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Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior Paperback – June 2, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 253 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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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Product Details

  • 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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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