summer music camp. I woke up early, probably didn't warm up as much as I should have. And I over-stretched my finger on a single note and heard a pop. And it turns out I had torn tendons in my hand, and I resisted Hala for so many months.

[00:05:15] The diagnosis that my doctors were giving me in the fact that they were telling me I could never play the violin again, but ultimately I just had to surrender at a certain point and, the pain became too intense. And yeah, I realized that, my dreams were crushed and I could no longer pursue this path.

[00:05:31] Hala Taha: Wow. That must've been so hard because that's what you were doing your whole life. So before we move on to like your next phase of life, I do want to talk about how you got into Juilliard, because it was a really scrappy, interesting story. So I'd love to hear about that.

[00:05:46] Dr. Maya Shankar: Absolutely. My parents had no connections within the musical sphere.

[00:05:50] So my dad is a theoretical physics professor. My mom helps immigrants get green cards to study in this country. And they knew that I had these big [00:06:00] dreams as a kid, but they weren't really sure how to connect the dots and how to make my Juilliard dreams come true. So one day my mom and I were in New York.

[00:06:08] This was, yeah, this was when I was nine and we just were, we had a mother-daughter trip and I happened to have my violin with me. And we walked by the Juilliard schools building and she said, Hey, Maya, why don't we just go in what's the worst thing that can happen? I'm like, Bob, get outta here. That's not, I don't want to go inside.

[00:06:27] Like we haven't even been invited, but she said, let's just do it. Let's just see what happens. So we go in to the building unannounced, uninvited, and my mom strikes up a conversation with a student in the elevator and her mom, and she, very politely asked her, oh, at the end of your lesson, would you mind just introducing my daughter to your violin teacher?

[00:06:47] Because it would just be so wonderful if they could have a chance to connect. And they were very gracious, very kind. They said, yes. I think a lesson I've learned over the years is just how generous people can be when you just ask them, if they're willing to do [00:07:00] you a favor, if they'd let us, meet her teacher afterwards.

[00:07:03] And I actually auditioned for him on the spot, he accepted me into his summer program. And it was only because of that intense bootcamp training that summer that I think I had any chance at all of getting into Juilliard and what that lesson taught me Hala is that. A lot of times, the door will not open for you on its own.

[00:07:23] You won't get that silver platter, but sometimes if you just force it open, literally in this case, my mom just walked into the building. You can try and inspire new opportunities for yourself. So I'm so grateful for that learning lesson because it wasn't the first time when I had to create an opportunity for myself that doesn't, that didn't necessarily exist beforehand.

[00:07:42] But I, yeah, I'm grateful for my mom's fearlessness, cause it, it really helped allow my violin career to, to blossom

[00:07:50] Hala Taha: 100%. It's something that I always talk about at this podcast is like, shoot your shot, ask, show up half the battle is just showing up. And the fact that you just [00:08:00] went there, you and your mom, you were so young who knows they would have, they could have laughed at you guys, but instead they embraced you and it set off a whole new path for your life and was a huge resume builder for you later on, even though you didn't end up becoming a violinist, I'm sure going to Juilliard really helped you in other areas in terms of your hard work and dedication.

[00:08:20] So what other lessons did you learn as this like pro violinist as such a young age? Did you carry anything on later on that helps you?

[00:08:28] Dr. Maya Shankar: Absolutely. I think just hard work, just relentlessly devoted to my craft because, I'm really grateful that my mom opened the door for me that day.

[00:08:38] But it was important that I was able to perform on the spot, and actually complete the audition. And so I think that relentlessness, that drive, that spirit of commitment to my craft, I think, was so important for me to cultivate as a young child. Because again, I think I've carried that also into other pursuits that do require that kind of [00:09:00] relentlessness, we'll get to this later, but certainly working at the white house, things are not easy.

[00:09:04] You face so many barriers. I feel like in many ways I carried, I carry that spirit with me forward when I was working there too. And, not trying to see many obstacles, trying to feel like hard work could get me to the finish line. So I think that was certainly something. And, I think actually looking back the greatest lesson that I learned about myself from playing the violin is that what I really loved about music was not necessarily the beautiful sounds that it created.

[00:09:29] Of course I loved the way the violin sounded, but actually it was my ability to emotionally connect with my audience, to connect with listeners of my music. And I loved being able to forge that connection from an early age on state, right? I'm going out to the stage, I'm in a room with a bunch of strangers and suddenly we feel connected in this really deep, powerful way.

[00:09:53] And I think what that taught me is that when, especially when I lost my ability to play the [00:10:00] violin, that there was a feature of my musical life that I could maintain afterwards, which was finding other areas, other passions, where I can unlock that same human, emotional connection, my same fascination with humans which is what ultimately drove me to become a cognitive scientist and to study humans as my profession.

[00:10:19] What it is that unlocks our passions, how we make decisions, how we develop our attitudes and beliefs, and certainly has driven me to create my new podcast, A Slight Change of Plans, which is all about how people navigate extraordinary changes in their lives. People like Hillary Clinton and Tiffany Haddish and Kacey Musgraves.

[00:10:39] And I feel like I'm able to emotionally connect with my guests and I feel that same joy that I felt as a child playing the violin.

[00:10:47] Hala Taha: Oh my gosh. I love that. So then you ended up going to Gale, right? And then you went to University of Oxford, you got your PhD and you had a road scholarship. So super, super impressive [00:11:00] journey.

[00:11:00] I love to set context for my listeners. So some people might not be familiar with your field. So what is like behavioral and cognitive science? What is that?

[00:11:08] Dr. Maya Shankar: Absolutely. So it is the study of how our minds work, the science of how it is that we make decisions, how we develop our attitudes and beliefs about the world, how we develop motivational states.

[00:11:22] It's basically a comprehensive understanding of our minds. And I will tell you, when I was on the heels of trying to figure out what is my new passion right now that I don't have the violin? What is it that I do? What is it that I can do? I really struggled for a long time.

[00:11:39] I had no idea what it was that could captivate me in the same way. And I was really lucky actually, Hala, because I was the summer before college. I was helping my parents clean their basement as a dutiful daughter does actually supposed to be in China that summer touring with my musician friends. But instead I was with my parents and I was helping them clean their basement.

[00:11:58] And I snuggled up, got a [00:12:00] book on How The Mind Works and it detailed the incredibly sophisticated machinery behind our ability to perceive and learn language. And I remember up until that point in my own life, I had taken for granted my ability to comprehend language and produce language. And it was fascinating to have the curtain pulled back and to fully understand what was behind this skill that I'd taken for granted.

[00:12:26] So many of us can be really hard on ourselves to daily life, very critical of ourselves. But when you learn about the mind, you'll feel like you're crushing it all the time. You will be in total awe of what our minds are capable of. So I read this book on language and I remember thinking. This is how sophisticated the machinery is behind language learning.

[00:12:45] What is behind our ability to do complex mathematics? I can't do complex math, but my physicist dad can, what's behind our bill? What's behind falling in love? What's behind really high-level decision-making? I was enraptured. I could

[00:13:00] not wait to figure out all there was to understand about the mind.

[00:13:03] So when I went to undergrad, I ended up being coming a cognitive science major, which was a relatively new major at the time. Your audience might appreciate, because again, it's an education podcast. But one thing that I loved about the cognitive science major is that it is interdisciplinary. So you study the mind from multiple perspectives.

[00:13:21] So I took classes in neuro-linguistics. I took classes in psychology, anthropology, computer science, neurobiology you're really trying to figure out some fundamental, you're asking fundamental questions about the mind, and then you are also answering those questions. I also, sorry. I took philosophy classes as well.

[00:13:41] You're answering those questions using this rich canvas insights from so many different fields and another feature, I think of my undergraduate experience that really lit up my excitement for cognitive sciences that I actually got to do lab research. So I worked in a non-human primate lab. My [00:14:00] mentor was Laurie Santos.

[00:14:02] Hala Taha: Yeah. She's going to come on our podcast soon. Yeah.

[00:14:05] Dr. Maya Shankar: Oh, that's amazing. She's been my lifelong mentor. I'm so grateful to have had her in my life from day one, but she took me on as that lowly freshmen her monkey lab. And so I got to do research on non-human primates and also on, on humans and study things like how our visual systems work, how we code objects in the world.

[00:14:25] And yeah, I was just so excited by the idea of asking novel questions about the mind.

[00:14:30] Hala Taha: So your trajectory was to actually just be an academic, right? I think a lot of people who go into your field, they end up becoming professors or writing books or things along those lines. And I think you had a change of heart at some point.

[00:14:46] So talk to us about that and what you did next and maybe how you use some of your lessons that your mom taught you about getting into Juilliard for your next job position.

[00:14:57] Dr. Maya Shankar: Three

[00:14:57] questions. So you're absolutely right. [00:15:00] People who have degrees in this field often become academics. And I remember this one day, so I was doing my post-doc in cognitive neuroscience at Stanford, and I was scanning people's brains in the basement up in the FMRI laboratory.

[00:15:12] I was on my whatever hour of doing this. And I remember this guy came in and within minutes I'm hearing into his brain. And I remember thinking given my personality. I feel like the order of operations is wrong here. Like I'm already peering into this guy's brain. And I don't know whether he has kids what his favorite food is, what his passions in life are.

[00:15:33] I feel like I should be doing something that feels slightly more social and team oriented, where I get to know people first and then maybe, do the behavioral science piece. But as you can imagine, and I imagine as many of your listeners can relate to, when you put so many years into a pursuit, you feel a lot of anxiety about the idea of jumping ship.

[00:15:51] And I also didn't know what could come next. What does a postdoc in cognitive neuroscience do other than become an academic? And so I remember thinking, should I just keep [00:16:00] at it just to avoid all this sunk costs? But I knew from my, behavioral science research to avoid the sunk cost fallacy which is to not give in to that.

[00:16:10] But also I called up Laurie. I called up Laurie Santos and I said, Laurie, I know, you're an academic, you're a professor. You've been my role model all this time. It's one of the reasons I even went to grad school in the first place. Put your, I do at this point. And I said, I think maybe I should become a general management consultant.

[00:16:28] Like I have no idea what to do. And she said, Maya, I recently heard about this incredible work that's happening in the Obama white house, where they are using insights from our field to really change people's lives. In this particular case, they were using the power of default. The default setting in a program can wildly affect participation rates.

[00:16:48] And they changed the default setting in the national school lunch program to help enroll millions of kids into free or reduced price lunches. So prior to this change, people had to [00:17:00] proactively enroll their kids into the program, and that was associated with a stigma. It was also a company by a very burdensome application process that was, required referencing multiple tax forms.

[00:17:12] And thinking about a single mom, who's working three shifts to make ends meet. And now they're being asked to fill out this very burdensome form just to allow their kids to eat lunch at school every day. And so what the government did is they used existing data on these students and they automatically enrolled these kids in the programs such that now.

[00:17:30] The default was for kids to be enrolled. And if you wanted to unenroll your kid, you could. But that was the default setting. And as a result of this change informed by behavioral economics, 12 and a half million, more kids were now eating lunch at school every day. And I just remember being blown away by this example, I've been waxing poetic about the promise of my field for years at this point, but to actually see it in practice was extraordinary for me.

[00:17:56] And there was just this light bulb moment of, oh my gosh. This is what I [00:18:00] want to be doing. I want to be actually taking insights from decision science and putting them into practice in people's lives so that they can live better lives. But the challenge that existed Hala was that there was no job for a behavioral scientist in the white house.

[00:18:14] And so I ended up sending a cold email. So this is my mom's Julliard method. I opened that door unannounced and I sent an email to an academic luminary named Cass Sunstein. So he had written the book Nudge, which is all about the science of how we can positively impact people's lives through these small tweaks and how we design programs and policies.

[00:18:34] He'd also worked for Obama for four years as the head of their office of information and regulatory affairs. And I basically just sent him a note saying, hi, I'm Maya, I've published nothing of significance. And I have no public policy experience. And I even did this thing that I think a lot of women do in particular, which is I really downplay myself.

[00:18:53] I said, I remember writing in parentheses. I know I'm not cool enough to work with the likes of Obama, but if there's a

[00:19:00] state or local government opportunity for me to apply these insights, I'd be totally game. And thankfully for me, cast ignored all the insecurity that was seeping out of my email and wrote back almost right away.

[00:19:14] Again, generosity of spirit that I referenced earlier and said, this is so wonderful, Maya. I'm going to introduce you to the president science advisor. Now I remember like nearly falling off my chair. I was like, what is happening in my life? I can't believe this connection has been made. And a week later I was interviewing with top white house officials pitching them on the idea of creating a new position for a behavioral scientist like me.

[00:19:39] And there was this particularly powerful moment, Hala I remember in the interview where I was proposing all these ideas based in behavioral science, like the growth mindset, which is the idea that, if we treat our minds like muscles, they can, that could grow with time and effort. You can actually see a lot more potential in people.

[00:19:57] I was talking about social norms and how that can [00:20:00] inform the first lady Michelle Obama's let's move initiative, which was all around, health and wellness and exercise. And I remember this white house official telling me that's great. I know Michelle Obama and her team, we can absolutely propose this to you.

[00:20:14] And it was in that moment I realized, wow. Okay. This is a real thing that can happen. And I was so taken by that interview and the promise that I saw in this position that even before I had a formal job offer, I moved to DC, packed up all my bags. I signed a one-year lease. And he had obviously expressed some degree of interest, such that I would take this risk, but I basically was like, I'm moving to see.

[00:20:40] I would be moving to DC. I'm going to be here, whether you like it or not, we are going to make this job happen. And sure enough, a few months later I was able to join the Obama white house and continued that work for 4 years.

[00:20:52] Hala Taha: Wow. That

[00:20:53] is a really powerful story. She basically created her own dream career out of [00:21:00] nothing, but, the willingness to ask and having the passion and the skills and the experience.

[00:21:06] And the other lesson that I find here is that a lot of the times people think, and I want to circle back to something that you mentioned, the sunk cost fallacy. They think that, you go to school and if you switch gears, Or even evolve because you didn't totally switch gears. You just applied what you learned in a whole new way and probably learn new things to succeed in that avenue.

[00:21:28] You just layered skills on top of what you already had, but that actually was a huge differentiator for you to actually create this dream job. And so it wasn't a waste at all. And same thing with me, I was in corporate, I worked at HP Disney for many years. I was in marketing. I launched a podcast on the side.

[00:21:43] Then I launched a marketing agency that blew up and everybody told me you're crazy. You're an executive at Disney. Everybody would kill for this job. And I was like yeah, I did, rise up the ranks, but that doesn't mean I have to do this for the rest of my life. I could easily take these skills and transfer it somewhere [00:22:00] else.

[00:22:00] And continue on that way. So talk to us about the sunk cost fallacy. I'd love to hear about

[00:22:04] that from you.

[00:22:05] Dr. Maya Shankar: Yeah. I think it speaks to the fact that we feel so attached to the things that we've invested in or the things that we own. We can make irrational decisions in the face of that emotional pull towards those things.

[00:22:20] There's this interesting insight in behavioral science called identity foreclosure. And it refers to the fact that especially adolescents that this can follow people into adulthood can get very closed off very quickly regarding what their identity is in this world. They can attach themselves to an early identity that, that they claim, and they can hold onto that with a firm grip in ways that make them close minded in the face of other opportunities or other identities that they might occupy.

[00:22:50] And I think the fact that at 15, I was forced to challenge my fundamental identity. As I mentioned to Hala, I was first and foremost a violinist. That was my defining trait. But when that was [00:23:00] taken away from me, I was forced to see my identity as far more malleable than I otherwise would have. And I think opening myself up to multiple identities at that point in my life and learning this valuable lesson of, maybe I shouldn't attach my identity to things to pursue, but instead of two traits of pursuits, I was mentioning earlier that one of the appeals of the violin was the fact that I could force this emotional connection and that I was so fascinated by the human mind and its response to music.

[00:23:30] And so maybe I can find that trait in another area of life, right? Maybe I can, maybe it can translate that into other pursuits. And so I think seeing my identity as more valuable is something that has served me well is very painful at the time, but I would certainly encourage listeners to try and avoid identity foreclosure and to instead keep an open mind about all of the identities that we can occupy, over the course of our lives.

[00:23:58] Hala Taha: Yeah, that's

[00:23:58] super powerful. I [00:24:00] love that. What you said about, choosing to really not tie yourself to a thing, but rather than a trait, something that can evolve and apply to many different things. I think that's a really great piece of advice for everybody listening, especially young listeners who may not have gone through failure, I can really relate and I have so many things stories, but I want to focus this on you.

[00:24:18] Dr. Maya Shankar: I would love

[00:24:19] to hear one of your stories, if you're willing to share.

[00:24:20] Hala Taha: I used to work get hot 97 and I actually dropped out of school for this radio internship at hot 97. And I was the girl from hot 97. I was the coolest girl, with all the celebrities that was my life. All my branding on social was hot 97 Hala, and I was an intern working for free for three years and trying to get that my dream job on air.

[00:24:42] And then they fired me out of nowhere. They fired me for no reason because they didn't want to pay me minimum wage. Even though I had sacrificed everything to work at the station. And again, like you, I felt like my identity was ripped from me. And I was like, wow, I've invested all this time. I have absolutely nothing.

[00:24:58] I'm not allowed to [00:25:00] use their brand anymore. Similar to you. Like you weren't able to use your hand anymore. It wasn't possible. And then I had to pivot quickly and I owe a lot of my grit and being able to understand when it's time to move on and also, to your point, be more aligned to things you own, as well as your mission, rather than other brands or things.

[00:25:20] It's really important for people to understand. And I think if you don't get that early failure or rejection or tragedy, you might not know that. And you might hang on to a dream that's worth letting go.

[00:25:30] Dr. Maya Shankar: I think that's completely right. And I'm, first of all, I'm so grateful that you share stories like that because I think

[00:25:35] in the same way that when you see someone's Instagram feed, you're seeing the highlights reel. When you read someone's bio, you're not looking at all of the moments in which they failed and they were challenged. And I almost want all of our bios to say, and then I tried this and it didn't go anywhere.

[00:25:51] And then I tried this and I failed, or I was rejected because I think one, it humanizes people and it allows people to see the path is never linear. It's going to [00:26:00] have so many twists and turns and it's having, a perseverance and trying to build self-confidence at those critical junctures that ultimately can lead you.

[00:26:10] Hala Taha: Yeah, 100% clearly.

[00:26:12] Thank you. Thank you. And so did you, so let's go back to your time in the white house. So you were working for the Obama administration and, you basically were like a little startup because you invented this job. I think you started with no team in a very male dominated, not industry, but male dominated culture.

[00:26:33] So how did you thrive there? What are the, some of the things that you did, what are your best memories from that work experience?

[00:26:40] Dr. Maya Shankar: Yeah, so interesting. I thought, oh, the challenge is ended when I convinced them to give me this job, but actually that wasn't the case at all. So on day one, I decided based on the advice of my boss, Instead of just focusing on the impact that I, as one person could have while in government, it might be far more worth it to [00:27:00] actually build out an institution that would persist beyond my unique tenure in the white house, and actually be able to keep doing this work well beyond my departure.

[00:27:10] And that can take a lot of effort and time because instead of just trying to get discrete projects done, you're trying to convince the federal government and Obama leadership that they should actually build out a new function in government, a behavioral science team. And on day one, I started off with zero budget, no team.

[00:27:28] And I'm a 27 year old at the time. No, probably tell us experience, try to make this happen. Now I will say there's one advantage to backing that experience at the time, which is that I came in so optimistic about what it was that I could accomplish. I didn't see barriers, because I didn't know where they existed.

[00:27:49] And I think had I been a C and government official, I would have been like, okay, I've done this rodeo six times. And I failed, four to six times. And so I'd be somewhat disenchanted and a bit jaded, but actually I [00:28:00] think my, light naivete served me well, which is that I came in and I was just absolutely resolute in my commitment to building this team, but I have to get very creative.

[00:28:09] I recognized early on that the only way that I would succeed at this mission is if I could inspire organic interest in my government colleagues to translate insights from behavioral science, into public policy improvements, because I could not point to a high level mandate. I could not point to at the time President Obama was saying, you guys all need to do this.

[00:28:31] Instead, I had to convince people because they saw genuine value, inherent value in what it was that I was proposing and that it would help them achieve their existing program or policy goals. So I knocked on every single door I could in government. I engaged at all levels of government and essentially the tactic I used was

[00:28:52] to align my recommendations with existing goals they already had. So if the Department of Veterans Affairs was already trying to get veterans [00:29:00] enrolled in a program, I would knock on their door and say, Hey, I have some science-based insights that we can use to try to get you from point A to point B. Or if the department of education was trying to help student loan borrowers better understand their choices among repayment plans, I would say, oh yeah, here's some research on the most effective way that we can structure these choices.

[00:29:20] I recognized in those early days that if I were to introduce a new goal or a new idea, it would just be too much for folks to swallow on day one. So that was one I lined these insights. Really you is that I decided I need to get some money quick wins on the board. So I think one trap folks can fall into is that they spend so much time writing, beautiful prose about what this team could be in the future.

[00:29:46] What these insights could translate into the future, rather than actually just getting your feet wet, getting some wins on the board, because I realized yes, I can draft these 15 page elaborate policy proposals with the hope that one day someone important might sign the [00:30:00] dotted line, but that's not going to be the way that you actually ignite people's imagination and creativity and excitement for the work.

[00:30:07] So I ended up organizing a meeting fairly on and early on in my tenure at the white house where I created an admissions ticket to the meeting. So I invited all these luminaries like Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler, who are Nobel prize winners in the field of economics and also government luminaries.

[00:30:25] And I said, You can only come to the meeting if you submit a one or two page proposal on how you plan to integrate a behavioral insight into one of your existing programs over the next three to six months. And it was incredible to see the motivation levels that emerged from this ticket to the meeting.

[00:30:45] In fact, I probably got maybe 35, maybe 50 proposals in the door. Because people were so excited to meet their intellectual heroes, right? Like Daniel and Richard and have them evaluate their PR their proposals, but also just creating a deadline of any kind[00:31:00] was very motivating for folks. And those wins ultimately generated the kind of argument that I needed to get buy-in from

[00:31:10] government agencies to actually give me head count to help give me a budget. Ultimately build the argument for President Obama to sign an executive order that made my team a formal persistent part of government.

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[00:34:15] I love how you use creative solutions to get your way. And I love the fact that you mentioned that you're naive. It really helped you because you approach the situation extremely optimistic.

[00:34:25] And I know from my experience that when it comes to growing a team or influencing others, just being optimistic, positive, confident, creative can catch you a really long way. So I could see why everybody adored you once you got on the door and gave you those opportunities.

[00:34:43] Dr. Maya Shankar: It was definitely, it was so much hard work.

[00:34:45] And I will say that the failure rate was extremely high, for every hundred conversations I had, maybe we get one project over the finish line. But in looking back, I will say that there were so many times that I wished Hala that like Obama would just step in [00:35:00] and be like, y'all need to do this.

[00:35:01] My life would be so much easier, but in hindsight, I realize that. The fact that I had to inspire organic interests from the outset at all levels of government meant that folks were doing this work because they saw inherent value in it. And you can't dictate someone to care about something, right?

[00:35:18] No mandate and government can force a person to be excited about stuff. And I do feel like this more startup-y approach led to a lot more cultural change in the government and a lot more sustained change in the government. I'll share one story with you, which is that I remember there was a career civil servant I'd worked with her name was Rosemary Williams who had worked at the department of defense for decades.

[00:35:42] And I met her just when she was on the cusp of retirement. She was like, oh, I've worked in the government for so long. I'm planning to retire. I'm done. And after working with us for a month or two, she came back and said, I no longer plan to retire like working with your team has energized me so much, has allowed me to see that the government can [00:36:00] in fact be very innovative, that I've decided to stick it out and I'm going to stay here longer than I did before.

[00:36:05] And it was stories like that. That really touched me in a deep way, because it allowed me to see one, the power of these scrappy startup, the environments, where everyone feels like they're building this thing together and to help. You can really change minds, not just the minds of Americans who you're serving through these public policies, but even the minds of government officials who have done incredible service to this country, but could do even more if they just find the right opportunities.

[00:36:31] Hala Taha: I love this conversation has been so great so far. I want to dive deep into how you actually changed the minds of American citizens. So from my understanding, I think that they called your team, the nudge unit. Is that correct?

[00:36:45] Dr. Maya Shankar: Yeah. So formally known that way. Yeah.

[00:36:48] Hala Taha: The nudge unit. So talk to us about nudging.

[00:36:51] What nudging is, what's different from the way traditionally the government would try to convince people to take action.

[00:36:58] Dr. Maya Shankar: Yeah. I think what behavioral science [00:37:00] teaches us is that. There are a lot of surprising factors that can influence our decisions that we might not even be consciously aware of. And if we can better understand human behavior, we can in turn design, public policies and programs in ways that reflect those surprising features.

[00:37:17] So good example of this is when people go into a voting booth, I think they like to think, oh, of course, I'm just going to vote for the person that I most like to see elected into office. That's just common sense, but it turns out that the order in which the candidates names appear on the ballot can have a profound impact on who gets vote, share from different voters. In Texas,

[00:37:39] they found that if the candidates name appeared first on the ballot, that candidate received a 10 percentage point boost in voter share relative to those, listed below. And so this is again, a very surprising feature, right? We might not think that the order in which the candidates names appear has this outsize impact, but once we [00:38:00] understand that we can then design ballots in ways that actually randomize the order of candidates, names across ballots, in order to help solve this problem. In government, there were so many instances where

[00:38:11] we had designed a really impressive program or policy, but it just wasn't reaching Americans and the way that we had hoped for. So a good example of this is I worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs. They were really eager to have veteran sign up for an educational and employment benefit that they could use after they had served our country overseas.

[00:38:30] And this was a very valuable benefit because as you can imagine, the transition from military to civilian life could be quite jarring full of lots of obstacles and hurdles psychologically and physically. And we wanted to do everything we could to smooth that transition and open up as many doors as we possibly could for veterans.

[00:38:51] Now, the challenge is that's, weren't signing up for this in part, because we hadn't made a compelling enough case probably for the program or we weren't getting the word out. And because we were budget [00:39:00] constraint, we didn't have a ton of dollars to throw at marketing this program. So the VA came to us and said, look, Maya and team, we have one email that we're sending out about this program, do what you want, but that's all you've got.

[00:39:13] And so we set up an AB test in which, you know, the, one version of the email was the original email. And then we modify the email and we actually just changed one word in email, instead of telling bets that they were eligible for the program. We simply reminded them that they had earned it through their years of service.

[00:39:30] And this one word change led to a 9% increase in access to the program. It's a spin off of an insight in behavioral science called the endowment effect, which basically says we value things more when we own them or in this case have earned them. And so in veterans feel, oh, I've already got this benefit, in my hands.

[00:39:48] And now has something to lose. If I don't take advantage of it, it was a very compelling way to drive interest in the program. And so that's an example. That's one example of a project that we worked on. In other cases, we are [00:40:00] working on issues that had wow really deep and systemic underlying issues. So in my final year, in the white house in 2016, I was working in collaboration with Flint, Michigan residents and officials in the face of the lead in water crisis.

[00:40:17] So as you might know, when there's lead in water, it can poison the brains, young children and adults and communities and tragically members of Flint, Michigan were on the receiving end of this terrible change in water quality. And so I was working with my teammates at the time to make sure that information about safe water practices

[00:40:37] was written very clearly and was disseminated within the community. And we did everything from, trying to dispel myths cause there's, disinformation was on, on the rise around water quality. And so we had to make sure that we were, conveying truthful information, but also making sure that the messenger was the right messenger.

[00:40:54] I think, prior to this instance, we would have seen the environmental protection agency as having been [00:41:00] like the Eakin of truth and the best messenger, the harness for this mission. But think about the fact that in Flint, Michigan residents don't trust their government. They just been betrayed and lie to by their local government.

[00:41:10] And so naturally you might expect there'd be spillover effects and they wouldn't trust the federal government. They wouldn't trust the EPA. So instead of being local EPA organized a canvassing effort where members of their community members of the local red cross, the heads of YMCAs, the heads of churches would go door to door, distributing these water safety flyers around the community.

[00:41:34] Anyway, so we're working on this water safety piece and I ended up flying to Flint, Michigan a few times to make sure that they're responsive to residents' needs. And then I realize it's hit me like a freight train that the problem is so much deeper and it is the result of decades of disenfranchisement among

[00:41:54] communities of color, decades of lying from the government towards communities of color [00:42:00] and that at the end of the day, the breach of trust between the government and its residents was at the heart of this challenge. The water quality was a symptom, but the underlying issues were ferocious and deep and deeply problematic.

[00:42:15] And the result of a lot of decades of systemic racism. And so we were using behavioral science at the tail end of the administration. And obviously a lot of these efforts got truncated after the 2016 election. But to try to figure out strategies, we could use to try and rebuild trust between residents and their government, but only justified trust.

[00:42:34] If the government was sucking them, they shouldn't trust the government. But to try to restore some semblance of trust because the government would actually take better action moving forward.

[00:42:43] Hala Taha: That's really interesting stuff. Thank you so much for sharing all those different stories. So I want to talk about

[00:42:50] why it's so hard for people to change their minds. So like basically your job at the white house was to try to get people to make better positive decisions for themselves. You can't [00:43:00] force them to do it. So you were trying to use these little tweaks, these nudges to try to get people to make the right decisions for themselves.

[00:43:07] So I've heard you say in the past that it is incredibly hard for people to change their minds. Talk to us about why that's true and what's at play there.

[00:43:16] Dr. Maya Shankar: In general, I think getting people to change their behaviors in ways that align with their longterm goals is achievable. In fact, in many ways, my work in government was trying to do exactly that, which was, you find a service member who wants to sign up for retirement savings plan, finds the options confusing or just hasn't gotten around to it because they're procrastinating.

[00:43:35] And then you can use these nudges to try to get them over the finish line. Changing people's minds is an entirely different beast. It's extremely hard for us to change our minds because we often attach our identities to our values and our opinions and our beliefs. And we feel a lot of cognitive dissonance when it comes to challenging these deeply entrenched views that we [00:44:00] have about the world.

[00:44:01] In many ways, when we challenge our own minds, we're challenging our sense of selves. And importantly, this is research by Dan Kahan and others at Yale law school. We're challenging our group membership. We're challenging our tribal memberships and the communities that we associate with. I think one thing I've learned from all of the research and behavioral sciences.

[00:44:21] People don't make up their minds just based on the facts, just based on evidence, they make up their minds based on what their communities believe and value. And this played out in COVID for example, right? A lot of those who are believers of COVID and believers of wearing masks are thinking, it's just a piece of damn cloth.

[00:44:41] Like just wear the mask, it'll keep you healthy. Like, why is this such a big thing? But actually, if you appreciate the fact that sometimes people aren't wearing masks, not just because, it's inconvenient, but because wearing a mask with threatened their group membership, it would signal something really important to them about where it is

[00:44:59] they [00:45:00] belonged in society. And so they see their entire community not wearing masks and it's a cultural statement. Then it carries a lot more significance than we might get a credit for. And so what's important to appreciate in this space is that. When you're asking people to change their minds about a topic, you need to understand what gave rise to that belief in the first place.

[00:45:19] And just throwing more evidence at them is not going to change the game.

[00:45:24] Hala Taha: Super interesting. So I want to go back to nudging a bit because I really want my listeners to understand how they could maybe use some nudging tactics in business, in the workplace, in their professional lives. Do you have any tips and tricks or just little ideas you could throw out there that we can

[00:45:41] use?

[00:45:42] Dr. Maya Shankar: Yeah, absolutely. One, I would definitely, if listeners are interested, I would have them listen to the conversations that I had with Adam Grant and Katy Milkman on my podcast, the slight change of plans, because we dive deep into exactly some of these questions and they can get the longer version if they listen to those

[00:45:58] adam Grant's and organelles organizational [00:46:00] psychologist. So he's all about workplace reform and Katy Milkman is an expert on the science of change. So she gives us lots of tactics we can use. I would say a few not just that I've used in my own life. When it comes to trying to inspire change within myself is one is a concept called temptation bundling.

[00:46:18] And that comes from Katy Milkman's research. It's the idea that if you pair up an undesirable activity like working out or doing your laundry or cleaning the home or doing your math homework with a desirable reward, it can be much more likely that you actually commit. So those activities in the longer term.

[00:46:35] So I have my favorite songs. I only allow myself to listen to them when I'm on the treadmill or working out, and it actually increases my motivation to do those things. And I deny myself that pleasure in the rest of my way, another insight I share with us. As it pertains to the workplace has to do with the power of social norms.

[00:46:53] So we are heavily influenced by how those around us act and behave. And if we understand [00:47:00] this, we can actually leverage it for good and a lot of situations. So for example, when they were trying to get homeowners to use less energy, this one company tried all sorts of tactics, right? Financial incentives, canvassing door, hankers you name it?

[00:47:14] None of them worked. The one that did work was telling people when their neighbors were using less energy than they were. And that positive norm was so helpful at motivating people to use less energy because they're like, I want to be the highest energy user on my block. This would be terrible. And so I think in a workplace setting, when you see, pro-social behaviors, when you see desirable behaviors, if you can collect statistics around just how many people are engaging in those behaviors and just share the facts with people, it can have a really positive.

[00:47:44] Hala Taha: Wow. That's super interesting. It's so fun. I have an example to bring up in which I've figured this out, but didn't know that there was like some science backing to this. So I do live interviews on Clubhouse. It's this social audio app. And one of the things that I do is I say, DM me, [00:48:00] if you guys want to hear the replay, send me a direct message.

[00:48:03] If you want to hear the replay. And I noticed that when I say, ah, I've got hundreds of messages, everybody's asking me for the replay. If you want the replay DM me replay, and then I get a hundred messages because I said that it's so funny that people just it's kinda I hate to say it, but that phrase of how kind of people are like sheep, they follow the path.

[00:48:23] It is true. Like we want to be accepted I guess. And so we're more likely to make decisions based on what everybody else is doing. Is that

[00:48:30] true?

[00:48:31] Dr. Maya Shankar: And importantly, I think we're really influenced by those people or populations in particular that we socially identify with. So if you're a teacher, for example, and you find that a bunch of other teachers are doing something, there's an implicit cue in there being teachers that you share some of the same value systems, but you might enjoy the same types of things.

[00:48:51] So I think Hala and your case when a lot of people are asking for the roof, will you play? And they know they're already fans of you. They're thinking I'm a fan of her too. The chances are, I [00:49:00] might enjoy this replay as well. So I think we do find that social norms are even more effective when they're coming from people within a community or people who share a similar trait.

[00:49:10] Hala Taha: Very cool.

[00:49:11] So we're all about actionable insights. And I just want to pick your brain even more about decision making. What are some other things that we need to know as young professionals, young entrepreneurs, in terms of how we can ourselves make sure we're not using biases or like, how can we make more realistic decisions for ourselves and make sure that our emotions are not getting in the way and that all these other things that you're talking about are not getting the way, like how can we make clear good decisions for ourselves?

[00:49:41] Dr. Maya Shankar: I actually think the best way for your listeners to make more sound decisions is to just acquaint yourself with what those biases are. For example, we're loss averse. So we find it super painful to lose things and we weight those losses much more than we weight gains. Another example is the way that we [00:50:00] construct our memories.

[00:50:02] You wouldn't necessarily intuitively understand that we code our memories in the way that we do. So let me say a little bit more about that. So I think at least I, when I was thinking about my memories, think, okay, you have an experience. And every single moment of that experience carries some weight.

[00:50:18] And at the end of your brain kind of averages all those hedonic experiences and decides how enjoyable or not enjoyable the experience was actually our minds don't work like that. We assign disproportionate weight to the most emotionally intense moment of the experience. And the end of the experience, this is called the peak end rule.

[00:50:38] And what this means is that when we think back to experiences that end moment, and that peak moment are really important in terms of whether we want to do that experience again and how we think about it after the. This is really relevant in the context of health exams. Like for example, colonoscopies are very painful exams.

[00:50:57] What they find is that when they elongate the [00:51:00] exam, but they actually make the last few minutes, slightly less painful, people are much more likely to return for follow-up. Which is astonishing because the overall amount of time that you are in some level of discomfort is actually longer, but the intensity of that pain is less at the end, or that can weigh in a pretty significant way in terms of how you construct that memory.

[00:51:19] And I think this is so important for all of us, because when we think back on experiences, we might not be coding them super accurately. And if we're aware of this bias, then we can think back differently on, end of that, like studying for that test. Those last five minutes were so brutal, but actually there were moments of joy there.

[00:51:35] I remember learning something you, I remember feeling like my curiosity was ignited. And so reminding ourselves to take that full experience into account or making sure that when we do want to repeat a behavior, we end the experience on a high, on a positive note. It's a little bit of folklore.

[00:51:50] Danny Conoman, who's a Nobel prize winner in behavioral economics and is a friend of mine. He has said that there are times where he would end to vacation short [00:52:00] when he was having the time of his life. Just because he knew that the memory of the memory would be more positive in his mind. He said this a while back.

[00:52:07] And I think he now neither confirm nor deny that denies it, but I thought it was such a charming anecdote because it is a side of just how powerful some of these biases.

[00:52:19] Hala Taha: Yeah, and I guess it's that one. I really like it. That one's called Pekin. What is that one called peak end rule. I love that because I can also see that being really useful in like a job interview.

[00:52:29] So on both sides, like making sure that you are really strong in the beginning and end in some sort of positive way at the end, because you know that they're going to remember the beginning and the end most, but then also as a person interview.

[00:52:41] Dr. Maya Shankar: Oh, sorry, just to clarify. So it's not honestly at the beginning, it's the most intense, emotionally intense moment of the whole experience.

[00:52:48] So it's the peak, it's the peak of the experience and then the end, hence the peak end rule. Yeah.

[00:52:53] Hala Taha: Okay. That's really interesting. And then I think you also talk about something called the Ikea effect. Could you tell us about [00:53:00] that?

[00:53:01] Dr. Maya Shankar: Yeah. The ikea effect is the fact that would we have

[00:53:04] contributed to something when we have built something, we attach a lot more value to it. So even if you build the Ikea furniture and it's a piece of crap and before legs, aren't perfectly on the ground, you will assign more affection and it will feel like a more valuable item to you because it involved your input.

[00:53:22] Hala Taha: Very

[00:53:22] interesting. So let's talk about your podcast. You briefly mentioned it before A Slight Change of Plans. I'd love to hear more about that. Cause it's, it sounds really interesting. What gave you the idea to start this podcast? And what are the, some of the things that you talk about on your podcast?

[00:53:38] Dr. Maya Shankar: My inspiration for A Slight Change of Plans, I think was twofold. One is my own personal experience, navigating change early in my life, right? Losing the ability to play the violin and not knowing who I was and asking all these deep existential questions about identity and whatnot. And the second came from 2020.

[00:53:55] And when I was feeling extremely overwhelmed by the rapid pace of change [00:54:00] around me, I think so many people were feeling overwhelmed by the rapid pace of change around them. And it was just really daunting and intimidating to feel like we were totally out of control of our world and of our environments.

[00:54:13] And then I put on my behavioral scientist hat and thought, okay, maybe the specifics of what 2020 through our way are unprecedented, but our human mind's ability to navigate change is absolutely not. In many ways, our minds are built for change. There's no manual out there. There's actually no scientific textbook out there on how to navigate change.

[00:54:34] You can't just look up the answers and be like, oh, I'm in the throws of this, horrible health diagnosis. What do I do? And so I thought, what if we can mind people's stories, people who have navigated extraordinary change in their lives like Hillary Clinton and Tiffany Haddish and Kacey Musgraves, and Tommy Caldwell and folks who've just lived through extraordinary change in general.

[00:54:55] What if you can mind their stories and glean insights from them about how it is they've navigated change [00:55:00] in ways that can teach us valuable lessons. It can help us think differently about change in our own lives.

[00:55:06] Hala Taha: And what are some of the key lessons that you've learned so far being on this show? Have you learned something new from your, college

[00:55:12] days?

[00:55:14] Dr. Maya Shankar: Absolutely. It's been so humbling to make this podcast because as part of what I do is I study change, but my interview guests have taught me so much about change in ways that I could never have predicted. So I'll give you a couple examples. One is I spoke with a young woman named Elena Baker about her deep desire to become thin to lose weight.

[00:55:36] She felt that if she could just become thin, she could achieve all of her dreams and goals in her life. And she did it. She lost close to a hundred pounds in five and a half months. For awhile, Elena thought she was actually living her dream life until she realized that she was starting to lose parts of herself in the process.

[00:55:54] She realized that she was becoming a more superficial person. She wasn't as kind to people. She was [00:56:00] valuing the wrong things. She was losing her boldness and her authenticity and what she learned from that experience. And what it taught me about change is that change doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's not like you can change one part of yourself and assume all the other parts of yourself will stay fixed through that change because you can't control the spillover effects, and you can't control the way people will respond to you. And so I think it's taught her that she should approach change with a lot of humility and openness, because you might not appreciate all the ways in which it might change you in unexpected ways. And the flip side of that is I spoke with a young man named Scott.

[00:56:38] He's a cancer researcher and a total health nut. If it's in a book somewhere, he's done it. Intermittent fasting, high intensity interval training, he's vegan. He adds turmeric to all of his food eats chia seeds. And when he was 32, he received a stage four bone cancer diagnosis that led him to have to amputate one of his legs, do 18 administrations of [00:57:00] chemotherapy, moved to MD Anderson in Texas for inpatient treatment.

[00:57:03] And in his mind, this is his worst nightmare come true. He had spent so much of his adult life trying to avoid this outcome. He was the A-plus student when it came to managing his health. And yet surprisingly much to his surprise. He said, "if I had known that I would respond psychologically in this way to my worst nightmare, I might never have been as fearful of it in the first place."

[00:57:28] And that was so powerful for me because it showed me like sometimes the change that we will, that we encourage in our life doesn't actually have the positive impact we think it will. And so again, we need to have humility, bearer, be mindful and observant and audit our experiences to make sure it's having the intended impact.

[00:57:47] And then sometimes the changes that we dread that are unexpected and undesired can have silver linings that make us better people in our lives. And so I feel now that I would give the same advice that I would give the same advice [00:58:00] to someone, whether or not they were going through a willed or an unwell change, whether or not they were going through what they believe was a desirable or an undesirable change.

[00:58:08] And that would be approach change with a profound amount of humility and open-mindedness.

[00:58:14] Hala Taha: I love

[00:58:14] that. Thank you so much for sharing. Everybody makes sure you go tune into her podcast, A Slight Change of Plans. She's obviously super well-spoken, very interesting, and bright. Thank you so much for your time.

[00:58:25] The last question that we ask all of our guests is what is your secret to profiting in life?

[00:58:33] Dr. Maya Shankar: I think building a really strong community of supporters around me. I've been the beneficiary of so many incredible mentors in my life. And I try to pay it forward by mentoring others, especially young women of color.

[00:58:47] And I feel like in tough moments or when we're feeling insecure or feeling like we can't accomplish that next goal, tapping into that community for strength and support and wisdom and warmth and insights can [00:59:00] really help who you are and help you get to that next phase. Don't do it yourself, or don't believe you have to do it all on your own.

[00:59:09] Hala Taha: 100%.

[00:59:10] And where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do?

[00:59:14] Dr. Maya Shankar: They can go to my website, mayashankar.com, mayashankar.com . My current passion project and we're all of my heart is that right now is with my podcast, A Slight Change of Plans. They can check it out anywhere that they subscribe to podcasts, Apple, Spotify, iHeartRADIO.

[00:59:29] And if they liked the show, definitely please subscribe, rate, and ship. Thanks so much.

[00:59:34] Hala Taha: Amazing. Thank you so much, Maya.

[00:59:38] Thanks for listening to Young and Profiting Podcast. If you haven't yet, make sure you subscribe to this podcast so you always are notified when we drop a new episode. I loved learning about decision-making with Maya and I was really inspired by her come-up story.

[00:59:53] When Maya was just 15 years old, her promising career as a concert violinist came to an abrupt end. [01:00:00] She had a really serious hand injury, and that forced her to not only give up on her dreams, but to also rediscover her identity in the process inspired by her own personal story. Maya spent the last two decades studying how and why we change.

[01:00:15] She ended up founding the white house behavioral science team also called the nudge team. And she's worked to create better policy using insights from behavioral science. Behavioral science is the study of how our minds work, how we make decisions, how we come up with attitudes, beliefs, and even our own identity.

[01:00:34] This field plays a profoundly important role in our day-to-day lives, which is why it's a topic I love to talk about on the podcast. Human behavioral and behavior science is one of the most frequently talked about concepts on this podcast, because I know it's going to help us move the needle and become more successful. In these outros

[01:00:54] I like to summarize some of the most important parts of the interview to make it really helped stick [01:01:00] in our minds. Repeating concepts is what is going to help us remember things so that we can actually take action and utilize the things that you guys heard about in this podcast. So there's two things I want to recap, nudging and temptation bundling.

[01:01:14] These are the two things I want you to remember most from this interview. So nudging is a word that's used in behavioral science for structuring policies and programs in ways that encourage, but don't compel particular choices. So for example, requiring people to opt out rather than opt into a program.

[01:01:32] So let's say there's a retirement savings program. We think it's good for people. So instead of saying opt into the program, we say, if you don't want to be in it, just opt out. So more people are likely to. Opt out because they're automatically enrolled also, maybe reducing the paperwork necessary to enroll might encourage people to take the quote unquote right actions.

[01:01:55] So that's what nudging is. The next one that I want you guys to [01:02:00] remember is temptation bundling. So we talked about how small habits change that can help us accomplish goals and stop procrastinating with temptation bundling. And this is the idea that you can tie together undesirable tasks with very desirable rewards.

[01:02:15] So for example, you can only listen to your favorite music on a threadmill. It can be really helpful to limit these positive goods to bad activities, as it allows you to then associate positive feelings with these activities over time. So this was one of my favorite conversations. Like I said, I'm obsessed with human behavior.

[01:02:34] So anything on this topic I tend to enjoy. I hope you guys enjoyed it too. And if you want to learn more about human behavior, go check out my episode. Number 43 and 44 with Robert Greene. He is the world famous author of The Laws of Human Nature. And number 43 and number 44 are true YAP classics. They're two of my most highly downloaded episodes and personally my two favorite episodes of all time across the podcast.

[01:02:58] So I hope you take a listen to number [01:03:00] 43 and 44 with Robert Greene. Here's a clip from that episode.

[01:03:05] Robert Greene: Let's bring this down to basics, your success in life and your happiness depends on your ability to get along with other people, to be able to understand them on a deep level, to be able to recognize people who are toxic and avoid them, realize how to get along better and be more persuasive with the people you are dealing with so that they will follow your ideas or be interested in what you have to do or what you have to say so that you're not always butting heads with people's resistance.

[01:03:34] So life gets easier. You're not always having these emotional dramas and also you need to understand yourself better because the big problem life is you don't really understand what motivates your own behavior and you do things unconsciously and you get in trouble. So given that I want to get at the root cause

[01:03:54] of why we misunderstand human behavior.

[01:03:57] Hala Taha: Again, that's number 43 and 44, the laws of [01:04:00] human nature with Robert Greene. As always, I want to shout out a recent Apple Podcast reviewer, and this week shout out, goes to Dera Joey "already on the prowl for more. Great content and approach to getting to the roots to positive overall growth, great conversation and panelists.

[01:04:16] Hala really prepares and it resonates in each episode. I'm a new listener, but as I said, I'm on the prowl for more." Thank you so much, Dera I really appreciate you reaching out and writing us a review and welcome to the YAP family. I love hearing from our new listeners and if you're new, I'd love for you guys to reach out to me, whether that's writing us a review on your favorite

[01:04:35] platform or finding me on social media, you can find me at Instagram, at yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name, it's Hala Taha. And if you tuned in all the way to the end of this episode, you earned some bragging rights. Do me a favor, take a screenshot of this app right now and show me that you listened to the full episode.

[01:04:53] Take the screenshot of this app. Tag me in your story at yapwithhala, and I'm going to reshare it to all my followers. I

[01:05:00] love seeing you guys on social media. I love to connect with you on social media, tag me in your story. DM me, whatever you feel comfortable doing. I want to connect with my listeners. Big thanks to the YAP team as always.

[01:05:11] This is Hala signing off.

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