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Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior Paperback – June 2, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Recently we have seen plenty of irrational behavior, whether in politics or the world of finance. What makes people act irrationally? In a timely but thin collection of anecdotes and empirical research, the Brafman brothers—Ari (The Starfish and the Spire), a business expert, and Rom, a psychologist—look at sway, the submerged mental drives that undermine rational action, from the desire to avoid loss to a failure to consider all the evidence or to perceive a person or situation beyond the initial impression and the reluctance to alter a plan that isn't working. To drive home their points, the authors use contemporary examples, such as the pivotal decisions of presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush, coach Steve Spurrier and his Gators football team, and a sudden apparent epidemic of bipolar disorder in children (which may be due more to flawed thinking by doctors making the diagnoses). The stories are revealing, but focused on a few common causes of irrational behavior, the book doesn't delve deeply into the psychological demons that can devastate a person's life and those around him. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Praise for SWAY*
"A breathtaking book that will challenge your every thought, Sway hovers above the intersection of Blink and Freakonomics."--Tom Rath, coauthor of the New York Times #1 bestseller How Full Is Your Bucket?
“Now we know why no one ever coined the phrase ‘rational exuberance.’ Behind the surprising ways we all make choices, the Brafmans find biology, humanity, and the wisdom of our collective experience. As a longtime student of how financial decisions are made, I found their insights utterly fascinating. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop—and I suspect the Brafmans could tell you exactly why!”
--Sallie Krawcheck, CEO, Citi Global Wealth Management
"Count me swayed--but in this instance by the pull of entirely rational forces. Ori and Rom Brafman have done a terrific job of illuminating deep-seated tendencies that skew our behavior in ways that can range from silly to deadly. We'd be fools not to learn what they have to teach us."--Robert B. Cialdini, author of New York Times bestseller Influence
—Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum
"A page-turner of an investigation into how our minds work . . . and trick us. Think you behave rationally? Read this book first."--Timothy Ferriss, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek
"Sway helped me recognize an aspect of irrational behavior in my experimental work in physics. Sometimes I have jumped into some research that didn't feel quite right . . . but some irrational lure, such as the hope of quick success, pulled me in."--Martin L. Perl, 1995 Nobel Laureate in Physics
*DISCLAIMER: If you decide to buy this book because of these endorsements, you just got swayed. One of the psychological forces you’ll read about in Sway is our tendency to place a higher value on opinions from people in positions of prominence, power, or authority.
(But you should still buy the book.)
"If you think you know how you think, you'd better think again! Take this insightful, delightful trip to the sweet spot where economics, psychology, and sociology converge, and you'll discover how our all-too-human minds actually work."--Alan M. Webber, founding editor of Fast Company magazine
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Top Customer Reviews
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
Compare and contrast that with the decision of a seasoned 747 pilot to abandon his safety checklist in order to save time and reputation. What could have possibly driven a man as seasoned and programmed as the computer sitting in front of you now, to disregard his own programming?
Very little about the human condition can be ascertained from the examples presented in this book other than, as worldly and self aware of our surroundings that we think we may be, human perception is actually very poor and significantly limited in scope. Since we are resourced constrained we tend to take the first information that we assess as necessary for our survival and filter out the rest. Which is why a first impression, will always have the biggest impact on us. No matter where that first impression originates. Once our brain does the filtering...it doesn't want to go back and reclassify the information...that's hard work. Once we are swayed there is almost no turning back.
You could read all the neuro physcology books in the world and not come up with a better explanation for why it happens...why the irrational decisions shape our human existence. Take skydiving for instance. Unless you have a burning desire to jump out of a perfectly good airplane I doubt anyone would be able to talk you into it. Even when you've convinced yourself the odds are pretty good that you will survive the drop, it's not the odds that count. No matter how safely you prepare, no matter how many facts you read about the safety of the sport, diving out the door of an airplane at 10,000 feet is not a natural act. Plummeting through the wind at up to 200 mph is simply something that our human bodies have never considered at any time during evolutionary development. Thus, only from the irrational, can we arrive at a decision to do so.
We cannot change our irrational side. Nor should we. Through stories, not science, books like Sway give us a deeper understanding that our irrational side is real. It's our instincts that have kept us alive for 10,000 years. Therefore it's not the irresistible pull of irrational behavior that gives us a story. The real story is why can't rational behavior win in the big the tug of war going on in our brain. In small ways, understanding that which makes us human, helps us to recognize the times when we are inhuman, as with a corporate decision to lay-off 10,000 employees to balance the spreadsheet, or at a time when we need to invoke our inhuman side, like when being in command of a 747 jumbo jet and making a decision to take off in a dense fog. We've got the ability to use both sides of our brain. The trick is to decide which one it's time to use. "Sway" gives us examples of situations where we should at least consider both sides. Four Stars for a very easy read with very good stories as examples...very similar in style Gladwell.
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.