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115 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnetic Read (I've Been Swayed)
I've always considered myself pragmatic, logical, and clearly even-keeled. Then, I read Ori and Rom's book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior. It's a magnetic read and I zipped through it in 2 quick sittings.

I rather like books that make me think twice about truths I hold self-evident. And Sway certainly made me think. Did I pre-judge my...
Published on June 3, 2008 by Denise Shiffman

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123 of 132 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing Rehash of Other, Better Books
I was excited when I purchased this book. I have read numerous titles in this genre, like Blink, Predictably Irrational, Influence, etc., and I was looking forward to more ineresting insights and anecdotes.

Unfortunately, almost the entire book has been covered (in more detail) by the books mentioned above.

I felt like I was reading a cliff's notes...
Published on December 7, 2008 by Rob Hustle


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123 of 132 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing Rehash of Other, Better Books, December 7, 2008
By 
Rob Hustle (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
I was excited when I purchased this book. I have read numerous titles in this genre, like Blink, Predictably Irrational, Influence, etc., and I was looking forward to more ineresting insights and anecdotes.

Unfortunately, almost the entire book has been covered (in more detail) by the books mentioned above.

I felt like I was reading a cliff's notes version of these previous works, with dumber (but warm!) authors.

If the book was just a regurgitation, I would let it slide. But, in some cases, the authors miss the point entirely.

For instance, when they are discussing the placebo effect, they mention the fact that "Prozac had about the same theapeutic effect" as a placebo (page 97).

They continue that although "the SSRI drugs are clinically ineffective, psychiatrists nevertheless kept diagnosing and prescribing. Once even the most seasoned professionals begin diagnosing, it's very hard to stop." (page 97 cont).

With a wave of the hand, the effectiveness of Prozac is disproven.

Or is it?

If these guys had bothered to read "13 Things That Dont Make Sense" by Michael Brooks, they might have uncovered the REALLY INTERESTING THING about Prozac and the placebo effect.

But no, instead they choose to become examples of the very diagnostic bias that they advocate against.

This is one example. There are many, many more.

Sorry guys... you seem like nice fellows. But c'mon... if you are going to write a book, at least write one I haven't read before.

For any of the readers out there interested in original work, I recommend passing on this one and checking out some of these titles. They are MUCH better:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time
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272 of 307 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a decent book-let, July 22, 2008
By 
alaska (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This is yet a another volume in the contemporary genre of books based on a single insight. In this case, the insight is that people often make predictably irrational decisions. This is interesting, and the authors assemble several anecdotes supporting their thesis, but a bit of judicious editing could have distilled their argument into a brief essay. Of course this would have been a less profitable format; one suspects the authors of exploiting an irrational bias favoring books over articles.
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115 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnetic Read (I've Been Swayed), June 3, 2008
I've always considered myself pragmatic, logical, and clearly even-keeled. Then, I read Ori and Rom's book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior. It's a magnetic read and I zipped through it in 2 quick sittings.

I rather like books that make me think twice about truths I hold self-evident. And Sway certainly made me think. Did I pre-judge my employees based on what others had said about them, or their previous jobs? Do I make rash (and possibly dangerous or stupid) choices when I'm committed to a certain plan of action and feel any diversion would be a loss? I certainly look for fairness in my business and personal transactions. But is fairness the key metric? Maybe not.

The book has opened my eyes and mind to new ways of approaching my business activities and relationships and family interactions. Hopefully I will recognize in advance a moment where I might act rash or choose the wrong -- irrational -- path and think again about my choices.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quick read, but there are better books out there, July 28, 2009
Interested in choice psychology, I was excited to start reading this book. However, it quickly proved disappointing. The examples the books gives to illustrate behavioral patterns are entertainingly written, but poorly connected and don't help underline a clear point in each chapter. I felt fortunate that I had read other books on the topic so that I knew what they were talking about - otherwise I would have been unsure what exactly they were trying to illustrate. The Brafmans seem ultimately muddled, and don't seem to truly draw from their intertwined backgrounds as an economist and a psychologist.

The upside of this book is that it is a quick read, and does contain some new case studies to illustrate choice psychology principles.

If you take this subject seriously, or want to have a better understanding of the topics, I would instead urge you to read Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, or Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. If you want a quick, easy read about this, try Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pull me, Push me, June 11, 2008
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This is a smoothly written, enjoyable quick read that covers a really interesting subject. We all think we make rational, reasonable choices. But we all know of times that when we look back now we wonder if we really picked the right door, or maybe if 'psychological' reasons somehow pushed or pulled us towards an imperfect choice. This book is one of many neat books that takes solid research published in the growing fields of behavioural economics and social psychology, and then makes a readable whole out of them. There are riptides we feel underneath the waves we see. Not Freud or Jung psychobabble, but reliable biases and mental shortcuts that work for us most of the time. This book is about the times when they work against us.

Cool stuff: Great examples bring the ideas to life. (Hearing a master play a Stradivarius on the NY subway, the academic reaction to the Piltdown man, a surprising secret in an Israeli army leadership training course. On and on.) No need for any prior psychology knowledge. Clearly lets the reader understand the non-intuitive principles involved. Includes recent research findings in a story driven format. Not bogged down by intellectual showing off or long digressions. There are references at the back for those who want to read the original research.

What it is not: This ain't a definitive textbook. It is not new ground (but rather an overview of the field in a readable form). It doesn't get into details or any depth of why we behave in these ways, or how the behaviours may be connected. But that's OK, as long as you know you are buying a great general read not a graduate-level treatment.

The book finds new veins of gold in the mine of psychological research that has already produced Robert Cialdini's `Influence,' Scott Plous's `The Psychology of Judgement and Decision Making,' and other cool books like `Nudge,' or ` Freakanomics.' An fascinating worthwhile read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Way Rational, June 22, 2008
The Brothers Brafman take us on a short and interesting tour of why we do what we do. The better parts: not only do we see what we expect to see but this "expectation" bias changes the way those seen act(three groups in the military are sent to training; randomly assigned rankings from excellent to so so; their commanders are told which is which but not that it is random; and guess what---not only do the commanders rate the ones assigned a random excellent as better but the soldiers ,when later tested, aligned with their commander's pre-planted views; they conformed their performance to how the commanders perceived them); altruism is a more powerful motivator to induce a person to perform a task than money if the money offered is not commensurate with the task(Swiss citizens were ok with a nuclear dump in their town when the appeal was to citizenship but became much less so when the appeal was we will pay you to do it because the moola was not enough; it does not take much to fuel the altruism part of the brain but it takes a lot to fuel the pleasure part of the brain); and once tagged, always tagged( the draft position of NBA players dictacted playing time and length of time in league---the lower the draft pick number, the more of each). Good epilogue with some practical ideas. Also some good stuff on hiring employees. Bottom Line: know these ideas and make them work for you.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sway - a Worthy Read, June 18, 2008
Each chapter of SWAY is a complete thought and a fast read. I could identify myself or others in each one. I do a lot of work with large groups and have found that each group has all the architypes in it... the exemplar who knows too much; the over committed, the labeler; the doubter and dream killers; the visionaries and the engineers. Each of the characters in this book are in any group. I will return to SWAY each time I do another large group event to remind myself to be aware of how the decisions of the group might be getting trapped by some of the habits and assumption mentioned in the book. My work will be better for having read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to resist the "seductive pull" of irrational behavior, November 13, 2009
The Brothers Brafman are like the Brothers Heath (Chip and Dan, co-authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others and forthcoming Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard) in that they seem to have an insatiable curiosity about what may, at first, seem to be aberrational human behavior but is in fact commonplace. In their book Sway, the Brafmans seek answers to questions such as these: Why would skilled and experienced physicians make decisions that contradict their years of training? What psychological forces underlie our own irrational behaviors? How do these forces creep up on us? When and why are we most vulnerable to them? How do they shape our business and personal relationships? When and how do they put finances, even our lives, at risk? And why don't we realize when we're being swaying?

The Brafmans obviously have a sense of humor. How else to explain chapter titles such as "The Swamp of Commitment" in which they discuss how Florida's then football coach, Steve Spurrier, dominated the SEC conference because the other coaches in the conference were loss averse and committed to a "grind-it-out-and-hold-in-to-the-ball offensive strategy. He played to win; they played not to lose. He introduced the "Fun-n-Gun" offense that scored more points in less time and attracted better recruits. In anther chapter, "The Hobbit and the Missing Link," they focus on a precocious young Dutch student named Eugene Dubois (1858-1940) who, after earning his degree in medicine, marriage, starting a career as well as a family, decided to seek what was then believed to be the missing link between apes and the more humanlike Neanderthals. He found it in the East Indies but both he and his discovery was largely ignored. Why? Because his contemporaries were firmly committed to a certain view of evolution that Dubois' discovery challenged. Moreover, "there was another force at play. Here's where commitment merges with the sway of `value attribution': our tendency to imbue someone or something with certain qualities based on perceived value, rather than on objective data."(This is one of the eight deceptions that Phil Rosenzweig discusses in his book, The Halo Effect.) The Brafmans also cite a more contemporary example of how value attribution works and how it swayed the anthropological community. In Washington, D.C. on a January morning in 2007, Joshua Bell (one of the world's finest violinists) performed for 43 minutes in the L'Enfant Plaza subway station. "Here was one of best musicians in the world playing in the subway station for free, but no one seemed to care."

As Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman explain in the Preface, their objective in this book is to explore "several of the psychological forces that derail rational thinking. Wherever we looked - across different sectors, countries, and cultures - we saw different people being swayed in very similar ways. We're all susceptible to the sway of irrational behaviors. But by better understanding the deductive pull of these forces, we'll be less likely to fall victim to them in the future." They fully achieve this objective with a book I consider to be a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Ori Brafman's The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations (co-authored with Rod Beckstrom) and the aforementioned books by the Brothers Heath as well as Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Martin Lindstrom's Buyology, Gregory Berns's Iconoclast, Roger Martin's The Opposable Mind, Leonard Mlodinow's The Drunkard's Walk, Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan, and Joseph Murphy's The Power of Your Subconscious Mind.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting short book, but not great, June 28, 2009
This review is from: Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior (Kindle Edition)
For those of us who have read many news stories about accidents, tragedies, follies, etc., the conclusions in this book aren't earthshattering.

There are 3 main story themes in the book regarding some factors that make people behave in initially inexplicable ways, and I'll try to summarize them here: (spoiler alert, below. Which is a little disappointing that the book can be summed up in these 3 points)

1. Sunk costs fallacies, or desire to avoid incurring losses, even if losses are smaller than potential gains. The story of the KLM captain who just had to avoid keeping his 747 full of passengers overnight on Tenerife, and the accident that killed everyone on takeoff.

2. Bowing to preconceptions/authority (written, or suggested, or mob) -- why people get misled into believing that something must be good/right if it has a good reputation, despite all evidence to the contrary. On the flip side, passing up something good because it has no reputation. Concert violinist Joshua Bell playing for the morning rush hour subway commuters, and no one even noticing.

3. Differing notions of fairness. Why some people will accept a deal worse than 50/50 (they are grateful for any gain despite their partner being very greedy). Or why a TV audience in France will actively try to sink the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire contestant who asks their advice, because they don't feel anyone stupid enough not to know that the Moon goes around the Earth should get a million dollars.

Those are just my quick take-away points (which are not to say fully comprehensive), and other than that, there are admittedly a few minor side stories and interesting details, but nothing about this book was too memorable or left me mindbogglingly impressed. Correction -- there was a short segment about Supreme Court justices, how they form opinions, and the importance of dissent that was fairly interesting.

The book was a good read for about an hour, but I probably won't come back to it again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Fun, Deeply Thought-Provoking, June 22, 2008
By 
Matt Humphrey (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
The Brafmans do an excellent job showcasing the irrational behavior all around us. Whether you're a doctor, venture capitalist, teacher, or even a college football coach, there are subtle psychological cues driving you to engage in irrational behaviors that can have a significant negative impact on your life. Reading the anecdotes, one might wonder 'how can anyone ever do that?' The book's close inspection of many different situations shows us that we all do it, and in fact, most of us are guilty of irrationality every single day. 'Sway' lifts the mystery behind these subtleties of irrational thinking and allows us to be more critical of ourselves so we can understand really what is driving the decisions we make day in and day out.

Overall, 'Sway' is a great read. It's very well-written, fast-moving, inherently entertaining, insightful, and just downright fun. It will leave you in a healthy state of self-reflection and critical thinking of the world around you.
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