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Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  15,213 Ratings  ·  894 Reviews
Like the bestsellers Blink and Freakonomics, this lively narrative is a fresh view of the world, explaining the previously inexplicable and revealing hidden influences on human decision-making.

A Harvard Business School student pays over $200 for a $20 bill. Washington, DC, commuters ignore a free subway concert by a violin prodigy. A veteran airline pilot attempts to take
Audio CD, 4 pages
Published June 17th 2008 by HighBridge Company (first published January 1st 2008)
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Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
در موقعیتهای مختلف ممکنه تصمیمهایی بگیریم که با توجه به اطلاعات در دسترس و شرایط موجود غیرعقلانی باشه ولی گاهی این تصمیمهای غیرعقلانی خیلی جذاب و طبیعی به نظر میرسن. این تصمیمها که تحت نفوذ سوگیریهای خاصی هستند ما رو نسبت به دادههای موجود نابینا میکنن و ما رو به بیراهه میکشونن و این طور میشه که مرتکب اشتباه میشیم.
تعداد این سوگیریها زیاده. اما این کتاب تنها به چند مورد از سوگیریهای حوزه تصمیمگیری اشاره میکنه و برای هر کدوم نمونهای رو نشون میده که در دنیای واقع باعث تصمیمهای نابخردانه شدن و نتایج
Otis Chandler
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Otis by: kareem
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
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Nov 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you don't have any background in behavioral economics, and you don't remember anything from Intro to Psychology, and you want a compelling read, you might like this. They aren't bad writers; it's just that the whole book is anecdotes that treat causality far too casually.

If you have any background at all in college-level business, economics or psychology (or if you prefer your Science Facts to be accompanied by scientific reason), then look elsewhere (i.e. try something like "Nudge").
K's Corner
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Dec 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jackie "the Librarian"
Aug 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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

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
Sep 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 dogged ...more
Isabella Victoria
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of sway is based on an airplane captain named Van Zanten who makes an irrational decision which ultimately kills himself and the people on his plane. The book then goes on to talk about the world of irrational thinking and what "sways" us to make these seemingly preposterous decisions. What I like about this book is that it just doesn't focus on one set particular culture, it can go from France to Russia and its good to get knowledge on different cultures because as we all know no two ...more
Nikita Morrison
the fact that this book is created by brothers you can tell that they work together and they've seen different things and they collaborate together to sum up this entire book which overall does depict humans in our society perfectly well. this is an excellent book for those who want to change their work ethics. especially for group work because you kind of understand where everyone comes from a little bit. the two brothers in my opinion were able to successfully kind of write similarly in behavi ...more
Anderson Diaz
Sway is an enjoyable piece of literature with quite a bit of interesting information. What I enjoyed about the book was that it provided many examples, and stories to relate the information it was trying to convey to the reader. I managed to learn quite a bit about dealing with irrationality and what even causes it in the first place. A topic I would never even imagine caring much about before reading this book. While it was enjoyable to read all those stories having to do with the research and ...more
Aug 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems that I'm on a kick with books that explore how we think and why we do the things we do. This reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell but honestly wasn't quite as good as his books. MG is a much better writer and storyteller. Still, I enjoyed this book. It explored and explained several "sways" that undermine our ability to make rational, intelligent decisions every day and also at crucial moments such as when we might or might not avoid danger. Though I love to read books like this, I always en ...more
Jonathan Karmel
This book describes a number of different ways that human psychology causes people to act illogically. Concepts such as value attribution, diagnosis bias and the Pygmalion effect are illustrated in a very entertaining way.

If you're interested in the topic, Wikipedia has a good list of cognitive biases here:

I thought it was interesting that on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in the US, the audience always tries to help the contestant. But according to this
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
Jerry Williams
A little short, and repetitive at times, but speaks volumes about the problem of staying committed to ideas, relationships, narratives, jobs, etc due to our commitment to the unseen factors that sway us to these things. The most helpful advice is geared towards the end of the Book, and gives an example is IBM. The CEO's asked themselves, why the company was failing, and if new CEO's were hired to save the company, what would they do considering that they would approach the decision, bases upon s ...more
Michael Bohli
"Sway" ist eine kurze Einführung und Studie über die irrationalen Entscheidungen, die ein Mensch in einer Situation trifft. Wieso vergisst man Stress-Momenten die Logik? Wieso entscheidet man sich völlig gegen das eigene Wissen und gegen die Erfahrung?

Die Brafman Brüder versuchen anhand vieler interessanten und amüsanten Beispielen der Ursache auf der Grund zu kommen. Das Buch ist dadurch sehr leicht verständlich und liest sich locker und schnell. Dabei bleibt allerdings der Tiefgang etwas auf d
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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I have two free copies of Sway to give away... 6 94 Feb 02, 2009 11:10AM  
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“Having a long-term plan--and not casting it aside--is the key to dealing with our fear of loss (loss aversion).” 4 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
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