How to win a negotiation
Getting what you want often requires choosing the right strategy.
CHRIS VOSS: Everybody has cards they're not showing in a negotiation. Everybody.
DAYMOND JOHN: Understanding that when you're negotiating it's what's in it for the other party as well and it's not just self-serving.
DANIEL H PINK: The key here is that we tend to think that persuasion or motivation is something that one person does to another.
KEVIN ZOLLMAN: In such a situation oftentimes the best strategy is very counterintuitive because it involves flipping a coin, rolling a dice or doing something random.
DAN SHAPIRO: So the classic approach to negotiation is positional bargaining. In positional bargaining I have a position, you have a position and we haggle over those positions. Now, the rules to positional bargaining are very clear. You start with an extreme demand, but not so extreme that the other side thinks that you're crazy or bluffing. You concede stubbornly, and you demonstrate a greater willingness than the other side to walk away from the negotiation table.
FREDRIK EKLUND: It's very important to set a floor and a ceiling so you know where to move. Because if you don't you can be manipulated and you can lose yourself in the emotions. If you're a good negotiator you will obviously try at least to be completely disconnected emotionally from the deal and negotiation itself, although you will play emotional. So if you're not upset you can play upset. But none of that matters unless you don't have a floor and a ceiling. So you need to know if you go under the floor you need to walk out or end the negotiation.
KEVIN ZOLLMAN: One of the things that game theorists have found is that in negotiation, especially in negotiations where we're debating how to divide up some resource—classic example in game theory is dividing up a pie but it could be anything like money or some time with a toy or anything where we have to decide how to divide it up. Game theorists have discovered a couple of central principles that make a big difference to who does better in those negotiations. One of the critical things is how patient you are. How willing you are to stay and continue to negotiate. So if I come in in a rush to a car dealership and I say I need a car right now, everyone knows that the car dealer is going to try and take advantage of the fact that you need a car right now and say sorry, we can't give you a discount. But if you come into a car dealership and you say I don't need a car anytime soon. If you give me a good deal today I'll take it, but if you don't I'll leave. Maybe I'll come back tomorrow, maybe the next day, maybe a month later. Then you'll get a better deal.
SHAPIRO: However, this probably isn't the best agreement that you could have come to. All this is doing is arguing over one single factor, a number. And that's the problem of positional bargaining is that I might have a lot of other interests at stake, but none of them are getting shared within this very strict form of positional bargaining. There's another form of negotiation that at the Harvard Negotiation Project some of my colleagues have developed we call it interest based negotiation. The idea here is let's not argue over positions. Let's argue over underlying interests.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: Never have one ask and take no for an answer. That if you're told no on the raise or even if you're told yes, come in with 12 other requests. I want to take a coding class that the company pays for. I want to have a stint in marketing. I want to work overseas for a period of time. I want to be mentored by XYZ. I want to work on this big project. I want to, I want to, I want to. And if by number 20, typically your boss is going to say yes to something that can turn into professional advancement or money down the road.
DAYMOND JOHN: Understanding that when you're negotiating is what's in it for the other party as well and it's not just self-serving. A lot of times people just don't ask the right questions. Instead they're just stating what they want instead of saying how can this situation be better. What do you need for this situation or what are your obstacles.
SHAPIRO: Why do you want the car? Well, I want the car because I have three kids, three boys. I want a safe car. I don't really care about the sunroof—I don't need to look that cool. But I want a car that's not that expensive. I want one that's energy efficient. These are all of my interests. Now, the car dealer has his or her own interests. If I ask you right now on camera what day do you think I bought my most recent car. Literally what day, you should know. It was December 31 right at the end of the year because I knew one of the interests of the car dealer in my area was they needed to get these cars off the lot for the next year's cars. They were more likely to go lower because they had other interests at stake. So interest based negotiation says don't just focus on the positions what you say you want. Focus on the underlying interests. And this is just as true in contemporary society, whether it's a business example, two people arguing over a contract. Don't just focus on the positions, focus on the underlying interests.
CHRIS VOSS: You know successful negotiation is not about getting to yes. It's about mastering no and understanding what the path to an agreement is. We get hammered so much day in and day out with people trying to trap us with yes, trying to corner us, trying to lead us places by getting us to say yes that we get defensive instantly when someone tries to get us to say yes. So you've got to get out of the getting to yes mindset and instead understand that yes is commitment and we're always worried about what we've let ourselves in for when we make a commitment. There are three kinds of yeses: there's commitment, confirmation, and counterfeit. People are most used to giving the counterfeit yes because they've been trapped by the confirmation yes so many times. So the way you master no is understanding what really happens when somebody says no. When yes is commitment, no is protection. If you say no and you've just protected yourself you're actually a little more open to hearing what the other side has to say because you're not worried about what you've committed yourself to. So you can take most questions that are designed to get yes and simply turn them into the same question where the answer is no and it gets you to the same place. If a boss gives an employee an impossible task and the employee says 'Well, you want me to be successful, don't you?' Well, that's pushing for a yes. The flip side question of that instead is, 'Do you want me to fail?' It's stunning what people are comfortable saying no to.
So, first of all understanding that you can use a no to make somebody feel protected and a little more open-minded to hearing what you have to say. Now, the second move after that is what do you want them to say next? What you really want them to say is 'That's right.' You want to be able to summarize how they feel about things and what the circumstances are so that they feel that you've got it. So much so that you look at you in the eye and say 'That's right.' And that's what we say at any given point of time when we see something that we know is completely true and that we're in complete agreement. We say 'That's right!' almost as if we're so totally behind it, it may have even have been a partial epiphany. We're so behind it. We just heard something that we feel is the indisputable truth and in many cases a really good 'That's right' summarized in a way that the other person was actually blind to. They didn't know that those forces were driving them or those passions. But when you say it to them it creates an epiphany on some level where you pointed something out to them that's true that they didn't even realize. They're showing us and telling us that they feel empathy from us. And any time you feel empathy from somebody else, you feel bonded to them. You want to collaborate with them. You want to do whatever you can for them. And that's a great way to find out what kind of latitude somebody has in a deal. And everybody's got latitude someplace.
VOSS: How you use your voice is really important and it's really driven by context more than anything else. And your tone of voice will immediately begin to impact somebody's mood and then immediately how their brain functions. There's actually scientific data out there now that shows us that our brains will work up to 31 percent more effectively if we're in a good mood. So if I smile at you and you see it or you can hear a smile in someone's voice. If I automatically smile at you and you can hear that I like you I will actually be able to reach into your brain, flip the positive switch, put you in a better mood, there are mirror neurons in our brain that we have no control over. They automatically respond. And if I intentionally pout you in a good mood your brain will be working more effectively and that already begins to increase the chances that you're going to collaborate with me. You'll be smarter and you'll like me more at the same time.
JOHN: Also, body language. Over 65 percent of communication is body language. Only seven percent is what you say. The other is how you say it. When you're at a table communicating with somebody do you notice them putting a lot of obstacles in front of you to gather space and push you away, or are they lifting their hair over their ears when they're writing because they're more interested in what you're saying.
VOSS: Now upward and downward inflection. Downward inflection is often used to say this is the way it is. There's no other way. And I will say it exactly like that. If there's a term in a contract that there's no movement on and I want you to know it and feel it without me having to say 'There's no movement on this!' Maybe you want to yell at somebody. That's ineffective because that triggers a different part of the brain and makes people angry and they want to fight. And I've done this in contract negotiations. I've said things like, 'We don't do work for hire.' Just like that. That let's the other side know there's no movement, whatsoever. I also may need to put you in a more collaborative frame of mind and if I want to ask you a question I'll say something like, 'it seems like this is important to you?' And I'll inflect up. It's more driven by context and I can use an upward inflection to encourage you and smile while I'm questioning you. And that will make you feel less attacked by being questioned because people are made to feel a little bit defensive when they're questioned anyway. So if I know if I have to question you, if I want you to think about a different option, then I'm going to be as encouraging as possible while I may be very assertive at the same time.
DANIEL H. PINK: So let me give you a hypothetical. Suppose that you're a parent and you have a daughter, say a teenage daughter whose room is an absolute mess. It just looks like a bomb went off in there and you want your daughter to clean her room. You're trying to sell her on the idea of cleaning her room. What do you do? Well, you could try to bribe her and that might work in the sort term. You could try to threaten her. That might work in the short term. You could try to exhort her. You can try to tell her about the meaning of clean rooms. But there's actually a technique from the counseling literature, really crystallized by a fellow named Mike Pantalon of Yale University, called motivational interviewing. And what you can do more effectively is ask two irrational questions. So, let's say that you have a daughter named Maria, and Maria has a messy room, and you want Maria to clean her room. The two questions you could ask Maria are this: 'Maria, on a scale of one to ten, one meaning I'm not ready at all, ten meaning I'm ready to do it right now. How ready are you, Maria, to clean your room?' Now Maria's room is a pigsty so she's not going to give you a ten or a nine or even a five. Maybe she'll give you a two. So she says 'Dad, I'm a two.' Well, here's where the second question comes in and it's a really interesting counterintuitive question. You say to Maria, 'Okay Maria you're a two. Why didn't you pick a lower number?'
Now our instincts as parents is to say, as a parent of three kids I have this instinct very strongly. If my kid were to say to me I'm a two I would say what, 'Why are you a two? You should be a nine!' But you say 'Why didn't you pick a lower number, Maria?' So here's what happens. Maria has to explain why she isn't a one. And so she says, 'Well, you know, I am 15 and I probably should get my act together. If I had my room cleaner I'd be able to get to school on time faster and maybe see my friends a little bit more. You know, you and mom never know where anything is anyway, so I'm kind of wasting my time asking you to help me.' What happens? With that second question, why didn't you pick a lower number, Maria begins articulating her own reasons for doing something. And this is really axiomatic in sales and persuasion. When people have their own reasons for doing something, not yours, their own reasons for doing something, they believe those reasons more deeply and adhere to the behavior more strongly.
Now suppose Maria says, 'Dad, on a scale of one to ten I'm a one.' Okay, that makes things a little more complicated, but it's actually really, really important to understand this. If you say to Maria – if Maria says, 'Dad, I'm a one,' here's what you say to Maria: 'Maria, what can we do to make you a two?' And what often that does is this. Maria will say, 'Well maybe if you and mom help me for 15 minutes to get this started. Maybe if you maybe not set the table and take out the trash tonight that would free up some time for me.' Because usually when people are a one it's often not because they're purely obstinate. It's because there's some kind of environmental obstacle in front of them. And if someone says they're a one, find out what that obstacle is, try to make them a two and that might give you some more momentum. The example I just gave had to do with parenting, but you can use this more universally. Now you can't whip it out at every single persuasive encounter but you can use it to persuade your boss. You can use it maybe to persuade a reluctant prospect in an actual sales encounter. You can use it with someone – your neighbor who's resisting moving his garbage cans or something like that. The key here, and again you've got to go back to first principles here. The key here is that we tend to think that persuasion or motivation is something that one person does to another, and what the social science tells us very clearly is that it's really something that people do for themselves. And your job as a persuader, as a motivator is to reset the context and surface people's own reasons for doing something. Because it works a lot better.
VOSS: The secret to gaining the upper hand in negotiations is giving the other side the illusion of control. And the illusion of control is typically best given with either questions that begin with the words what or how. Both what and how should be the form of nearly any question where you're trying to gather information. And it's actually one of the ways we say no. The first and best way to say no to anyone is: 'How am I supposed to do that?' Now, the other side actually has no idea as to the number of things you've done with them at the same time. You've conveyed to them you have a problem. It's something that we also refer to as forced empathy, because one of the reasons why we exercise tactical empathy is because we want the other side to see us fairly. We want them to see our position. We want them to see the issues we have. We want them to see the constraints that we have. And when you say to somebody 'How am I supposed to do that,' you make them take a look at your situation before they respond. And they think about it in a number of different ways. And a number of different people I've coached through negotiations who have felt completely helpless. They felt completely taken hostage. In one instance a woman thought she was taken hostage to the future and she just wasn't getting paid. They called her up to give her more work and we taught her to say, trained her, counseled her to say how am I supposed to do that.
They thought about it for a while and they said you're right, you can't. Now notice that response is not word for word directly responsive to her question. What they responded to was they felt like she said to them I can't do this anymore. I've reached my limit. And it's a way to establish a limit in a way that doesn't back the other side into a corner. You really want to be able to let out no a little bit at a time, and the first way to start letting out no as an answer is how am I supposed to do that. Now ultimately with that question we all imagine that the other side is going to say 'Because I said so' or 'Because you have to.' That's actually where you ultimately want to be with that question. That's a great way to find out whether or not you've gotten everything you could on that particular term. Because the other side's most angry response is 'Because you have to.' It's not them walking away. It's not them terminating the deal. It's not them giving you any more of an ultimatum. It's them saying no, I've got no more room to give with out the negotiations breaking off. So given the other side the illusion of control while signaling limits, it's a great way to stay in the conversation and find out that you're not leaving anything on the table. So the more you let the other side feel like they're in control, the more amenable they are to collaboration. You really don't want people to feel out of control.
VOSS: The F word in negotiations is fair. Fair is the F bomb, and when you begin to look for it, it's stunning. In how many negotiations somebody drops the F bomb in the negotiation? And when somebody says we just want what's fair, That's actually a really bad sign. One of two things is going on. Now, the cutthroat negotiators know how much I can punch your buttons if I say I've given you a fair offer. And that will immediately put you on the defensive and make you worry about whether or not you're being fair and most people have an instinctive feeling about fair price, fair market. Fair is just like this incredibly overused term in negotiations. I just want what's fair, what's the fair market price. So if I say I've given you a fair offer and I'm accusing you of being unfair I've immediately knocked you back on your heels. It's a way for me to gain an advantage on you, if I'm that kind of a negotiator. The flip side of it is, maybe I've been assertive enough in the negotiations and I haven't been using enough tactical empathy that the other person feels like I'm taking, taking, taking from them, and they'll respond with 'I just want what's fair.' That may be someone genuinely telling me very indirectly that they feel I've been far too aggressive. And if they feel I've been aggressive, and if they feel treated unfairly, one of two things is going to happen. They're either going to walk away from a great deal, or they're going to make implementation painful. And when implementation of a negotiation is painful, when they drag their feet, when they don't make deadlines, when they don't deliver the product quality they're supposed to deliver, when they're not as thorough and paying as much attention to detail because they didn't feel it was a fair deal, they destroy your profit. So you have to really keep an eye out for the F bomb in negotiations. And when somebody else feels they've been treated unfairly they're probably going to hurt you over it.
ZOLLMAN: When one is confronted with a situation that's truly zero sum where one party is going to win and the other party is going to lose, the situation is very complicated and sometimes difficult to analyze. Game theory spent much of its early days analyzing zero sum games and trying to figure out what's the best strategy. It's a little complicated because it depends critically on how sophisticated you think the other party is. If they're very, very, very smart, the chances that you're going to out-think them are not very high. In such a situation, oftentimes the best strategy is very counterintuitive because it involves flipping a coin or rolling a dice or doing something random. Professional poker players know this, and they oftentimes advocate in poker strategy books that one should occasionally do something completely counterintuitive in order to keep your opponents off guard. And, in fact, game theory has shown that this is good, solid mathematically well founded advice. That oftentimes what you want to do is engage in a kind of random strategy – game theorists call this a mixed strategy – in order to make sure that your opponent can't get the leg up on you. The nice thing about these random strategies is that they ensure that your opponent can never out-think you. So even if you think your opponent is a little smarter than you, or a little bit more sophisticated than you, or has a little bit more information than you do, the fact that you're being random to a certain extent means that they can't out-think you. Now how do you figure out how to be random? I'm not saying just flip a coin all the time, or whatever. What game theorists have figured out is that in zero sum games, the best strategy to pursue when you're against a sophisticated opponent is to adopt the strategy which minimizes your maximum loss. This is sometimes called the mini-max strategy.
So the idea is you think what's the worst case scenario for me. What could my opponent do that would make me worse off? And then you figure out what's the best strategy against that. So you're minimizing your maximum loss. Game theorists prove that if you use this way of thinking, minimizing your maximum loss, you ensure that no matter how sophisticated your opponent is you've guarded against the worst case scenario and not only that, but in zero sum games you've done the best you can possibly do. That's not true in games that aren't zero sum, so one has to be very careful about employing this strategy because if you're mistaken and you're not in a zero sum interaction, you can end up ruining it for everybody. But if you're truly in a zero sum interaction, this is one of the strategies that you could use.
VOSS: A summary is designed to let the other side know that you really understand what's going on now and, if nothing else, at least you understand their position. There are a lot of negotiators that really will give in on a deal because being understood is more important than getting what they want. In particular, the assertive negotiator, being understood is actually more important to them than actually making the deal. So, everybody wants to be understood anyway. Let people know you completely understand where they're coming from, and that's the design of a summary. Summarizing the facts and how they feel about the facts. And actually if you can summarize their feelings about the facts that are driving them but that they're blind to, it will make a big difference to them because then they feel really understood. That empathy connection is there. What you want to do is put people in a position where they feel connected enough to you that they're willing to collaborate with you. They're willing to show you the things that they were scared to tell you about before. You know the cards that everybody holds in a negotiation? That if you could just see those cards, you might be able to negotiate a completely different deal? Well, that's where this entire approach is really going—everybody has cards they're not showing in a negotiation. Everybody. And if you could get the other side to show you those cards, we call them black swans, those little things that make all the difference. If you can get them to show you the black swans, to reveal those black swans, then you can probably make a better deal than you ever had in mind.
- There are many variables in every negotiation, which means there is no silver bullet or magic phrase you can use to win every single time. On top of that, the idea of "winning" changes depending on the situation. The key to success is being able to identify the type of negotiation and use a strategy that gets you what you want.
- "Successful negotiation is not about getting to yes," says former FBI negotiator Chris Voss. "It's about mastering no and understanding what the path to an agreement is."
- In this video, experts including Voss, Shark Tank investor Daymond John, author and real estate broker Fredrik Eklund, game theorist Kevin Zollman, Harvard International Negotiation Program director Dan Shapiro, and others detail the different types of negotiations and share tips on how to navigate them effectively so that both sides feel like they've arrived at a good spot, somewhere near the center. You can also learn how to outsmart an opponent in a zero-sum situation.
- 5 Minute Drill: How to Negotiate Like a Pro - Big Think ›
- How to establish financial freedom and negotiate a better salary ... ›
- How to Negotiate Your Way Out of Conflict - Big Think ›
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Gain-of-function mutation research may help predict the next pandemic — or, critics argue, cause one.
This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.
"I was intrigued," says Ron Fouchier, in his rich, Dutch-accented English, "in how little things could kill large animals and humans."
It's late evening in Rotterdam as darkness slowly drapes our Skype conversation.
This fascination led the silver-haired virologist to venture into controversial gain-of-function mutation research — work by scientists that adds abilities to pathogens, including experiments that focus on SARS and MERS, the coronavirus cousins of the COVID-19 agent.
If we are to avoid another influenza pandemic, we will need to understand the kinds of flu viruses that could cause it. Gain-of-function mutation research can help us with that, says Fouchier, by telling us what kind of mutations might allow a virus to jump across species or evolve into more virulent strains. It could help us prepare and, in doing so, save lives.
Many of his scientific peers, however, disagree; they say his experiments are not worth the risks they pose to society.
A virus and a firestorm
The Dutch virologist, based at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, caused a firestorm of controversy about a decade ago, when he and Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced that they had successfully mutated H5N1, a strain of bird flu, to pass through the air between ferrets, in two separate experiments. Ferrets are considered the best flu models because their respiratory systems react to the flu much like humans.
The mutations that gave the virus its ability to be airborne transmissible are gain-of-function (GOF) mutations. GOF research is when scientists purposefully cause mutations that give viruses new abilities in an attempt to better understand the pathogen. In Fouchier's experiments, they wanted to see if it could be made airborne transmissible so that they could catch potentially dangerous strains early and develop new treatments and vaccines ahead of time.
The problem is: their mutated H5N1 could also cause a pandemic if it ever left the lab. In Science magazine, Fouchier himself called it "probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make."
Just three special traits
Recreated 1918 influenza virionsCredit: Cynthia Goldsmith / CDC / Dr. Terrence Tumpey / Public domain via Wikipedia
For H5N1, Fouchier identified five mutations that could cause three special traits needed to trigger an avian flu to become airborne in mammals. Those traits are (1) the ability to attach to cells of the throat and nose, (2) the ability to survive the colder temperatures found in those places, and (3) the ability to survive in adverse environments.
A minimum of three mutations may be all that's needed for a virus in the wild to make the leap through the air in mammals. If it does, it could spread. Fast.
Fouchier calculates the odds of this happening to be fairly low, for any given virus. Each mutation has the potential to cripple the virus on its own. They need to be perfectly aligned for the flu to jump. But these mutations can — and do — happen.
"In 2013, a new virus popped up in China," says Fouchier. "H7N9."
H7N9 is another kind of avian flu, like H5N1. The CDC considers it the most likely flu strain to cause a pandemic. In the human outbreaks that occurred between 2013 and 2015, it killed a staggering 39% of known cases; if H7N9 were to have all five of the gain-of-function mutations Fouchier had identified in his work with H5N1, it could make COVID-19 look like a kitten in comparison.
H7N9 had three of those mutations in 2013.
Gain-of-function mutation: creating our fears to (possibly) prevent them
Flu viruses are basically eight pieces of RNA wrapped up in a ball. To create the gain-of-function mutations, the research used a DNA template for each piece, called a plasmid. Making a single mutation in the plasmid is easy, Fouchier says, and it's commonly done in genetics labs.
If you insert all eight plasmids into a mammalian cell, they hijack the cell's machinery to create flu virus RNA.
"Now you can start to assemble a new virus particle in that cell," Fouchier says.
One infected cell is enough to grow many new virus particles — from one to a thousand to a million; viruses are replication machines. And because they mutate so readily during their replication, the new viruses have to be checked to make sure it only has the mutations the lab caused.
The virus then goes into the ferrets, passing through them to generate new viruses until, on the 10th generation, it infected ferrets through the air. By analyzing the virus's genes in each generation, they can figure out what exact five mutations lead to H5N1 bird flu being airborne between ferrets.
And, potentially, people.
"This work should never have been done"
The potential for the modified H5N1 strain to cause a human pandemic if it ever slipped out of containment has sparked sharp criticism and no shortage of controversy. Rutgers molecular biologist Richard Ebright summed up the far end of the opposition when he told Science that the research "should never have been done."
"When I first heard about the experiments that make highly pathogenic avian influenza transmissible," says Philip Dormitzer, vice president and chief scientific officer of viral vaccines at Pfizer, "I was interested in the science but concerned about the risks of both the viruses themselves and of the consequences of the reaction to the experiments."
In 2014, in response to researchers' fears and some lab incidents, the federal government imposed a moratorium on all GOF research, freezing the work.
Some scientists believe gain-of-function mutation experiments could be extremely valuable in understanding the potential risks we face from wild influenza strains, but only if they are done right. Dormitzer says that a careful and thoughtful examination of the issue could lead to processes that make gain-of-function mutation research with viruses safer.
But in the meantime, the moratorium stifled some research into influenzas — and coronaviruses.
The National Academy of Science whipped up some new guidelines, and in December of 2017, the call went out: GOF studies could apply to be funded again. A panel formed by Health and Human Services (HHS) would review applications and make the decision of which studies to fund.
As of right now, only Kawaoka and Fouchier's studies have been approved, getting the green light last winter. They are resuming where they left off.
Pandora's locks: how to contain gain-of-function flu
Here's the thing: the work is indeed potentially dangerous. But there are layers upon layers of safety measures at both Fouchier's and Kawaoka's labs.
"You really need to think about it like an onion," says Rebecca Moritz of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Moritz is the select agent responsible for Kawaoka's lab. Her job is to ensure that all safety standards are met and that protocols are created and drilled; basically, she's there to prevent viruses from escaping. And this virus has some extra-special considerations.
The specific H5N1 strain Kawaoka's lab uses is on a list called the Federal Select Agent Program. Pathogens on this list need to meet special safety considerations. The GOF experiments have even more stringent guidelines because the research is deemed "dual-use research of concern."
There was debate over whether Fouchier and Kawaoka's work should even be published.
"Dual-use research of concern is legitimate research that could potentially be used for nefarious purposes," Moritz says. At one time, there was debate over whether Fouchier and Kawaoka's work should even be published.
While the insights they found would help scientists, they could also be used to create bioweapons. The papers had to pass through a review by the U.S. National Science Board for Biosecurity, but they were eventually published.
Intentional biowarfare and terrorism aside, the gain-of-function mutation flu must be contained even from accidents. At Wisconsin, that begins with the building itself. The labs are specially designed to be able to contain pathogens (BSL-3 agricultural, for you Inside Baseball types).
They are essentially an airtight cement bunker, negatively pressurized so that air will only flow into the lab in case of any breach — keeping the viruses pushed in. And all air in and out of the lap passes through multiple HEPA filters.
Inside the lab, researchers wear special protective equipment, including respirators. Anyone coming or going into the lab must go through an intricate dance involving stripping and putting on various articles of clothing and passing through showers and decontamination.
And the most dangerous parts of the experiment are performed inside primary containment. For example, a biocontainment cabinet, which acts like an extra high-security box, inside the already highly-secure lab (kind of like the radiation glove box Homer Simpson is working in during the opening credits).
"Many people behind the institution are working to make sure this research can be done safely and securely." — REBECCA MORITZ
The Federal Select Agent program can come and inspect you at any time with no warning, Moritz says. At the bare minimum, the whole thing gets shaken down every three years.
There are numerous potential dangers — a vial of virus gets dropped; a needle prick; a ferret bite — but Moritz is confident that the safety measures and guidelines will prevent any catastrophe.
"The institution and many people behind the institution are working to make sure this research can be done safely and securely," Moritz says.
No human harm has come of the work yet, but the potential for it is real.
"Nature will continue to do this"
They were dead on the beaches.
In the spring of 2014, another type of bird flu, H10N7, swept through the harbor seal population of northern Europe. Starting in Sweden, the virus moved south and west, across Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. It is estimated that 10% of the entire seal population was killed.
The virus's evolution could be tracked through time and space, Fouchier says, as it progressed down the coast. Natural selection pushed through gain-of-function mutations in the seals, similarly to how H5N1 evolved to better jump between ferrets in his lab — his lab which, at the time, was shuttered.
"We did our work in the lab," Fouchier says, with a high level of safety and security. "But the same thing was happening on the beach here in the Netherlands. And so you can tell me to stop doing this research, but nature will continue to do this day in, day out."
Critics argue that the knowledge gained from the experiments is either non-existent or not worth the risk; Fouchier argues that GOF experiments are the only way to learn crucial information on what makes a flu virus a pandemic candidate.
"If these three traits could be caused by hundreds of combinations of five mutations, then that increases the risk of these things happening in nature immensely," Fouchier says.
"With something as crucial as flu, we need to investigate everything that we can," Fouchier says, hoping to find "a new Achilles' heel of the flu that we can use to stop the impact of it."
From "mutilated males" to "wandering wombs," dodgy science affects how we view the female body still today.
- The history of medicine and biology often has been embarrassingly wrong when it comes to female anatomy and was surprisingly resistant to progress.
- Aristotle and the ancient Greeks are much to blame for the mistaken notion of women as cold, passive, and little more than a "mutilated man."
- Thanks to this dubious science, and the likes of Sigmund Freud, we live today with a legacy that judges women according to antiquated biology and psychology.
The story of medicine has not been particularly kind to women. Not only was little anatomical or scientific research done on women or on women-specific issues, doctors often treated them differently.
Even today, women are up to ten times more likely to have their symptoms explained away as being psychological or psychosomatic than men. Worryingly, women are 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack, and drugs designed for "everyone" are actually much less effective (for pain) or too effective (for sleeping) in women.
Are these differences real or imagined? And what can the history of female medicine teach us about where we are today?
A mutilated male
Aristotle is rightly considered one of the greatest minds of all time and is recognized as the founding father of many disciplines, including biology. He was one of the most rigorous and comprehensive scientists and field researchers the world had known. He categorized a large number of species based on a wide range of traits, such as movement, longevity, and sensory capacity. His views on women, then, stemmed from what he thought of as good, proper study. The problem is that he got pretty much all of it wrong.
According to Aristotle, during pregnancy, it was the man who, alone, contributed the all-important "form" of a fetus (that is, its defining nature and personality), whereas the woman provided only the matter (that is, the environment and sustenance to grow the fetus, which was provided by the menstrual blood).
From this, Aristotle extrapolated all sorts of dubious conclusions. He ventured that the man was superior, active, and dominant, and the woman inferior, passive, and submissive. As such, the woman's role was to nurture children, run a household, and be silent and obedient — political and cultural manifestations of dodgy biology. If women did not provide a child's form and nature, how important could they really be?
Given this passivity, Aristotle argued that the woman must be associated with other passive things, like being cold and slow. The man, being dynamic and energetic, must be hot and fast. From this, Aristotle concluded that any defects or problems in childbirth can only be due to the sluggishness of the female womb. Even the positive biological aspects of being female, such as greater longevity, were put down to this cold rigidity — a lack of metabolism and spirit. Most notorious of all, since Aristotle believed that female children were themselves the result of an incomplete and underdeveloped gestation, women were simply "mutilated males" whose mothers' cold wombs had overpowered the warm, vital, male sperm.
Aristotle can still be counted as a great mind, but when it came to women, his ideas have not aged well in just how far they negatively influenced what came after. Given that his works were seen as the authority well into the 16th century, he left quite the pernicious legacy.
A wandering womb
But, how much can we really blame Aristotle? Without the aid of modern scientific equipment, physicians and biologists were left to guess about female anatomy. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and Aristotle's ideas of a troublesome uterus became so mainstream that they led to one of the more bizarre ideas in medical history: the wandering womb.
The "wandering womb" is the idea that the womb is actually some kind of roaming parasite in the body, possibly even a separate organism. According to this theory, after a woman menstruates, her womb becomes hot and dry and so becomes extra mobile. It is transformed into a voracious hunter. The womb will dart from organ to organ, seeking to steal its moisture and other vital fluids. This parasitic behavior caused all sorts of (female only) illnesses.
If a woman had asthma, the womb was leeching the lungs. Stomach aches, it was in the gut. And if it attacked the heart (which the ancients thought was the source of our thoughts), then it would cause all manner of mental health issues. In fact, the Greek word for womb is "hystera," and so when we call someone (often a woman) hysterical, we are saying that their womb is causing mischief.
The "solutions" or "remedies" for a wandering womb were as strange as the theory. Since the womb was supposed to be attracted to sweet smells, placing flowers or perfumes around the vagina would "lure" it down. On the flip side, if you smoked noxious substances or ate disgusting foods, it would "repel" the womb away. By using all manner of smells, you could make the womb move wherever you wanted.
The oddest "remedy" — and most male-centric of all — is that, since the wandering womb was said to be caused by heat and dryness, a good solution would be male semen, which was thought of as cooling and wet. And so, the ancient and highly inaccurate myth was born that sex could cure a woman of her "hysteria."
A lingering problem
We live today with the legacy of this kind of thinking. Freud was much taken with the idea of "hysteria," and although he did accept that men could be subject to it as well, he believed it was overwhelmingly a female problem caused by female biology. The woman, for Freud, is mostly defined by her "sexual function." What Freud calls "normal femininity" (the preferred and best outcome) is defined by passivity. A woman's ideal development is one which moves from being active and "phallic" to passive and vaginal.
Nowadays, Freud and Aristotle's legacy lies in just how easily women are defined by their sexuality. Given that men and women, both, are equally dependent on their biology, it is curious how much more often women are reduced to theirs. The idea that women are more emotional or slaves to their hormones than men is still a depressingly familiar trope. It is an idea that goes back to the Greeks.
If we think biology is important to who we are (as it most certainly is), we ought to make sure that the biology is as good and accurate as it can be.
A global survey shows the majority of countries favor Android over iPhone.
- When Android was launched soon after Apple's own iPhone, Steve Jobs threatened to "destroy" it.
- Ever since, and across the world, the rivalry between both systems has animated users.
- Now the results are in: worldwide, consumers clearly prefer one side — and it's not Steve Jobs'.
A woman on her phone in Havana, Cuba. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous the world over — and so has the divide between Android and iPhone users.Credit: Yamil Lage / AFP via Getty Images.
Us versus them: it's the archetypal binary. It makes the world understandable by dividing it into two competing halves: labor against capital, West against East, men against women.
These maps are the first to show the dividing lines between one of the world's more recent binaries: Android vs. Apple. Published by Electronics Hub, they are based on a qualitative analysis of almost 350,000 tweets worldwide that presented positive, neutral, and negative attitudes toward Android and/or Apple.
Steve Jobs wanted to go "thermonuclear"
Feelings between Android and Apple were pretty tribal from the get-go. It was Steve Jobs himself who said, when Google rolled out Android a mere ten months after Apple launched the iPhone, "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Buying a phone is like picking a side in the eternal feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Each choice for automatically comes with an in-built arsenal of arguments against.
If you are an iPhone person, you appreciate the sleekness and simplicity of its design, and you are horrified by the confusing mess that is the Android operating system. If you are an Android aficionado, you pity the iPhone user, a captive of an overly expensive closed ecosystem, designed to extract money from its users.
Even without resorting to those extremes, many of us will recognize which side of the dividing line that we are on. Like the American Civil War, that line runs through families and groups of friends, but that would be a bit confusing to chart geographically. To un-muddle the information, these maps zoom out to state and country level.
If the contest is based on the number of countries, Android wins. In all, 74 of the 142 countries surveyed prefer Android (in green on the map). Only 65 favor Apple (colored grey). That's a 52/48 split, which may not sound like a decisive vote, but it was good enough for Boris Johnson to get Brexit done (after he got breakfast done, of course).
And yes, math-heads: 74 plus 65 is three short of 142. Belarus, Fiji, and Peru (in yellow on the map) could not decide which side to support in the Global Phone War.
What about the United States, home of both the Android and the iPhone? Another victory for the former, albeit a slightly narrower one: 30.16 percent of the tweets about Android were positive versus just 29.03 percent of the ones about Apple.
United States: Texas surrounded!
Credit: Electronics Hub
There can be only one winner per state, though, and that leads to this preponderance of Android logos. Frankly, it's a relief to see a map showing a visceral divide within the United States that is not the coasts versus the heartland.
- Apple dominates in 19 states: a solid Midwestern bloc, another of states surrounding Texas, the Dakotas and California, plus North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
- And that's it. The other 32 are the United States of Android. You can drive from Seattle to Miami without straying into iPhone territory. But no stopovers in Dallas or Houston – both are behind enemy lines!
North America: strongly leaning toward Android
Credit: Electronics Hub
Only eight of North America's 21 countries surveyed fall into the Apple category.
- The U.S. and Canada lean Android, while Mexico goes for the iPhone.
- Central America is divided, but here too Android wins hands down, 5-2.
Europe: Big Five divided
Credit: Electronics Hub
In Europe, Apple wins, with 20 countries preferring the iPhone, 17 going for Android, and Belarus sitting on the fence.
- Of Western Europe's Big Five markets, three (UK, Germany, Spain) are pro-Android, and two (France, Italy) are pro-Apple.
- Czechia and Slovakia are an Apple island in the Android sea that is Central Europe. Glad to see there is still something the divorcees can agree on.
South America: almost even
Credit: Electronics Hub
In South America, the divide is almost even.
- Five countries prefer Android, four Apple, and one is undecided.
- In Peru, both Android- and Apple-related tweets were 25 percent positive.
Africa: watch out for Huawei
Credit: Electronics Hub
In Africa, Android wins by 17 countries versus Apple's 15.
- There's a solid Android bloc running from South Africa via DR Congo all the way to Ethiopia.
- iPhone countries are scattered throughout the north (Algeria), west (Guinea), east (Somalia), and south (Namibia).
Huawei — increasingly popular across the continent — could soon dramatically change the picture in Africa. Currently still running on Android, the Chinese phone manufacturer has just launched its own operating system, called Harmony.
Middle East: Iran vs. Saudi Arabia (again)
Credit: Electronics Hub
In the Middle East and Central Asia, Android wins 8 countries to Apple's 6.
- But it's complicated. One Turkish tweeter wondered how it is that iPhones seem more popular in the Asian half of Istanbul, while Android phones prevailed in the European part of the city.
- The phone divide matches up with the region's main geopolitical one: Iran prefers Android, Saudi Arabia the iPhone.
Asia-Pacific: Apple on the periphery
Credit: Electronics Hub
Another wafer-thin majority for Android in the Asia-Pacific region: 13 countries versus 12 for Apple — and one abstention (Fiji).
- The two giants of the Asian mainland, India and China, are both Android countries. Apple countries are on the periphery.
- And if India is Android, its rival Pakistan must be Apple. Same with North and South Korea.
Experts point to the fact that both operating systems are becoming more alike with every new generation as a potential resolution to the conflict. But as any student of human behavior will confirm: smaller differences will only exacerbate the rivalry between both camps.
Maps taken from Electronics Hub, reproduced with kind permission.
Strange Maps #1096
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People tend to reflexively assume that fun events – like vacations – will go by really quickly.
For many people, summer vacation can't come soon enough – especially for the half of Americans who canceled their summer plans last year due to the pandemic.
But when a vacation approaches, do you ever get the feeling that it's almost over before it starts?
If so, you're not alone.
In some recent studies Gabriela Tonietto, Sam Maglio, Eric VanEpps and I conducted, we found that about half of the people we surveyed indicated that their upcoming weekend trip felt like it would end as soon as it started.
This feeling can have a ripple effect. It can change the way trips are planned – you might, for example, be less likely to schedule extra activities. At the same time, you might be more likely to splurge on an expensive dinner because you want to make the best of the little time you think you have.
Where does this tendency come from? And can it be avoided?
Not all events are created equal
When people look forward to something, they usually want it to happen as soon as possible and last as long as possible.
We first explored the effect of this attitude in the context of Thanksgiving.
We chose Thanksgiving because almost everyone in the U.S. celebrates it, but not everyone looks forward to it. Some people love the annual family get-together. Others – whether it's the stress of cooking, the tedium of cleaning or the anxiety of dealing with family drama – dread it.
So on the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2019, we surveyed 510 people online and asked them to tell us whether they were looking forward to the holiday. Then we asked them how far away it seemed, and how long they felt it would last. We had them move a 100-point slider – 0 meaning very short and 100 meaning very long – to a location that reflected their feelings.
As we suspected, the more participants looked forward to their Thanksgiving festivities, the farther away it seemed and shorter it felt. Ironically, longing for something seems to shrink its duration in the mind's eye.
Winding the mind's clock
Most people believe the idiom “time flies when you're having fun," and research has, indeed, shown that when time seems to pass by quickly, people assume the task must have been engaging and enjoyable.
We reasoned that people might be over-applying their assumption about the relationship between time and fun when judging the duration of events yet to happen.
As a result, people tend to reflexively assume that fun events – like vacations – will go by really quickly. Meanwhile, pining for something can make the time leading up to the event seem to drag. The combination of its beginning pushed farther away in their minds – with its end pulled closer – resulted in our participants' anticipating that something they looked forward would feel as if it had almost no duration at all.
In another study, we asked participants to imagine going on a weekend trip that they either expected to be fun or terrible. We then asked them how far away the start and end of this trip felt like using a similar 0 to 100 scale. 46% of participants evaluated the positive weekend as feeling like it had no duration at all: They marked the beginning and the end of the vacation virtually at the same location when using the slider scale.
Thinking in hours and days
Our goal was to show how these two judgments of an event – the fact that it simultaneously seems farther away and is assumed to last for less time – can nearly eliminate the event's duration in the mind's eye.
We reasoned that if we didn't explicitly highlight these two separate pieces – and instead directly asked them about the duration of the event – a smaller portion of people would indicate virtually no duration for something they looked forward to.
We tested this theory in another study, in which we told participants that they would watch two five-minute-long videos back-to-back. We described the second video as either humorous or boring, and then asked them how long they thought each video would feel like it lasted.
We found that the participants predicted that the funny video would still feel shorter and was farther away than the boring one. But we also found that participants believed it would last a bit longer than the responses we received in the earlier studies.
This finding gives us a way to overcome this biased perception: focus on the actual duration. Because in this study, participants directly reported how long the funny video would last – and not the perceived distance of its beginning and its end – they were far less likely to assume it would be over just as it started.
While it sounds trivial and obvious, we often rely on our subjective feelings – not objective measures of time – when deciding how long a period of time will feel and how to best use it.
So when looking forward to much-anticipated events like vacations, it's important to remind yourself just how many days it will last.
You'll get more out of the experience – and, hopefully, put yourself in a better position to take advantage of the time you do have.