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Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior [Paperback]

Ori Brafman , Rom Brafman
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jun 2009
A fascinating journey into the hidden psychological influences that derail our decision-making, Sway will change the way you think about the way you think.

Why is it so difficult to sell a plummeting stock or end a doomed relationship? Why do we listen to advice just because it came from someone “important”? Why are we more likely to fall in love when there’s danger involved? In Sway, renowned organizational thinker Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Rom Brafman, answer all these questions and more.

Drawing on cutting-edge research from the fields of social psychology, behavioral economics, and organizational behavior, Sway reveals dynamic forces that influence every aspect of our personal and business lives, including loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses), the diagnosis bias (our inability to reevaluate our initial diagnosis of a person or situation), and the “chameleon effect” (our tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us).

Sway introduces us to the Harvard Business School professor who got his students to pay $204 for a $20 bill, the head of airline safety whose disregard for his years of training led to the transformation of an entire industry, and the football coach who turned conventional strategy on its head to lead his team to victory. We also learn the curse of the NBA draft, discover why interviews are a terrible way to gauge future job performance, and go inside a session with the Supreme Court to see how the world’s most powerful justices avoid the dangers of group dynamics.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that not only challenges our views of the world but changes the way we think. In Sway, Ori and Rom Brafman not only uncover rational explanations for a wide variety of irrational behaviors but also point readers toward ways to avoid succumbing to their pull.

Product details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Business; Reprint edition (2 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385530609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385530606
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 12.4 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,328,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A breezy introduction to the science of decision making ... shows the many ways in which logical thought can be subverted or "swayed" Wall Street Journal "A breathtaking book that will challenge your every thought, Sway hovers above the intersection of Blink and Freakonomics." Tom Rath, co-author of the New York Times Number 1 bestseller 'How Full Is Your Bucket?' "A worthy companion to Malcolm Gladwell at his best. One of those rare books that explains the obvious in ways that are not obvious at all" Kirkus Reviews "A unique and compulsively readable look at unseen behavioural forces" Fortune "Many come to claim the crown of Freakonomics ... this is a valid pretender to the throne" The Bookseller --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

Book Description

DISCOVER THE HIDDEN FORCES THAT SABOTAGE RATIONAL BEHAVIOUR --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When The Emperor Has No Clothes 8 Jun 2008
Why would a seasoned pilot, the head of KLM's safety program, ignore his co-pilot and attempt a takeoff in fog at an unfamiliar airport, causing the worst air disaster in history? Why did the co-pilot, who had done exactly the right thing when he reminded his captain that the flight had not been cleared for takeoff, fail to repeat his warning when the pilot pressed ahead?

The collision at Tenerife airport cost the lives of 584 people. Using that accident as their starting point, the Brafman brothers explore the psychological forces that cause people to take large risks to avoid small losses, to judge people and situations by first impressions despite subsequent inconsistent evidence, and to ignore objections from dissenters.

"Sway" is the latest in an engaging series of books like Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" and "Blink" and Steven Levitt's "Freakonomics." The Brafmans' effort is one of the best written and most approachable of the recent crop, and somehow it kept my focused attention for the duration of a cross-country flight--perhaps the authors are appealing to my irrational impulses in ways they don't let on!

Anyway, one of the most interesting parts of the book is the most reassuring. Research reveals that groups often make better decisions if there's a "blocker" or "dissenter" present--even if that person dissents for the wrong reasons. The authors describe a classic experiment in which the test subjects are led to believe they are being tested for their visual skills--three lines of different lengths are to be matched to a fourth line. The differences in line length are very obvious, so there is plainly only one correct answer.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
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, getting marriage, and 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?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging but frustratingly superficial 17 Jun 2009
What the authors call a "Sway" is what is more generally called a cognitive bias. This is a well-written, quite short, rush through the subject, mainly focusing on real-world examples. It tells decision-makers that things can go badly wrong due to natural human biases - from confirmation bias to conformity - and gives lots of interesting examples. There are 42 endnotes pointing to relevant scientific research. However, where it falls down is that I don't feel that it teaches the reader how to think systematically about the subject: identifying biases, seeing clearly why a particular bias is the explanation for the behaviour they are talking about. This is partly made up for by the Epilogue which collects some tips for how to prevent yourself from being swayed. There are already several really excellent non-technical books on cognitive biases, including Sutherland's "Irrationality", Fine's "A Mind of its Own" and Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" (see my Listmania list). Then again, for someone who wants a quick introduction, "Sway" might be ideal.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and educational! 24 July 2010
From the back cover:

'Why would an experienced pilot disregard his training and the rules of the aviation industry, resulting in the deaths of 584 people?'

'Why would a group of highly-skilled doctors fail to diagnose an evidently sick child, with tragic consequences?'

'Why are we all more likely to fall in love when we feel in danger?'

This book is set up a little like a murder mystery. The authors talk about a scenario, something irrational that happened but shouldn't have happened. The authors then explain it, referencing research into how the brain works. Very enjoyable!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Plane Reading
An interesting book. A little dated and very American but a good way to pass 3 hours on a flight!
Text might be a bit small for some.
Published 4 months ago by NinaD
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
Interesting. Entertaining. But everything in the book could be presented in just a page! The rest are just examples stretched to fit into the arguments. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Konstantinos Nikoglou
4.0 out of 5 stars What makes clever,expierienced people act on impulse at times
What makes doctors, politicians, businessmen, aircraft pilots and people from all walks of society make the most illogical blunders at times with grave consequences. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Toxoscot
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, but too short
This is an exceptionally easy book to read: in fact, as it's already a small book, that's the main reason why I've given it 3 rather than 5 stars. Read more
Published 15 months ago by W. H. J. Yip
1.0 out of 5 stars International bestseller ? !
I am surprised this book has been an international bestseller. There are few interesting experiments that are illustrated by the authors, but these tend to be cited in almost every... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Kutlay Akpinar
4.0 out of 5 stars For all those that have read Freakanomics!
Picks up on the latest theories in behavioural economics and shows through anecdotes and experiments how people can be swayed (hence the title) to pick or choose in certain ways. Read more
Published on 11 July 2012 by Half Man, Half Book
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for everyone who wants to survive in today's challenging and...
Reading this book you will be able to unlock the way irrational people think & act, as well as the reasons why they do it. Read more
Published on 27 Jun 2010 by Philokypros Andreou
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good indeed - and doesn't outstay its welcome
Two-word review: it's great!

Yes, it can be anecdotal, but in between the anecdotes are interesting and completely relevant descriptions of fascinating research... Read more
Published on 14 Sep 2009 by Amazon Customer
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