Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
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Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  8,352 ratings  ·  720 reviews
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 involve...more
Hardcover, 206 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Crown Business (first published January 1st 2008)
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Trevor
First you need to find yourself an interesting verb – Sway in this case, obviously, but Snoop is also good, as is Stick. It doesn’t have to start with ‘s’ – there’s Blink as well, of course. Then you need some really good stories about people at the end of their tether. Plane accidents are particularly good for this. Both Outliers and Sway both have plane crashes and both have you at the edge of your seat waiting for the inevitable.

Then you need ‘get-out-of-here’ psychology tests – honestly, who...more
Lena
I was not at all in the mood for another non-fiction book about human behavior when my husband asked if I wanted to read this one before he returned it to the library. I half-heartedly decided to scan a few pages before saying no, but I was quickly sucked in to a fictionalized re-creation of the last few hours in the cockpit of the KLM flight responsible for the 1977 Tenerife crash that claimed the lives of 583 people.

Though this book looks at research from social psychology, behavioral economic...more
Otis Chandler
Great book. Quick read, and you learn about about psychology that you can apply to life or business.

A few notes:
- All about first impressions. First impressions can sway our opinion of something for years to come regardless of subsequent performance.
- Labels matter. If you label someone as a higher performer, top of class, leader, having command potential, etc - it will translate into them actually having it. My high school motto was Principes Non Homines (leaders not men) - now I know why they...more
Barnaby Thieme
I wish I could recommend this book, as the topic is an interesting and important one, but I can't. It's simply not well written or organized.

Brafman treats the hot topic of cognitive biases and nonconscious factors that contribute to decision making, an area which has received enormous attention in recent years in cognitive and social psychology (Wegner, Wilson), and economics (Tversky).

I gather what he's trying to do is to present some of the basic findings to a lay audience. Either Brafman's...more
Orsolya
We’ve all made irrational decisions: be it in work, love, or finances. The question is, why? What psychological drive causes this behavior? Brothers Ori and Rom Brafman explore these burning questions in, “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior”.

In “Sway”, Brafman and Brafman attempt to explore loss aversion, value attribution, and the diagnosis bias in order to explain human behavior which is either irrational or out of the norm. Sadly, they are not quite successful.

“Sway” is gear...more
Lisa Vegan
Jun 01, 2008 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone - except those who never read nonfiction, but maybe they’d appreciate this one
This book is very readable and entertaining, and so engaging that I just kept reading and didn’t read the notes until after I’d finished the book, which is unusual for me. It’s fascinating knowlege for anyone who has an interest in universal human nature and/or group dynamics.

The authors take a bunch of existing studies and do a tremendous job of presenting a cogent thesis about why human beings can exhibit such irrational behaviors. I was familiar with many of the studies cited in the book; I w...more
David
This book covers roughly the same behavioral economics territory considered in such recent books as Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....) and "Nudge" by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....) It had been stalking me on my Amazon recommendations queue for at least a year, but I had resisted it successfully until this weekend, when I came across it in the bookstore and finally succumbed.

I'm glad I did. I wasn't expe...more
Brian
Quick read - 181 pages. I banged it out over two days. Sway is a social economic book from the same vein as Freakonomics and The Tipping Point. The authors descibe psychological forces that can "sway" people into irrational decision making. Several well stated examples are given to support the authors theories throughout.

Overall, Sway is entertaining. It falls short on meaningful substance, and some areas are fluff laden. However, there are several interesting points illustrated through engaging...more
Ross
Think of the the Brafman brothers as a poor man's Malcolm Galdwell. A very, very poor man. "Sway" covers interesting and important ground, but dumbs it down way too much.

This might be the right call when presenting this material to a half-day corporate retreat. But it makes for a maddening read. Instead of building up their case based on evidence and support, the authors simply assert their conclusions (or the conclusions of the researchers on which they rely? It's never made clear). Instead of...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
Aug 04, 2008 Jackie "the Librarian" rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: If you enjoy books such as Freakonomics
Recommended to Jackie "the Librarian" by: Lisa Vegan
Shelves: non-fiction
That street musician might just be a musical genius - you never know! Beware of making assumptions about the value of something based on superficial appearances, or you may miss out on a masterpiece, like the stolen painting in a cheap frame, left out with the trash, and found on the streets of New York by a woman with a discerning eye.
Give yourself permission to go against the crowd, and question authority when you have legitimate questions. In other words, don't let yourself fall prey to bein...more
Thomas
Evolution has favored our thinking in anecdotes, stereotypes and vivid imagery. I get it. You want to explain behavioral economics to the masses, so you use real-life anecdotes and then you spin (invent, story-tell, you get the picture) a causal story about Why Something Happened. People love it, the book sells a lot of copies. It's still about as scientific as Kipling's "Just-So Stories."

If you don't have any background in behavioral economics, and you don't remember anything from Intro to Psyc...more
rivka
Jul 31, 2011 rivka rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who have never considered these issues
Recommended to rivka by: Lisa Vegan
Well, the goal of reading this after GG&S was to find something faster-paced and less academic. In that way, it was a success.

In most others, not so much. For a book published in 2008, it depends an awful lot on studies and publications from the mid-90s. The cited sources may have used adequate numbers and documentation, but this book certainly did not. "Some" as a quantifier was way, way overused.

This book depended far too much on gimmicks like the chapter opening pages and other fluff, and...more
Jesse Markus
Another one of those books that everybody should read. The authors take lots of separate examples of irrational behavior and counter-intuitive conclusions, and tie them all together with solid, scientifically satisfying explanations. Not only is it packed full of illuminating information, but it also contains lots of stories, which makes it very readable. I'd go so far as to say that the world would be a lot better off if everyone absorbed the lessons in this book, which should only take a coupl...more
Jesus
Not a brilliant book. If you are interested in this subject I recommend you reading far better books by researchers (authors are not researchers) such as "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions" by Dan Ariely or "Thinking, fast and slow" by Daniel Kanehman.
"Sway" is entertaining but lacks substance. It is mostly a long collection of stories.
Another downside for readers across this flat world: the book is for USA readers. For example the book assumes you are familiar w...more
Jonny99
I didn’t check the NYT Bestseller list but I would assume that Sway must be doing well. It is brief enough to read over a weekend and there is just enough psychology that you can repeat and sound like you know what you are talking. It is sort of a little tree that grew in the ground broken by Freakonomics.
The book starts with a story of the mature, highly experienced, and well-trained head of safety at KLM airlines impulsively taking off without clearance, plowing into another plane and killing...more
Jamie
Much like Predictably Irrational from earlier this year, Ori and Rom Brafman's Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior seeks to educate us on quirks of the human mind that lead us to engage in decidedly irrational behavior. And it covers a lot of the same topics: confirmation bias, first impressions, loss aversion, diagnostic bias, sunk costs, and more. Along the way they use these kinks in human nature to answer a variety of questions. What causes college football coaches to doggedl...more
Jonathan
Very entertaining. It feels like the authors have just kind of thrown a lot of material together, but the material is fascinating. Roughly speaking, the book is about how people's behavior and decisions are driven by psychological factors they aren't aware of.

Just to give an example, there was a study dealing with the impact of first impressions in which a class of college students were told they would have a substitute instructor for that day's lecture. Bios of the lecturer were handed out, an...more
Yeribel
Quotes/Notes:

Aversion to loss: It doesn’t matter how wrong the decision is, as long as you believe that things will turn out well in the end you will do everything possible to keep in the path. Fighting is better than accepting defeat.

Daniel Kahneman: “To withdraw now is to accept a sure loss,” he writes about digging oneself deeper into a political hole, “and that option is deeply unattractive.” When you combine this with the force of commitment, “the option of hanging on will therefore be rela...more
Christal
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Ram Brofman is a very broad overview of several sociological attributes that may affect behavior, causing people to react and behave in unexpected ways. The Brofmans provide a multitude of anecdotal evidence to explain these topics and to demonstrate how they might be observed in everyday life. While this book isn’t very effective at explaining how to combat irrational behavior, it does succeed in introducing the common attributes in...more
Kelly
Jul 17, 2010 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who are curious about human decision-making behavior
I've been reading a lot of books like this lately--books that talk about how irrational humans are. Basically, all of them have me convinced that we are doomed, and this one is no different. I mean, it's fine that we made idiotic decisions or simply don't understand probability or cause and effect when we were hunting and gathering, but now that we have things like nuclear bombs, it's more frightening.

One of the stories in the book is about the worst plane crash in history (Tenerife, KLM/Pan Am...more
Lain
A poor imitation of the pop culture/psychology genre benchmarked by Malcolm Gladwell. While the topic was interesting enough (why people make irrational decisions in light of contradictory information), but the presentation left something lacking. I never got the "Aha!" realizations I get in Gladwell's books, nor did the examples seem particularly compelling and strong. The most interesting (NBA draft) were given lip service while the boring ones ("the missing link") were beaten to death. I quit...more
Michelle
I read this book so fast. It was fascinating and made me really think about how I have been making decisions lately. It covered a huge range of ideas and the stories were incredible and really well told. I'll admit the authors didn't delve very deep into the topics but I don't think that was a bad thing. I'm sure I can find other books on these topics that would beat the subject to death but this book was delightful because of it's brevity. I would highly recommend this as an easy read, a car au...more
Melissa Namba
This is one of those books that I will need to revisit every year or so because I have a terrible memory and the information in this book is so interesting. I know it is true that people make illogical decisions all the time, but when you have it pointed out how and why they do it, I can see how I can prevent myself from falling victim to it sometimes. I doubt I will ever get to the point where I don't every follow the sway (I think I'd be less human if I perfected it).
Elizabeth
This book was fascinating! The first bit of information that was interesting was how fast we make judgments and then how hard it is to have those judgments changed. The second bit of information that was interesting was how we sometimes we feel compelled to "stay the course" even when it is completely crazy to do so. This is the paragraph from p. 178 that I have highlighted and hanging over my desk:
"What personal construct theory teaches us is to remain flexible and examine things from different...more
Lambeam
I really like this kind of book but would be hard pressed to distinguish it from Freakanomics or anything Malcolm Gladwell writes. Maybe I liked it a little better. The topics were appealing - I have a morbid interest in plane crashes and was curious to see how in every family (and I guess in every setting) there is always an initiator (Why don't we go out to dinner?) and a blocker (Let's not). I never suspected something like that was going on...
Amanda
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior is a series of different examples of how normally rational humans can convince themselves that seemingly irrational behavior is the best path.

As a retail employee, this book helped me understand the sometimes completely irrational behavior of the customers that come to my store! It was a good, short read.
Bill O'Hanlon
I've read this one before and am going back over it taking notes for a seminar I am preparing on how to influence clients in therapy to change using social influence research, social psychology research, decision-making research and persuasion research. It's well written, engaging and has lots of good examples and research.
kareem
i wish my psychology textbooks read like this back in the day! sway explains many of the reasons we act irrationally. it uses entertaining case studies to do so, and is written in an incredibly accessible manner. highly recommended if you want to be more aware of your own irrational behavior, and thus make better decisions.
James Mcmurray
This is an excellent survey of several of the major factors humans fall prone to that keep us from thinking rationally. The book is incredibly well-written and easy to digest. Entertaining anecdotes go hand-in-hand with experimental data to provide a whole picture.

The only complaint I had, and it isn't really something that would affect most readers, is that I wished the experimental data had been different in some parts. There are many of these irrational behaviors that have been known for quit...more
Mark
The key to life: be open-minded and non judgmental. That's certainly not an easy way to approach life for us humans. I'm glad the authors mentioned Zen Buddhism, because that philosophy certainly aids one in approaching the world with an uncluttered outlook.
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I have two free copies of Sway to give away... 6 88 Feb 02, 2009 08:10PM  
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“The deeper the hole they dig themselves into, the more they continue to dig” 4 likes
“Having a long-term plan--and not casting it aside--is the key to dealing with our fear of loss (loss aversion).” 2 likes
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