Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior – Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, 2008

I’m a total sucker for the Freakanomics/Malcom Gladwell genre anyway, but this book blew my socks off. It’s not very long and it’s full of the genre’s best features: counter-intuitive research results, sticky anecdotes, a breezy style. But two ideas that I’d heard before were described in such a way that they became striking insights for me: the extent to which I am irrationally loss-averse, and the power of the conflict between the altruistic and pleasure centers in explaining the striking arguments in Punished By Rewards. Knowing about my loss-aversion makes me wonder how to fix it. Coincidentally, I just read something that recommended taking a longer view in investing to avoid loss-aversion-driven selling low. But my problem tends to be more of a buy-and-hold-no-matter-what reaction (more generally than investing). As for the altruism/pleasure center conflicts, it could be very helpful in library and other non-profit PR in which I have input; ask for your supporters’ help because it will make them feel good, not because they’ll get anything out of it. Since we don’t have any budget for PBS-type incentives, we haven’t often diverged from that principle anyway, but it seems broadly useful. A great book and a quick read – A.

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