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Human Nature: Understanding Our Hidden Logic

By January 22, 2019October 28th, 2020legal technology, psychology, wisdom

Let’s talk about the hidden “logic” that guides our decisions and shapes our motivations.

Understanding this is key if you want to succeed in pretty much every area of your life.

Too many people are unrealistic about what it takes to achieve success.

And this is especially true for lawyers who’re attempting to successfully incorporate technology into their practices.

Adopting new technology is an act of change. In some cases, radical change.

Why are so many of us so delusional in our expectation of successfully adopting new technology and making a significant change?

Why are we so optimistic about meeting the challenge of making big changes?

Because we fail to factor in good old human nature.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on some obvious aspects of human nature that work against the adoption of new technology.

People don’t like change, and they don’t like feeling uncomfortable or awkward.

And adopting new technology triggers all three of these deep-seated human reactions.

Let’s repeat this list to make sure to drive the point home.

  • People have a deep-seated aversion to change
  • People have a deep-seated desire to avoid any kind of discomfort
  • People have a deep-seated desire to avoid feeling awkward

Adopting new technology tends to trigger at least one of those feelings, and it often triggers all three.

The stark fact is: any kind of change that is being attempted will be heavily influenced by human nature.

If you transition to a paperless practice you can get the best scanner and set up well-thought-out systems for scanning and managing documents in digital form.

But if you don’t get “buy-in” from everyone in the office the project will face serious roadblocks.

How do you get buy-in from your co-workers?

You can try commanding them to obey, but that will create resistance and produce more roadblocks.

Or you can persuade them using powerful psychological tactics that are scientifically proven to reduce resistance and encourage participation.

Strangely, these tactics are not as widely known as one would tend to believe they would be. After all, these are proven methods of convincing people to go along with your requests.

Of course, there are no methods that work on everyone all the time. But these methods work surprisingly well on most people most of the time.

The bottom line is: humans are motivated to make decisions and take actions according to a kind of hidden logic.

And once you understand that hidden logic you can motivate people more powerfully (hint: it’s not “logic” in the sense of pure rationality, by the way).

This hidden logic works on every person most of the time, even though they don’t realize it.

However, even after you learn about the hidden logic you will still be influenced by it—even though you understand how it works.

This hidden logic is the basis for all kinds of self-motivation and third-part manipulation.

If you want to read compelling scientific studies of this hidden logic there are several contemporary books that are widely studied by so-called “compliance professionals.”

That is, people whose job it is to persuade people to take specific actions, or otherwise comply with requests to act in a certain way.

The Persuasion Guru

Perhaps the most famous of these books is one called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini—a professor of psychology at Arizona State University.

Cialdini has reportedly been hired by the campaigns of major presidential candidates to help craft powerful messaging strategies based on his deep understanding of subconscious motivations that we all tend to be guided by.

Charlie Munger, a Harvard educated lawyer who famously founded the law firm Munger, Tolles and even more famously partnered with Warren Buffett is a huge fan of Robert Cialdini’s work.

So much so, that he gave Cialdini $100,000 worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock.

Highly successful people like Charlie Munger understand that success is more easily achieved when you are intimately familiar with the hidden forces of human nature.

And so I submit that you too should become a student of human nature.

You can become a guru of Human Nature too

Learning more about the hidden logic that guides our decisions and shapes our motivations will help you persuade and motivate others. But, just as importantly, it will help you persuade and motivate yourself.

I could give you a list of other good books to read about human nature and persuasion, but you need to read Cialdini’s book Influence first. And if you’ve already read it, read it again.

Charlie Munger has read it multiple times. And he’s read many other books on human motivation. Munger is mostly curious about human misjudgment, which is almost always created by the hidden forces of which we are completely oblivious.

In fact, he’s given talks on the common cognitive glitches that lead to human misjudgment.

18th Century essayist and philosopher Thomas Carlyle once remarked that “the greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.”

After spending a lot of time studying the hidden forces that are part of everyone’s deep-seated human nature, I understand his remark.

We all want to believe that we have a keen understanding of why we behave the way we do.

But the reality is we don’t have a very good idea. Not because we’re not curious and perceptive. Not because we are stupid or flawed in any way.

But because these hidden forces are hidden from all of us in insidious ways.

And people who don’t believe they’re influenced by anything other than their conscious thoughts are the easiest ones to manipulate. If one is so inclined.

My recommendation is that you learn about these forces to help better guide your own decision-making. And also to help you motivate others around you to act in ways that are beneficial to them.

And lastly, I want to tie this back to the use of technology.

How this affects the use of technology

If you believe that simply buying new technology will produce amazing results without needing to factor in human nature then you’re not being sufficiently realistic.

Human nature is the prime mover of all change in our society. That was true 2,000 years ago and it will be true 2,000 years from now as well.

Unless robots take over the world and push us (and our pesky hidden “logic”) aside.


Until that happens, take care and keep focused on your most important long-term goals.

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