Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” as Want to Read:
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  19,259 ratings  ·  1,076 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
Hardcover, 206 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Crown Business (first published January 1st 2008)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sway, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  19,259 ratings  ·  1,076 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
May 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
Oct 18, 2021 rated it liked it
This was a pretty fun short book about he we are often much more irrational than we would like to think. If you’ve read some popular behavioral economics books, many of the case studies will be familiar to you. There’s the one about the great violinist who plays in the subway in scrappy clothes, the one about the Challenger disaster / O-Rings, the one about how selling hot dogs at a discount didn’t increase sales, etc. I imagine authors of these books at a market stall selecting some different c ...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
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Books are basically meant to be read (although some buy them for display purposes only). So you buy books because you intend to read them. But why buy more books if you already have so many books in your to-be-read pile that you can’t possibly finish reading them even if you live 150 years? IT is pointless, a waste of money and silly. Yet you keep on doing it. This book analyzes irrational behaviours like this.

It starts with a real life story, a tragic one. KLM Flight 4805 was piloted by Captain
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: library, the-brain
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
Nov 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Joy D
In my working life, I have observed first-hand smart, capable executives making poor business decisions. Although the common thinking is that business decisions are based on logic, such as cost-benefit analysis and business cases, in my experience, the optimal solution is not always selected. This cogent, enlightening book provides explanations of the variety of influences that may have contributed to these questionable decisions. At the beginning of each chapter, the author provides an example ...more
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it
There are two major flaws with Sway. One is that it does not tread any new ground. Most of what is conveyed has already been covered in other books. The other is the fact that the book has become more a collection of research citations than a solid idea structured book. I found the lack of summarizing sections at the end of each chapter annoying as well though that was somehow made up for by the Epilogue chapter.

If you are a new comer in the field of behavioral sciences, Sway may have much to of
Lisa Vegan
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
K's Corner
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this short and powerful read. It is about various forces that drive our decision making, forces that too often sway us in the wrong direction without us even realizing that they are happening. It gives you some new perspective and awareness of what those 'sways' are, why they influence behaviors of those around us and our own selves and finally what you could potentially do to not be victimized by them. Very interesting! ...more
Jul 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
This book covers roughly the same behavioral economics territory considered in such recent books as Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" ( and "Nudge" by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein ( 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
Jackie "the Librarian"
Aug 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was torn between 2 and 3 stars for this book. It is entertaining at times, which is why I opted for the third star, but it’s really just a very lightweight entry into the pop psychology genre. The writing is too cutesy for my tastes, while the conclusions drawn are ambiguous and, most of the time, could be supportive of the exact opposite point the authors intended.

Since I listened to the audio version, I don’t know what sort of supporting detail the authors provided for their conclusions, bu
Menglong Youk
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 stars

I read this book three months after a painful breakup. Knowing the consequences of staying would be too costly, yet, I still hanged on, hoping an unfaithful person would change their behavior.

"To withdraw now is to accept a sure loss, and that option is deeply unattractive. When you combine this with the force of commitment, the option of hanging on will therefore be relatively attractive even if the chances of success are small, and the cost of delaying failure is high. Aversion to
Jesse Markus
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2012
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.

Blows years of economic theories out the window that people are 'rational'. They are not and economic theory should assume that people do behave this way.
Yousha Matin
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly easy to read and insightful introduction to understanding the wonderful world of irrational behavior. Some great examples throughout. A tad "poppy" but I don't think that's a criticism. Rather, the accessibility of this book, and its short length means the chances of it being finished are higher, and that can only be a good thing when gaining knowledge. ...more
Javier Lorenzana
Jan 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: to-think
Everyone acts irrationally sometimes; Sway explains why.

Quick, fun, insightful read.
Bogdan Teodorescu
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, e-book
Well interesting read, but many of the facts presented seemed more than obvious and intuitive for me so I didn't learn too much. Still there were some interesting psychological experiments with some unexpected results, and overall it was a well-documented book and well-structured, covering most of what I expected. Nothing special anyway ...more
Ayush Shrestha
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sway by, Rom Brafman and Ori Brafman, goes on to outstand us avid readers of psychology, by exposing why you bought those expensive pair of headphones when there were the exact same being sold for a lesser price. Why you got turned down your last job interview, and why we feel dumb when we’re called dumb. Sway utilizes the most interesting of experiments to uncover why we do, what we do, even if our choice was completely illogical. Placing doctors near a hotdog stand, a man boosted his sales thr ...more
Dec 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Emma Blando
Feb 15, 2022 rated it really liked it

Very repetitive but I learned something new so :)
Clarence Reed
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
ReedIII Quick Review: Interesting, light, social psychology that attempts to present “surprising” ways that humans make decisions that are often irrational. Excellent discussions on 1) expectations affect on behavior, 2) how first impressions sway our opinions & 3) how lost aversion affects us.
Dylan Chen
Nov 08, 2022 rated it really liked it
Sway - The Irresistible Pull of Behavior

I feel like the writers who made this book really stretched out their examples to the point where it’s not the most relevant/concrete for the given psychological example. Or, the writers could have written this while they were high or something. Either way, there is a clear interruption of flowage in conscious thought, and you have to constantly switch gears in order to keep along with what the writers are trying to convey. The book does have a go
Angela Blount
Jul 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

I read this on the heels of Thinking Fast and Slow...which may have affected my rating. It was a relief to have a far shorter, more concise read covering a number of overlapping topics, which also (thankfully) happened to be more entertaining in presentation. The primary subjects covered included: the effects of expectations on behavior, how first impressions both linger and impact opinions, and the many detrimental effects of loss-aversion.

What stood out to this reader above everythin
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
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 not
I was particularly drawn to this book during this time of mass irrational behavior, and it did not disappoint. I've always wanted to know the reasons behind people's actions (both my own and others) and this book was incredibly helpful in uncovering some of the subconscious forces that influence behavior. The fact that the writing is concise and accessible is a major plus. Absolutely everyone could get something out of this book! ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
I have two free copies of Sway to give away... 6 97 Feb 02, 2009 11:10AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations
  • Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive
  • The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up-and-Go Has Got Up and Gone
  • The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
  • The Wisdom of Crowds
  • The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
  • Choices, Values, and Frames
  • Willpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success
  • Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
  • The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage
  • Deep Conviction: True Stories of Ordinary Americans Fighting for the Freedom to Live Their Beliefs
  • Catastrophes and Heroes: True Stories of Man-Made Disasters
  • The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone - Especially Ourselves
  • Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most
  • Enchanting the Heiress (Hearts on the Heath, #3)
  • Why We Fought: Inspiring Stories of Resisting Hitler and Defending Freedom
  • How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds
  • The Great Depression: A Diary
See similar books…
See top shelves…

Related Articles

New year, new you! Or perhaps the same you, but a 2.0 version? The start of a new year is known for resolutions, which, as we all know,...
121 likes · 3 comments
“Having a long-term plan--and not casting it aside--is the key to dealing with our fear of loss (loss aversion).” 7 likes
“If they had been, explained Falk, they would have had to come up with a falsifiable hypothesis. For instance, if the hypothesis is that all tomatoes are red, you can disprove the hypothesis by finding a yellow tomato. “What I said in my paper,” Falk told us, “that [the Hobbit] is not a microcephalic, can be falsified with one specimen from a proven microcephalic whose virtual endocast looks identical. And that is scientific.” 1 likes
More quotes…