< BACK TO Home Page 50 TOPICS Behaviour

Stories you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations

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Resources for Speakers - Anecdotes About Unusual Behaviour

Need more quotes? click here for extracts from books on Behaviour


3 guys Washington state streaked through a restaurant wearing only shoes and hats - it was middle of winter minus 7 degrees, so they left their car outside with engine running so could make a quick getaway ... unfortunately someone stole it.


Little known useless fact: You can't lick your own elbow (And 90% of people who are told this will immediately try)

Irrational Ideas

We develop quite strong ideas about cleanliness - modern Western society believes that a) imperative to wash regularly and b) wash in private. many earlier societies regarded bathing as unhealthy, and since everyone smelled of dry sweat, no-one noticed. And many societies (ancient Rome, modern Finland) take mixed public bathing for granted. Yet paradoxically, washing the dead is an almost universal human custom - serves absolutely no practical purpose, but meets deep symbolic emotional ones

Hoarding is a pleasure - people like seeing their stuff. They tend to be more creative - canimagine multiple things they cd do with the stuff, but eventually that becomes blocking bc can't decide where to start.

Mirrors are placed near elevators as a psychological trick to make the wait seem more tolerable. People like to look at themselves.

Burning Man

Burning Man festival in California - every year large number (mainly men) gather for a festival celebrating um... well anyway it culminates in the burning of a huge wooden figure - now 50ft high

$69 app that helps you persuade someone to your POV. Sends 60 stories to their social media feed - real stories, but ones which back you up. (Most pop topic is guys getting more sex from GF)

Being Good

Moral stories don't necessarily make more moral children. Kang Lee, Victoria Talwar and others studied the effectiveness of classic moral stories in promoting honesty among 3- to 7-year-olds. They found stories like Pinocchio and The Boy Who Cried Wolf failed to reduce lying in children. However, the story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree significantly increased truth-telling. Stories that emphasized the bad effects of lying had no effect, but stories that emphasized the good effects of telling the truth did have an effect.


The human brain takes 1/10th of a second to interpret incoming information. Because of this we are technically always living in the past and our brains have to predict what is going to happen in the next 1/10th of a second so we can react accordingly.

Welsh farmer got so p.o. with low-flying RAF jets that he painted "PISS OFF BIGGLES" on barn roof. So of course it became a navigational aid for pilots.


Melbourne Australia group which explores stormwater drains for recreation


Japanese throw away last year's appliances - just leave on footpath - whereas India and Vietnam they recycle everything - rows of footpath stalls where guys rebuild electronics and household equipment

Japanese train conductors, drivers, and platform attendants are mandated to use the “point and call” method—called shisa kanko—in executing tasks. By physically pointing at an object, and then verbalizing one’s intended action, a greater portion of the brain is engaged, providing improved situational awareness and accuracy. Studies have repeatedly shown that this technique reduces human error by as much as 85 percent. Pointing-and-calling is now a major workplace safety feature in industries throughout Japan.

African tribe with rule about public speaking: speaker had to stand on one foot whole time talking. As soon as foot hit ground had to shut up and let next guy talk.


Precommitment doesn't just happen in movies. For years the economists Dean Karlan and John Romalis kept their weight down by means of a clever pact. Karlan and Romalis knew a little something about incentives, so they struck a deal: Each would have to lose 38 pounds in six months or forfeit half his annual income to the other. If both failed, the one who lost less would forfeit a quarter of his income. They lost the weight and generally kept it off, although, at one point, Romalis's weight popped back up over the limit and Karlan actually collected $15,000 from his friend. He felt he had no choice. He felt he had to take the money to maintain the credibility of their system, without which they'd both get fat.


... lose money (they delay applying for refunds and benefits), have worse health (delay medical checkups), and have more accidents (don't tidy up clutter and trip over, or they don't renew smoke detector batteries). Suggestion that when we have more distractions in our environment we are more motivated by 'now' - small, instant payoff preferred over bigger distant payoff.


Ask someone, 'How much does the average employee steal from a cash register in a year?' The higher the number the more likely they are to be dishonest. The reason, Grant explains, is that people assume others are like them, and will act as they would.

Getting People On Your Side

Ben Franklin won over a rival by asking to borrow a rare book. Research has shown that you can bond quickly with strangers by asking small and then progressively larger favors. Each time they invest effort into the relationship they will like you more. Start by asking them for the time or to take a photo and build the requests and relationship from there. This doesn’t mean trying to con people or becoming overly needy, mind you. Relationships are a give and take, so reciprocity is critical. Begin by asking an acquaintance for coffee to learn about their industry, and then ask them for a few introductions, but find a way to provide them value in return.

False Memories

"Recovered memory" was a popular psychotherapy diagnosis in the 1980s, ultimately responsible for jail sentences for priests, parents, and school officials after patients suddenly somehow "remembered" long-suppressed bizarre and vicious (and some "satanic") sex crimes that never actually happened. Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, of the University of California, Irvine, and other skeptics have since proven that false memories can be created and are now concentrating on fashioning them for beneficial purposes - to lose weight, to stop smoking, to curb drinking. An April report in Time magazine noted that "up to 40 percent" of people could be convinced that they had had bad experiences with a certain behavior and that properly identified, those people could be taught to avoid it. Said Dr. Loftus, "We do have a malleable memory."

Too Much Excitement

As the frenzied pace of contemporary life becomes less appealing, Dull Men's Clubs have grown since their News of the Weird mention in 2007. A July Wall Street Journal dispatch from Pembroke, Mass., revealed recent themes for that club's excitement-challenged members, including why one of them carries a spoon everywhere and the old standbys of which way toilet paper should hang and the wisdom of a city's street grid system. DullMensClub.com has about 5,000 members who always, according to legend, "think inside the box" about such topics as remembering to keep their staplers filled and which way, in airports around the world, luggage carousels turn (clockwise or counter-clockwise).

Too Quiet

A dearth of sound can be troubling. The quietest place on Earth is the Anechoic Chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minneapolis. The room blocks 99 percent of all external noise using 3.3 feet of thick fiberglass, acoustic wedges, double walls of insulated steel, and a foot of concrete. No one has been able to stay in the room for more than 45 minutes, citing hallucinations from the quiet. Steven Orfield, the company's founder, said: "When it's quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You'll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound." Silence is suddenly not a comfort - it's terrifying.


Phonecams changing definition of privacy - woman threw tantrum in supermarket; bystander flips open camera phone -moments later her snarling face is on a web page, complete with unflattering caption - change old idea that can lose yourself in crowd

Bombs On A Plane

Guy so terrified about being on plane with terrorist bomb that he always took along his own on theory that odds so high against there being 2 bombs on plane that perfectly safe

Without the city, we wouldn't have modernity. Village offers security and community, but it doesn't allow anyone the opportunity to be different.

Breaking Bad habits

Imagine your brain, is a city bus. This city bus is filled with noisy weirdos, as city buses often are; think of the noisy weirdos as your craving for chocolate, or the urge to bite your nails - whatever habit you're trying to break. And you, they continue, are the driver of said bus. You can't help hearing the loud passengers, but you don't have to take direction from them; you are the one driving the bus. You'll call the shots here, thank you. It's mindfulness, essentially - like when my yoga teacher encourages the class to simply observe their physical or emotional feelings, and let them pass right on by.

Habits make life easy. To change means choosing something harder. We underestimate how hard it is to break a habit, and so more easily tripped up. Need to visualise - not just rewards of success, but also foresee the obstacles and how will overcome them, and what you will do when inevitably slip up.

5 Minute Rant

Game called 'Don't Get Me Started' where give someone a random topic and he has to go on 5 min rant about it.

People who are habitually late are optimists - think they can pack more things into the time available.


(Someone with a belated sense of guilt) Listener reprint of Northland classified ad: "Found, opal ring, 14 years ago (sorry for lateness)"

Small Towns

Small town, new Warehouse store - 80% thought quality of life improved

Ghosts or God?

More Britons (50%) believe in ghosts than in God

Professional Guests

Dunedin NZ - a serial wedding guest appeared in thousands of wedding photos in 1980's and 1990's - a cheerful little old lady who obviously enjoyed the happy occasions (not to mention the free food and booze) so much that she turned it into a recreational activity. No-one ever figured out who she was - she hasn't been around for a while so presumed to have died. Similar "guests" have been reported at funerals, where you have probably less chance of being caught out, but there tends to be less champagne ...

Grief Tourists

Grief tourists - 'mourning sickness'

Interesting Contests

Yukon they have interesting contests - chainsaw chucking (with motor running) hairy leg contests (for women)

Neat Freak

Guy in Virginia set fire to mother's mobile home bc upset at how untidy it was

Just Unlucky?

Film The Cooler bad luck guy hired by Las Vegas casinos to spoil other's luck - no evidence that exists, but if you believe bad luck???

Impossible Experiments

Psychology Today magazine asked readers to suggest 'Impossible expts' - things they'd like to test but couldn't for ethical or PC reasons. One suggestion was to collect all newborn babies and randomly swap to test 50-0-50 Rule (50% outcome due to genes, 0% due to parents and 50% due to peer group socialization. Another was to assign spouses a) at random b) on basis psych tests. Final suggestion was to make divorce compulsory after 10 years.

Oprah Rules

A 35yo Californian woman is spending a year doing exactly what Oprah tells her to do. Her theory is that since Oprah came up from nothing, and now has her own private jet, when she gives advice it's like doling out some of that success. So she's consulting Oprah's magazine and her website for advice on everything from resolving domestics to what sort of hair dye to choose


Procrastinators are bad luck to be around - they miss out on tax deductions because they leave returns to last minute; they have worse health because avoid medical checkups, and they have more accidents because they slip over clutter they ever got round to tidying up, and they forget things like changing smoke detector batteries

The Naked Rambler

Unless Stephen Gough, 50, changes his mind about wearing pants, he risks spending the rest of his life behind bars, according to a January ruling of Scotland's Perth Sheriff Court. Gough, Britain's "naked rambler," is a freelance nudist who for years has roamed the United Kingdom countryside, interrupted by numerous jail stints for violating public decency. He was released from Perth Prison in December after his latest stay, but seconds later shucked his clothes and was re-arrested. (In his most recent trial, Gough acted as his own lawyer and somehow persuaded an overly fair judge to let him be naked in court.)

Police, including SWAT officers, were called to an apartment in Mesa, Ariz., in June after neighbors reported a fight between and man and woman that included yelling and breaking things inside. When they arrived, they found only a 21-year-old man, conducting the fight by himself, alternating a high-pitched voice with a low-pitched one. He was referred for a medical exam

people say I'm egotistical but enough about them.

BEHAVIOUR REVENGE Conversation Topic

Reverse Valentines Day

Australian florist offering extra reverse Valentines Day service for those with a hostile message to send to someone - cowpats delivered (well-matured ones of course)

Bullying Payback

Workplace bullying goes on all the time - victims are too powerless or inept to respond or resist, so they get revenge by sabotage - can take many forms - not just physical destruction, but also sidetracking reports, using blogs to spread malign rumours etc - the same thing happens in marriage where one person has all the power and control - the other partner finds some way of paying back, commonly by having an affair

The Keen Dentist

Tsar Nicholas was a keen amateur dentist. One of his courtiers exploited this hobby to pay back a wife who had annoyed him. Told the tsar that that she needed most of her teeth pulled, but that she was very reluctant to admit it, and that he should ignore her protests and just take them out. The tsar was only too happy to oblige, and didn't find out until well afterwards that he'd been used.

Restaurant Payback

India Eat-all-you-want restaurant - students thought been cheated so hired some fat guys

Payback Book

Paris a office worker wrote book "Little Murders Among Partners" depicting boss who looked like a pig, blond bimbo secretary, IT chief who was a sex pervert, chronic drunks etc - only sold 800 copies, half to fellow staff. She was sacked but courts awarded $120,000 compensation (Someone should set up a web service for all the disgruntled office workers out there!)

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