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Including Extra Instructions Before a Survey Question: A Great Example from UW

I received a paper survey from the University of Washington Medical Center. It included this question about health care in the last 3 months:


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Researchers identify features that make a message persuasive

Cornell researchers have developed an algorithm that predicts which version of a tweet will be retweeted more.  Here are a few of the things they found most likely to generate retweets (to read more or for the full list please click here):

  • Ask people to share. Words like ”please,” “pls,” “plz” and, of course, “retweet” were common in successful messages.

  • Imitate the style of newspaper headlines. (In their tests, the researchers used the New York Times as a model.)

  • Use words that appear often in other retweeted messages.

  • Use words that express positive or negative sentiment.

  • Refer to other people, not just yourself. Use third person pronouns.

To test your own tweets, visit their website.

Chemistry is why we remember negative comments longer than positive ones


A recent HBR article notes negative comments result in our bodies producing higher levels of cortisol that can last for 26+ hours. Positive comments result in our bodies producing oxytocin but the effect doesn’t last as long so it isn’t as impactful. Unfortunately, managers are using both positive and negative comments thereby confusing their employees and creating more cortisol production.

When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.