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Man Who Lied to His Laptop, The Hardcover – 16 Dec 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: CURRENT (16 Dec 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1617230014
  • ISBN-13: 978-1617230011
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 2.2 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,234,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Sep 2012
Format: Hardcover
It's been said so many times that it's by now become a staid cliché: humans are social animals. We are adapted to social interaction, and to a large extend depend on our ability to interact and cooperate with others. Considering how important our social interactions are for our survival, it is surprising how little room it's allocated in the regular school curriculum to learning more about what science has to teach us on this topic. Social Psychology, the branch of Psychology that deals with this subject, is in my opinion the most important of all social sciences, and perhaps the most practically relevant branch of science overall when it comes to usefulness for our daily lives. "The Man Who Lied to His Computer" is an excellent primer of that field, and overall a surprisingly useful and relevant popular science book.

The title of this book seems to evoke Oliver Sacks' writings, and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" in particular. Sacks, a well-known British neurologist and writer, has dedicated his life to exploring the hidden secrets of the way that our minds work by examining peculiar pathologies of the brain. Nass and Yen, on the other hand, have written a book based on the series of experiments performed at the Nass' Stanford laboratory. These experiments tried to elucidate the way we interact with each other by looking at our interactions with computers. After spending many years on improving computer interfaces and the humanizing our interaction with computers, Nass had stumbled onto a brilliant idea of reversing the direction of his research, and started looking into improving the ways that we interact with each other based on the ways that we treat computers.
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By maria saaksjarvi on 18 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great read for anyone interested in how people treat computers and other electronic objects as "real" people. The book is full of interesting research studies conducted by Nass and his colleagues, and is a fact-packed yet very pleasant read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely superb . . . Why couldn't I have known this 40 years ago? 20 Sep 2010
By Theodore A. Rushton - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lie to your computer?

Well, sure. In today's high tech world, lying to one's computer is little different than sweet talking your car, pleading with a slot machine to produce a winning combo or threatening a big garden boulder that refuses to move.

In other words, it's really about how people react to situations good and bad. The basic reasoning is simple: People have an instinctive "personal" commitment to the task at hand. We are hard-wired to cooperate with others, as deftly explained by Michael Tomasello in 'Why We Cooperate.' As Nass and Yen make delightfully clear in case after case, it's human nature to talk to machines.

Many years ago, Dale Carnegie wrote the classic 'How to Win Friends and Influence People.' Nass would have would have listened to car drivers and truck mechanics and written "How to Talk to Your Car and Influence Trucks.' Since computers are now ubiquitous, he listens to people talk to computers. The result won't make the computer any smarter, but it does a lot for people.

The result is a superb book about people. Computers are like cats, the gods of our society. Neither cats nor computers listen to humans, but people pay attention to both and are much the better for it. Look at a Neolithic effigy and think of the conversations Neanderthals had with it.

The chapter on teams and team building is wonderful. Most team building gimmicks are like watching the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders -- they amuse the fans but don't teach players a thing about football. Fans want to see a winning team, more so than fancy pants dance routines.

In business, cheerleader events are "wilderness bonding" and other play-acting gimmicks. Instead of fantasy events, Nass and Yen describe how people react to situations good and bad. Yes, repeating that phrase is deliberate, because the book deals with dozens of real situations -- good and bad. It's an exercise on how to deal with people, using machines as a neutral example.

Consider, for example, a car that tells people how to drive safely. It sounds wonderful; but, if not done properly, it enrages drivers and causes accidents. Now, think of bosses who tell employees how to work efficiently and effectively; if not done properly, they enrage people and cause output to decline.

Having spent much time since the 1960s telling people what to do ... all I can say is I wish I had had this book in the 1960s. The premise is ingenious; namely, if you can learn to speak properly to your machines, you'll do fine when dealing with people.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Social lessons from an unlikely source 29 Sep 2010
By Ariel M'ndange-Pfupfu - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
People are social beings. It can be argued that the concept of self can only be defined in the context of our own interest in what other people are thinking and feeling. Nass realizes that these social behaviors may be so ingrained that they appear even when interacting with computers, and conducts his psychology experiments using machines as easily controllable partners.

The results are interesting. Many actual studies are described and explained, which I like better than a more prose-heavy argument. However, I disliked how few counterarguments were presented, and how simplistic people were at times made up to be. While there certainly are patterns in human behavior, I don't think situations are always as cut-and-dry as the authors make it sound.

Even if I don't think it's applicable to every situation, I learned a lot about social science from this book, and how to quantify or measure some abstract concepts. Things like retrograde interference, identification/interdependence, and valence/arousal are useful ways of thinking about how people behave, and they're explained very well. It is also particularly helpful that there is a focus on counter-intuitive findings, which end up making sense and forming an overarching consistent picture.

I can only echo Nass' praise of Corina Yen's writing, which must have made it able to transform a large quantity of data into a clearly presented argument, with the right emphasis and concision to make it an absorbing read. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain some insight into how people (yourself included) think and why they act the way they do. With practice I even think it will make me a better reviewer!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, but not engaging 20 Feb 2011
By Dan - Published on
The topics covered in this book are worth learning about and I found myself instantly engaged after reading the first chapter online. However, after getting about halfway through the book, I found myself quite bored. The writing is very dry and the book follows a very cookie cutter format of laying out an experiment then explaining the results with quite a bit of unnecessary filler in between. There are many experiments where the results are quite obvious, and while I understand the need to prove them through experimentation, their explanations are often too drawn out.

This book could have easily been at least one-hundred pages shorter and made its point with far more precision (I don't know if it is just me but there was a definite overuse of exclamation points that made the writing seem less credible). I think perhaps the writer could have taken a few tips from his research to convey his information in a more digestible format.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Lessons from Human-Computer Interaction 12 Sep 2010
By Daniel Tunkelang - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's great when a book that is this full of serious research is also well written and highly entertaining. Nass and Yen bring together a collection of experimental results that repeatedly demonstrate how people treat computers like other people, and how we can draw conclusions about human social behavior from these human-computer experiments. The book is a great read--informative and funny, if a bit creepy when you think through its implications. I wrote a longer reaction on my blog:[...]
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Practical social insights 7 Feb 2011
By Nancyhua - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nass designs many interesting social experiments based on the premise that humans react similarly to machines as they do to other humans, so that machines are at least as suitable experiment confederates as human assistants since their actions are programmed and deterministic. In his own words, "I've uncovered many of these findings through my discovery that people treat computers and other interactive technologies like actual people. Watching people work with computers in social situations lets me strip away complexity and get to the fundamental truth of everyone's interactions."

Although it seems to me like some of experiments could have design flaws or overly simplistic conclusions, the research is relevant and interesting, dealing with a broad array of topics such as how people respond to mindless flattery versus informed compliments, the impact of valence emotions, modesty versus praise, the importance of imitation, interdependence and identification in teams, cognitive reframing, and the rule of reciprocity.

I liked how the book was organized with first the description of the question, then the experiment design, then the results and implications, and then each chapter ending with a summary of key points. Because Nass often works as an consultant to businesses or software design companies, the research and implications were often related to business situations, resulting in advice from perspectives such as the most effective way to deliver negative criticism to coworkers, or how to be viewed as an expert. This book was not technical, assumes no prior knowledge, and appeals to a broad audience. It is more about human-human interaction as revealed through human-computer interaction experiments than it is about computers or technology, except for the underlying assumption that humans at least somewhat treat computers as people.
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