- Paperback: 206 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books (June 2, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385530609
- ISBN-13: 978-0385530606
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 268 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.
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
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.
The book is very short, but entertaining enough in its own way. I didn't hate it, I just don't feel that it lived up to the potential of its subject.
But it is short. It does not even reach 200 pages. Furthermore, I was already familiar with many of the anecdotes - there is one about a Harvard Business School class where the professor auctions off a $20 bill for hundreds of dollars by saying that whoever got second place would have to pay his bid but receive nothing. As a result, people start bidding, but no one wants to be the "sucker," so the bid skyrockets. I had heard this anecdote, and even saw such an auction take place. Lots of the other anecdotes are repeats of existing tails of human irrationality, though some familiar ones are analyzed in slightly different ways, which can be interesting (such as the Tenerife airport disaster.)
Some of his conclusions are straightforward and make sense (once people are committed to a path, they tend to have trouble changing paths, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.) But many are made without strong evidence to back them up, and oftentimes it feels like the authors are resorting to filler when they should be presenting more conclusive evidence to back up their points.
In the end, this book's value is almost entirely as entertainment. It has entertaining anecdotes that will make you think about how humans behave. But it lacks enough substance and scientific analysis for me to give it 4 or 5 stars. It is also incredibly short, and can be read in an hour or two.
Persuasive, but the editing often leaves you asking questions (when they cite something in particular like a study or an event, I often feel like more context is needed, like when and where).
They ignore inconvenient facts (like when discussing an ad for a bank; they found that the direct mailer with a picture of a person on it worked best and called this irrational, which fails to account for advertising clutter and how a picture of a person can cut through the clutter).
The Israeli military study used in the book and referenced in other reviews is, to me, reprehensible; courses like the one mentiond can make or break a career. To casually try to affect outcomes for the sake of a journal article is without regard to what it does to those officers is just plain wrong; to use it in the book is to perpetuate the wrong.
Interesting discussion on Prozac, et al, but ignored in this are the clinical trials that had to be done for FDA approval - what was different about the subsequent tests?
Interesting, but incomplete