Key concepts and definitions

Key concepts and definitions
Photo by Pisit Heng / Unsplash

Below find selected definitions of important concepts.



Abductive Reasoning

Abductive reasoning is a type of logical inference where you generate explanations to make sense of a set of observations. These explanations are uncertain.

Abductive reasoning differs from deductive reasoning, which is the application of general rules to draw specific conclusions, and from inductive reasoning, where generalizations are made based on specific observations.

Below are three examples to illustrate the differences:

Suppose you come home and find the floor is wet in your kitchen. You use reasoning to explain it:

Deductive reasoning: If you know that you left a window open and it was raining outside, you can deduce that the rain came in through the window, causing the floor to be wet.

Inductive reasoning: If you frequently find the floor wet when it rains and the window is open, you might induce a generalization that leaving the window open during rain leads to a wet floor.

Abductive reasoning: If you don't know whether it rained β€” and there's no obvious reason like an open window β€” you might hypothesize that perhaps there was a leak in the roof. Or maybe someone spilled water. Whatever you conclude will be based on the best explanation given the observed wet floor.

Abductive reasoning is used to solve problems all the time. Core to our approach at R-ght, abductive reasonsing is a foundational skill for entrepreneurs, business owners, product builders, service designers, marketers, and leaders of all kinds.

Agenda-setting theory

Defined by Robert Cialdini in his book Pre-suasion, the way media β€” and news media specifically β€” influences public opinion by giving selected issues and facts more coverage (and attention).

See Cialdini's agenda-setting theory and the book review of Cialdini's 2016 work Pre-Suasion for more.


Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon

Also known as the frequency illusion, the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon is a cognitive bias to describe how, on learning an unusual word or phrase, you proceed to notice that phrase within the next day.

The phenomenon is not named after its discoverer. Rather, it was popularized first in a 1994 letter to the St. Paul Pioneer Press by Terry Mullen. Mullen coined the expression to describe an eerie kind of coincidence, writing:

β€œI have dubbed it The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon – named after the notorious West German gang of terrorists. The phenomenon goes like this: The first time you learn a new word, phrase or idea, you will see that word, phrase or idea again in print within 24 hours. (This does not apply to topical things – just obscure words, etc.)

β€œAs you might guess, the phenomenon is named after an incident in which I was talking to a friend about the Baader-Meinhof gang (and this was many years after they were in the news). The next day, my friend phoned me and referred me to an article in that day’s newspaper in which the Baader-Meinhof gang was mentioned."

The phenomenon may be similar to the Cocktail-Party Effect where people are able to hear their name spoken in a noisy crowd though they only listen passively. In both cases, people are able to focus their attention. Combined with confirmation bias, both the Cocktail-Party Effect and Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon reinforce their existence, which itself is a form of Daniel Kahneman's WYSIATI.


Call to Action

A Call to Action (CTA) is a term used in direct response marketing, advertising, and communication in general where an audience is asked to act now. The most basic forms of CTA include phrases, often on buttons or linked to products, to "Buy Now!" or "Subscribe." However, CTAs don't have to be digital behaviors. They need only be specific and clear in their directive.

See also Call to Feel (CTF) and Call to Think (CTT) for variations of CTA. Additionally, see Triggers as part of the Fogg Behavior Model

Call to Feel

A more specific form of Call to Action (CTA), a Call to Feel (CTF) is an an invitation, commonly in the concluding remarks of a piece of content (e.g. on Linkedin) to reflect on one's own emotions or consider, sympathizing or empathizing, with the emotions of others. A CTF provokes the audience to connect with ideas emotionally, rather than intellectually, often for the purpose of sparking discussion in comments.

For example, instead of asking to subscribe or purchase a product (a form of direct response), a Call to Feel would ask the audience to remember how they felt in the past over a particular situation β€” or imagine how they might feel given a potential future.

A CTF is a way to invite discussion, especially on social media where users are less likely to leave the platform and platform algorithms boost content that receives on-platform engagement.

See also Call to Action and Call to Feel.

Call to Think

A more specific form of Call to Action (CTA), a Call to Think (CTT) is an invitation, commonly in the concluding remarks of a piece of content (e.g. on Linkedin) to engage in reflection. The aim is to provoke the audience to comment, as with social media, and to take the ideas from the content and ruminate on them. Just as "thought leadership" is about seeding new frames of reference, and a CTT is a means of generating buzz around a new concept.

A CTT like a Call to Feel (CTF), invites discussion, especially on social media where users are less likely to leave the platform (and platform algorithms boost content that receives on-platform engagement).

For example, instead of asking to subscribe or purchase a product, a form of direct response, a Call to Think would be to ask the audience how they might use more tactical requests to provoke meaningful, relational participation rather an impersonal action.

See also Call to Action and Call to Feel.

Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that arises when someone tries to accept two (or more) conflicting beliefs, ideas, or facts at the same time. It can also come about when actions and beliefs are incongruent. The resulting inconsistency leads to feelings of uneasiness that must be resolved. Signs of cognitive dissonance in others can include changing the subject, ad hominem attacks, what looks like someone "rebooting," and more.

The concept of cognitive dissonance was developed by Leon Festinger in 1957.


Elephant test

The elephant test is the application of the statement, "I know it when I see it." The expression is applied to difficult to describe phenomena, ideas, or β€” as with elephants β€” animals. The elephant test has been popularized in legal theory. See also The blind men and the elephant and Elephant Test on Wikipedia.


Focusing illusion

"Focusing illusion" is a phrase coined by Daniel Kahneman, which he expresses through the statement that, "Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it."

Kahneman supplied many examples of the focusing illusion for (archived), noting that marketers and politicians draw focus to influence people β€” i.e. to buy a product or support an issue.

A recent example of the focusing illusion: Apple used a titanium band for the Apple iPhone 15 Pro as a way to draw attention to the Pro model's premium material. Apple's marketing focus on titanium differentiated the newest iPhone from prior models β€” and established the iPhone 15 Pro as the premium smartphone in the market.


Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning is a type of logical inference that involves making generalizations based on specific observations. Inductive reasoning moves from the particular to the general.

Unlike deductive reasoning where a broad observation is applied and tested against specific observations, inductive reasoning works in the opposite direction. It involves drawing general conclusions from specific evidence, anecdotes, patterns, and other observations.

Unlike deductive reasoning, conclusions arrived at through inductive reasoning are not guaranteed to be true. They are probabilistic, making them subject to revision on receipt of new information.

See also Abductive Reasoning.


Mimesis, mimicry

People model their behavior based on what they observe others do. An important subject covered in philosophy (see RenΓ© Girard's work on mimetic theory, mimetic desire, and the scapegoat mechanism) as well as psychology (See Robert Cialdini's book Influence)


Narrative fallacy

"Narrative fallacy" was coined by Nassim Taleb in his book The Black Swan in 2007.

Taleb wrote: β€œThe narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship upon them. Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.”

See also Daniel Kahneman's "What you see is all there is" / WYSIATI



Signaling is a form of meta-communication that occurs through action. While signals can be first-order β€” as in a car's "turn signal" used to communicate an intended behavior β€” "signaling" is used to express secondary messages that run adjacent to primary messages.

Signaling is inevitable as all communication is open to multiple interpretations regarding meaning and truth. Signaling is often necessary because primary messages can be falsified.

Signaling is often passive. For example, signaling can be the communication that happens through presentation, whether its a person's clothes or the marble pillars outside a prestigious bank. Signaling is also active, even if unintentionally so. For example, the choice to communicate, regardless of the message, is a message β€” the message that the sender or organization believed communication was required.

Understanding signaling, both as a communicator and an audience, is critical for effective communication. Leaders and marketers must always consider signaling effects that coincide with products, services, advertising, messaging, and brand.


What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI)

Daniel Kahneman's expression for how people become certain β€” and confident β€” about what they know through relying on coherent stories that make sense of facts and observations.

See Daniel Kahneman's What You See Is All There Is for more as well as Nassim Taleb's narrative fallacy, above.

More coming soon!