Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sway; The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior

It's been our "car book" and now our Book Group pick. Ori and Rom Brafman's book, Sway; The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior, has even worked it's way into dinner conversations and water cooler discussions! This highly readable series of essays illuminates a few basic psychological reasonings for why we are "swayed" one way or another in the course of the decisions we make.
  1. Loss Aversion - simply put, the fear of losing something, ie. time, money, etc.
  2. Value Attribution - a quick mental shortcut to determine what is worthy of our attention and what is not. Our brain needs to sort and find order. Giving something value helps us sort that experience into the right place in our brain, thus resulting in some kind of order.
  3. Diagnosis Bias - once we diagnose a situation we see the world through the lens of that diagnosis and all of reality conforms to our bias.
We all act irrationally from time to time (some of us more than others) and this book, with it's series of essays helped explain some of the predicatble forces that sway us in our decisions. Story telling format allows for a more personal approach so that even economic and psychological data is easier to understand and swallow. I loved the story of the world famous musician who played his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarious for free in the subway and only one person recognized him or the story of the $20 bill that was auctioned off for $204!! How do all of these stories link together - that's the gift of the Brafman boys!

One of the lessons I took to that was offered by the authors is to always look at the long term implications of every decision before plunging ahead: Our natural tendancy to avoid the pain of loss will most likely distort our thinking when we place too much emphasis on short-term goals. When we adopt the long view, on the other hand, immediate potential losses don’t seem as menacing. Now, that is a powerful notion.

Whether we agreed with everything we read or not, Sway was highly readable and led to some great discussions and insight. We had great Book Group discussions and even husbands read along with us. It was a great vacation book. It was easy to pick up and read a chapter and then put it away until the next trip. It always seemed to come up when we were out with friends and it was fun to bring up some of the essays in the book and hear different reactions and thoughts. If you liked Freakonomics or Blink then this should suit you just fine!

1 comment:

alisonwonderland said...

I hadn't heard of this book. I'm going to have to check it out. Thanks for the review!