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The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind

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From the author of New York Times bestsellers Contagious and Invisible Influence comes a revolutionary approach to changing anyone’s mind.

Everyone has something they want to change. Marketers want to change their customers’ minds and leaders want to change organizations. Start-ups want to change industries and nonprofits want to change the world. But change is hard. Often, we persuade and pressure and push, but nothing moves. Could there be a better way?

This book takes a different approach. Successful change agents know it’s not about pushing harder, or providing more information, it’s about being a catalyst. Catalysts remove roadblocks and reduce the barriers to change. Instead of asking, “How could I change someone’s mind?” they ask a different question: “Why haven’t they changed already? What’s stopping them?”

The Catalyst identifies the key barriers to change and how to mitigate them. You’ll learn how catalysts change minds in the toughest of situations: how hostage negotiators get people to come out with their hands up and how marketers get new products to catch on, how leaders transform organizational culture and how activists ignite social movements, how substance abuse counselors get addicts to realize they have a problem, and how political canvassers change deeply rooted political beliefs.

This book is designed for anyone who wants to catalyze change. It provides a powerful way of thinking and a range of techniques that can lead to extraordinary results. Whether you’re trying to change one person, transform an organization, or shift the way an entire industry does business, this book will teach you how to become a catalyst.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published March 10, 2020

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About the author

Jonah Berger

15 books654 followers
Jonah Berger is a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior.

Dr. Berger has spent over 15 years studying how social influence works and how it drives products and ideas to catch on. He’s published dozens of articles in top-tier academic journals, consulted for a variety of Fortune 500 companies, and popular outlets like the New York Times and Harvard Business Review often cover his work.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 269 reviews
Profile Image for David Wineberg.
Author 2 books734 followers
November 10, 2019
No one is ever satisfied with others. Everyone wants others to change. It’s the way of the world, from social programs to closed-minded managers to sales reps to elections. Everyone wants everyone else to see it their way. Jonah Berger tries to bring successful change tactics to this conundrum in The Catalyst. I’m not sure he succeeds. He needs to apply them to me, I guess.

The book is a collection of tactics, assembled in anecdotes. People all over the world try new approaches to old problems, and sometimes they succeed. The change agents don’t have to be academics or professionals. They just have to think outside the box. Sometimes you can move mountains that way.

It starts off well, telling readers they might be asking the wrong questions. What they really should be asking is: “Why weren’t people doing this in the first place? What was stopping them?” This puts any problem in a very different light, and can lead to innovative approaches. As opposed to telling them they’re just wrong and this other way is clearly and obviously better. Could be smoking or gay rights or politics; persistent badgering does not work.

My favorite example of breaking down a firm conviction comes from Thailand, where a local health initiative with essentially no money used children to ask for a light for their cigarette. Many of the smokers they approached refused and actually lectured the kids on the dangers of smoking. At which point the children handed them a small piece of paper, folded in four, which contained the contact information for the health center that wanted to help them quit. Apparently the phones lit up continuously all throughout the campaign and continued to long after. All the ads in the world couldn’t change their minds over decades, but a child pointing out their own hypocrisy did the trick.

The basic problem is that people don’t like to be told what to do; they like to think it’s their own decision. So hammering them doesn’t work and often simply reinforces their stand. Finding common ground and switching the scenario to the one at hand can succeed far more effectively. Berger has a small shopping list of tactics that have worked for someone, somewhere, at some point. But not always and not everywhere.

As in so many of these summary books, the author has stacked the anecdotes to make their points. Because hindsight is so keen. But you could just as easily use the same evidence to come to the opposite conclusion.

For example, in the Brexit referendum, you might think that leaving would be too much of a change, taking voters out of their zone of acceptance – the range of possibilities voters might find acceptable. Or you might find the slogan “Take Back Control” was so appealing, it overcame the lies put forward on the famous red campaign bus (It claimed Britain contributed more than twice as much to Europe as it actually did). Or you might say the lies fooled voters into thinking they were making a genuine decision on their own. On the other hand, confirmation bias would have had voters thinking why they should believe any of this at all. Consider the source – Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson… And on still another hand, the force of inertia is dependable for rejection of radical change. No matter how bad things are, better the devil you know. Then, there’s reactance. Spouting all these supposed negative effects and figures would normally reinforce voters’ positions coming in, as Leave was the strange new concept after 50 years of European co-operation. And since polls showed all along that voters would choose Remain (by ever-narrowing margins, it is true), the bleatings of the Leave crowd should have just reinforced the will to Remain.

So all of these (italicized) factors that Berger employs to change minds come into play in Brexit. How to evaluate their effectiveness? Berger gives the impression it was the slogan Take Back Control that changed minds most. Leave won, of course, but only a quarter of eligible voters chose Leave, as two thirds weren’t even moved enough to vote. So it hardly caused a major shift in public opinion.

The point is, you can find a scenario that works and proves the method – after the fact.

The book includes the heartwarming stories of a rabbi and his wife who turned a Klansman threatening their lives, by offering him help, which apparently no one had ever done before. And a Florida canvasser who turned a macho South American from voting against transgender rights by revealing herself as gay, and empathizing with the discrimination the man was going through because his wife was disabled. So it definitely has its moments. They boil down to a common basis: To truly change something, you need to understand it.

The Catalyst is harmed by Berger’s longwinded setups that seem to say the reader knows nothing and everything must be spoonfed at length in the most basic terms. He makes it too easy to skip ahead. It also suffers from cutesy management speak. Rather than be straight with readers, Berger creates the totally forgettable acronym REDUCE to encompass reactance endowment distance uncertainty corroborating-evidence. Great for consultants, not so much for book buyers. It becomes yet worse when he writes cheesy things like if you’re stepping on the gas and making no forward movement, check the parking brake.

So The Catalyst is a mixed bag: an eyeroller as well as an inspiration.

David Wineberg
October 9, 2020
If this book could be described in one word, it would be ENLIGHTENING!! 👍It is VERY INTERESTING and can be read by any curious person who wants to understand why people change and also why they do not change!
Here is why I LOVE Nonfiction: 😉 " You mostly LEARN things you did not know before reading a book, and I am very passionate about learning new things!!"

Book Synopsis:

Everyone has something they want to change. Marketers want to change their customers’ minds and leaders want to change organisations. Start-ups want to change industries and nonprofits want to change the world. But change is hard. Often, we persuade and pressure and push, but nothing moves. Could there be a better way?

This book takes a different approach. Successful change agents know it’s not about pushing harder, or providing more information, it’s about being a catalyst. Catalysts remove roadblocks and reduce the barriers to change. Instead of asking, “How could I change someone’s mind?” they ask a different question: “Why haven’t they changed already? What’s stopping them?”

The Catalyst identifies the key barriers to change and how to mitigate them. You’ll learn how catalysts change minds in the toughest of situations: how hostage negotiators get people to come out with their hands up and how marketers get new products to catch on, how leaders transform organisational culture and how activists ignite social movements, how substance abuse counselors get addicts to realise they have a problem and how political campaigners change deeply rooted political beliefs.

This book is designed for anyone who wants to catalyse change. It provides a powerful way of thinking and a range of techniques that can lead to extraordinary results. Whether you’re trying to change one person, transform an organisation, or shift the way an entire industry does business, this book will teach you how to become a catalyst.
Profile Image for Amy Bruestle.
273 reviews210 followers
January 5, 2021
I won this book from a giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

There were parts of this book that were super interesting! Especially the FBI Agent. However, there was a lot of repetition and I sadly found myself bored through most of the book. Thankfully there were entertaining parts mixed in evenly! I think the author had a lot of great information, but I just had a hard time staying captivated through the whole thing.

That being said, I don’t regret reading this, because I do feel like I learned something new, which I always strive to do! So I consider that a win!
Profile Image for simona.citeste.
160 reviews141 followers
August 11, 2023
Informații clare și folositoare cu mare aplicabilitate.

Învătăm cum să adordăm diverse situații și scenarii ce implică schimbarea părerilor și deciziilor cuiva.

Se concentrează pe 5 metode (foarte eficiente și raționale) și aduce și exemple reale.

Super recomand!
Profile Image for Nopadol Rompho.
Author 4 books336 followers
July 11, 2020
I've followed the work of Professor Jonah Berger since his first book. I like this book simply because it is related to how to influence people. If you want to change others' mind but don't know how to do it, you can start reading this book and try to apply it into your situation. Strongly recommended.
Profile Image for Jake.
764 reviews44 followers
January 5, 2020
I liked the psychological tips for better communication. I didn't love the business/marketing speak, although most people who read this will dig that side, I suspect. It gave me a few things to ponder. Thanks to goodreads for the free copy.
Profile Image for عبدالرحمن عقاب.
692 reviews800 followers
April 28, 2020
الكلّ يحتاج إلى إحداث قدرٍ من التغيير، في نفسه أو فيما حوله. لكنّ التغيير ليس أمرًا سهلاً، ولا يمضي عادةً بسلاسة ويُسر. ومقابلة هذا التعسّر بمزيد من الضغط المباشر والمتواصل غالبًا ما تنتهي إلى استنزاف الوقت والجهد، بل والخسارة والإحباط في كثيرٍ من الأحيان.
يعالج الكتاب إحداث التغيير بإضافة "الحافز"* وهي استعارة من عالم التفاعلات الكيمائية والحيوية؛ حيث يعمل الحافز على تقليل الجهد والوقت المطلوب لإتمام العملية. وهكذا؛ فبدلاً من الضغط لتسيير العجلة، فكّر بإزالة العقبة التي تمنع دورانها. هذه هي فكرة الكتاب الرئيسية.
يطرح الكاتب خمس عقبات تعيق تحقّق التغيير؛ وهي: (ردة الفعل النفسية، والتعلّق القلبي بما نعرف أو نملك، والمسافة الفاصلة بين حدود القبول والرفض، والريبة المستقبلية التي يحملها كل تغيير، وتأثير النصائح والتوصيات فينا). كما يطرح الكتاب خطواتٍ عملية لعلاج كلّ عقبة من تلك العقبات، باسطاً الأمثلة، والأفكار النظرية التي تقوم عليها تلك الخطوات العملية.
أهمّ الفصول وأغناها بالنسبة لي هو الفصل الأخير. أما الفصول التي قبله؛ فلم تخلُ من بدهيات ومعلومات مطروقةٍ من قبل.
يضع الكاتب في نهاية كلّ فصل حالة دراسية، يطبّق عليها التوصيات العملية التي حواها الفصل.

58 reviews2 followers
July 16, 2020
As a health psychologist, I found the premise of this book--how to encourage people to change--intriguing. Unfortunately, Berger has little research to support his assertions, he tries to force information into a mnemonic that doesn't fit, and--most surprisingly of all--the writing is atrocious.

You can find a summary of the premise and the mnemonic--REDUCE--elsewhere, and the idea of removing barriers to change is a good one. However, this book is full of anecdotes, hypotheticals, and claims that have no research backing. The research that's here is often based on single studies, which is a significant issue given problems with replicability in the social science literature. The studies and examples he cites are often stretched to support his point, and sometimes the connection isn't ever made. He writes extensively about interventions for substance abuse (as part of his section on "Corroborating Evidence," because why not?) and doesn't share data on whether these are effective in actually helping people change. He can't, since evidence is mixed at best (interventions get people into treatment, doesn't necessarily keep them there). Berger gives a long example of "Dr. Diane Priest" helping an obese truck driver lose weight by asking him to cut down from three liters of Mountain Dew a day to two, an anecdote that has been swirling around health psychology for at least a decade (and great for people who love anecdotes and don't care about real data). More frequently he discusses events "that we've all been through" and walks the reader through hypothetical situations where his recommendations would help. Scientists know that hypothetical situations may lead to a pilot project but aren't enough for publication. If theories or research conflict with each other--does repeated exposure to a product or idea make you more likely to learn more about it or resist it?--he rarely tries to explain the discrepancy.

Berger also simplifies real-world situations to fit his argument in a way that's truly ludicrous. Does anyone believe Brexit shockingly happened because a campaign shifted from "Take Control" to Take Back Control?" Berger wants you to believe that was a primary cause for Britain leaving the EU and just ignores the myriad of other factors that doubtlessly played a much larger role. He even hinted that Trump was elected because of his "Make America Great Again" slogan (perhaps he would have lost if the slogan was "Make America Great"?).

In addition to the content being weak, the writing is shockingly bad. Berger loves sentence fragments and fills his paragraphs with them. For example: "Think about the last time your power went out. Using your phone as a flashlight but worrying it would run out of juice. Having to reset all the clocks once the outage ended. And, if the outage was particularly long, tossing all the spoiled food in the fridge. All in all, not a lot of fun." You know what else isn't fun? Reading a meaningless paragraph full of incomplete sentences! He mixes metaphors, including a lengthy discussion (with diagrams!) of deciding to use a sprinkler or a hose based on whether you're trying to move a boulder or a pebble (because who doesn't break out the sprinkler when they see a bunch of pebbles?). Berger writes about why election campaigns need money (did anyone not realize this?), likes to open chapters with Russian nesting dolls of ideas that drift increasingly further away from whatever point he was trying to make, and includes perhaps the worst analogy I've ever read: "If a trick knee is a couple of flies buzzing around your house, a shattered kneecap is the place being infested with cockroaches." WHAT??? Does Berger not have an editor? Does he not read his own work before it's printed? Who allows this to see the light of day?

I know from the blurbs that Berger has fans in high places, but after reading this it's hard to fathom why. Beyond his premise, there is little of worth in this book. And if that premise isn't sufficiently supported, it's worth even less.
1,477 reviews14 followers
September 20, 2020
I'm a sucker for these kind of books, so I reserved this at the library as soon as I read the blurb.

Unfortunately it was a disappointment. The description promises that there will be new ideas but instead:
(1) The suggestions are insultingly simplistic

(2) The book reads as if it was heavily padded in order to reach a certain length. There are entire 40 page chapters which could be easily replaced by 5 pages.

(3) Most importantly: It doesn't say anything that hasn't been said in other, better books

Here is my paraphrase of the book contents:

(i) Try to understand why people don't want to change first instead of just trying to force them
(The book calls this "Reactance" and "Endowment")

(ii) Try to make the change as easy as possible
(The books calls this "Distance" and "Uncertainty")

(iii) Try to get testimonials from people who are similar to your target audience
(The book calls this "Corroborating Evidence")

Rocket science, right?

Instead I recommend the following books, which cover a lot of the same material, but are much more interesting in my opinion:

Robert Cialdini, Influence - a classic
Robert Cialdini, Presuasion - a followup from a different angle
Christopher Voss, Never Split the Difference - negotiation
Chip Heath, Switch - how to push change (most similar to this book)
Dan Kahneman, Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow - Cognitive biases
Profile Image for Dora Okeyo.
Author 26 books177 followers
November 29, 2019
Have you ever come across any content on "The Art of Persuasion?" Now, this book right here is 194 pages of intrigues and exploration of the things that bar people from changing. I love how the author explores these barriers to change while focusing on the people, so much so that it's not about the one who wants to change another, but more about getting the other to be open towards changing themselves. I love this.
The author at some point shares that "People are willing to consider different perspectives up to a certain point, but beyond that things get ignored." This little nugget of wisdom resonated with me because I work with communities in rural Kenya getting them to collaborate to identify, implement and sustain infrastructure projects and what's key in my role is persuading these communities, getting them to maintain that interest from the first time we meet to when we commission a project. So, simply put, I am inspired to apply the insights gained in reading this book to my work.
Thank you Netgalley for the eARC.
PS: I love the cover as well.
Profile Image for Andrew.
656 reviews193 followers
August 4, 2020
The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind, by Jonah Berger, is a book about catalysts; ideas that help to ease and assist in changing someones mind. Berger notes that most people are reluctant to experience attempts to change their mind. Advertisements are ignored, canvassers can actually harm electoral chances. Attempts to change the mind of individuals with strong or polarized convictions can actually cause them to trench in or even move farther into their own opinions. Berger notes the trend of polarization in the modern world; people seem to keep their opinions, and only consume content that fits to their narrative. Seeking outside information may not be on their radar, and being forced to consume such content will not help.

Berger proposes some strategies, which he calls catalysts. Reactance, Endowment, Distance, Uncertainty, and Corroborating Evidence. These categories each end with a case study, where the process in the previous chapter was applied to a major campaign with excellent results. This book has a lot going for it - some interesting ideas, tidbits and examples to showcase these strategies. I found this book somewhat useful, but did come away disappointed with a lack of sourcing. Some asides are present, but sources or endnotes would have been useful to give the reader further information, source surveys and results, and give the reader the opportunity to expand these notions out. Other than that, this book was readable and interesting, and would be useful as a business book used to alter ones workplace or succeed in ones personal life. This book is more self-help than psychology, and this gives the book a bit of a shallow edge. Even so, a readable experience, and not disappointing. Worth a read for one looking for strategies and tips for self improvement.
Profile Image for Dan Connors.
332 reviews45 followers
July 12, 2020

This book makes a bold claim- how to change anyone's mind. With the divided America that we now live in, it seems impossible to imagine how anyone's mind can be changed on deeply held beliefs and attitudes. Arguments on social media certainly don't seem to be moving the bar in any direction, as sides dig in to the certainty that they and only they are right.

Jonah Berger is a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and has written several other bestselling books on influence and marketing and how we connect with each other. With this book he leaves the world of marketing and goes broader in teaching us how to overcome objections in all areas of life.

Berger starts with some depressing studies that show how even the simplest attempts to inform and influence are met with suspicion and reaction. We know that people throw up walls when they feel like someone else is trying to overtly influence them, but studies show that even putting information out there with no attempts to influence has a backfire effect. Shown information or data that conflicts with their existing beliefs, people ignore it and drift even further away to the extremes. This was shown with people from both liberal and conservative backgrounds.

The central thesis of this book is that like a chemical reaction, we can promote change faster by lowering the barriers rather than pushing harder. Find out what is blocking the change and address it in a way so that the people involved decide to lower their guards and move their blockades. Say you are trying to get employed by a company and none of your application attempts ever results in an interview. What this book is saying is that you need to go deeper in removing the barriers in that company by getting to know people inside and what their needs are. What would make you a better fit for their needs? Only once you figure out what the barriers are can you work towards lowering them.

Berger's book is well organized with an easy mnemonic- REDUCE, and descriptions of each of its components- Reactance, Endowment, Distance, Uncertainty, and Corroborating Evidence. He lays out the problems and then gives some interesting solutions. At the end of each chapter are some great stories that illustrate the concept that he was trying to get across.

Here they are again in more detail:

1- Reactance is our habit of pushing back when we feel someone is trying to influence us. Berger uses two vivid examples- one of an anti-smoking campaign that gave teenagers control over how to fix their smoking problems, and the other is a haunting story of how a young woman used her own story to convince a Hispanic man to change his attitudes on homosexuality and transgenders. Ideas to avoid reactance include providing a menu, use questions to increase buy-in, start with understanding, and highlight (gently) a gap or disconnect that someone has in their thought processes.

2- Endowment is the false assumption that we all have that anything we currently possess is infinitely better than any replacement out there. Because its ours, we value it more, while the exactly identical thing in someone else's hands is inferior. Loss aversion keeps us stuck and afraid to take action, because we cling to what's here now. Ideas to combat this tendency include surface the costs of inaction, make it easier to recognize the difference in the new alternatives, and burn the ships (aka cut off all safe avenues of retreat so you have no choice but to move forward.)

3- Distance refers to what we see today with information bubbles popping up everywhere. We tend to distance ourselves from conflicting cultures, ideas, and people to such an extent that their very foreignness makes us reluctant to even consider them. We all have a zone of acceptance where we will consider ideas that fit our views. No one is extreme on every complicated issue- we all have things we're willing to consider in moderation if we have to. The region of rejection lies just outside of that acceptance zone, and anything from that area gets immediately dismissed out of hand.

Ways to get around the distance dilemma include finding the moveable middle, asking for less to get your foot in the door, and switching the field to find commonalities that brings you back together.

4- Uncertainty is the very human preference for a bird in the hand over two in the bush. We like certainty, and many crave it. Uncertainty can be unpleasant and unnerving, especially when our survival could be at stake. This is why we're so afraid of change, because we are risk-averse when it comes to the unknown, especially if it involves money.

To help combat uncertainty, Berger recommends lowering the bar so that people can try out the new thing as painlessly as possible. Freemium setups, like most phone apps, include a free trial period or base level service, and invitations to subscribe or upgrade coming later after people are used to the service. Offering free shipping and liberal return policies are ways that many retailers have made it easier to shop online. By reducing the chance of regretting a purchase, they make it easier to get people to spend their money.

5- Corroborating evidence is the power of getting recommendations that we know and respect. That's why positive movie reviews increase attendance, or full parking lots at restaurants drive more diners. Before readers chose which book to read next they look to reviews online or recommendations on the book cover.

Humans are very social creatures, and social reinforcement is critical for us to be more open to change. (Unfortunately this is how cults work their way into lonely people's lives.) We're more likely to approve of changes if people like us have already done them.

Berger uses the example of a drug intervention to show how large changes are possible when multiple people tell us the same thing. For large changes, a concentrated approach called a firehose strategy douses the target with information backing the change from sources they don't reject. For smaller changes, a sprinkler strategy is more effective, as the dispersed droplets of water move the tiny pebbles of resistance to change.

Berger claims that anyone's mind can be changed, which is doubtful in this divided age. If anything, conflicting information bubbles are making people dig their bunkers deeper and stronger. But this book is well organized and has many good examples of the author's points.

There have been dozens of books written about how to influence people, and there's an entire industry (marketing) that does nothing but collect information on us to figure out how to change us. Some things probably don't need to be changed, and none of us wants to admit we've been influenced by someone richer or smarter than us. Probably the best book on this topic is Influence, by Robert Cialdini, which I have reviewed in the past.

Catalyst is a worthy book, and it doesn't stoop to the sociopathic view of sales where everyone is a mark waiting to be influenced. All of Berger's methods- reactance, endowment, distance, uncertainty, and evidence are tackled in a win-win fashion where the both parties in the influence equation come out on top. If only life were that way. Until then, my guards are still up.

Profile Image for Max M.
59 reviews11 followers
January 20, 2021
The Catalyst is a phenomenal book that covers the psychology and ideology of what constitutes the forces that drive persuasion, action, and ultimately change. This book outlines various researched methods that contribute to changing a person's mind and outlining ways to identify the obstacles that contribute to why the particular person has not changed their mind already.

To learn how to change someone's mind, we must first understand what is stopping them from changing themselves. This book is all about: how to overcome inertia, incite action, and change minds—not by being more persuasive, or pushing harder, but by being a catalyst. By removing the barriers to change.

Being a business analyst/researcher myself, I see this all too often. Organizations always want to press harder for the sale of their products, to press their employees to work harder or communicate more. But nine times out of ten they don't put in the work to uncover the root barriers that are stopping the change they want to see happen. Research allows organizations to uncover these slivers of truth that they can apply throughout their organization.

The key roadblocks that hinder or inhibit change:

Principle 1 - Reactance: when people are pushed, they push back.
Principle 2 - Endowment: people are already wedded to the things they are currently doing. It's harder to break a habit and start a new one. The upsides of a particular change need to be 2.6 times more beneficial than the downsides to make people take action.
Principle 3 - Distance: presenting information from people's current zone of acceptance - things that they can relate to.
Principle 4 - Uncertainty: allowing free samples or test drives to break down the barriers of uncertainty and showcasing why your option or persuasive message is the better choice.
Principle 5 - Corroborating Evidence: evidence to overcome the translation problem and enact change.

All in all, I learned a lot from reading this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone working as an entrepreneur, marketer, or executive looking to better learn how to understand as well as how to be understood.


People like to feel they have control over their choices and actions. When people’s ability to make their own choices is taken away or even threatened, they react against the potential loss of control. And one way to reassert that sense of control—to feel autonomous—is to engage in formidable, combatant, compulsive behavior. This creates a psychological phenomenon called Reactance. Pushing, telling, or just encouraging people to do something often makes them less likely to do it.
Reactance even happens when people had wanted to do what was suggested in the first place (working out, saving for retirement, beneficial behaviors or perspectives, etc.)

Give people a choice in their options. Make it a menu. Let people think they are in control.

Ask don't tell. Ask pointed questions to get people to say what you are trying to make them understand. Make them come to the same conclusions by themselves. And if people don't know the answers, they will lean on you for answers - then the doorway is open for you to start telling them certain points.

Using questions boosts outcomes.

Questions do a couple things. First, like providing a menu, questions shift the listener’s role. Rather than counterarguing or thinking about all the reasons they disagree with a statement, listeners are occupied with a different task: figuring out an answer to the question. How they feel about it or their opinion. Something most people are more than happy to do.
Second, and more importantly, questions increase buy-in. Because while people may not want to follow someone else’s lead, they’re much more likely to follow their own. The answer to the question isn’t just any answer; it’s their answer. And because it’s their own personal answer, it helps drive them to action. Questions encourage listeners to commit to the conclusion. To behave consistently with whatever answer they gave.

Another route to self-persuasion is to highlight a gap—a disconnect between someone’s thoughts and actions or a disparity between what they might recommend for others versus do themselves.
Change starts from within - whether that be an organization, shared habit, belief, or philosophy. Identify ways to make the current members shift their mindset and you will create a wake of change within the group. People strive for internal consistency. They want their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to align. Someone who says they care about the environment tries to reduce their carbon footprint. Someone who preaches the virtues of honesty tries not to tell lies.
Consequently, when attitudes and behaviors conflict, people get uncomfortable. And to reduce this discomfort, or what scientists call cognitive dissonance, people take steps to bring things back in line.

Rather than trying to persuade, start by understanding.

No one likes feeling someone is trying to influence them. After all, when’s the last

The Web and social media have combined to create a state of intellectual isolationism where people are rarely exposed to conflicting viewpoints. Combined with people’s penchant for clicking on information that supports their perspectives, these algorithms can lead humanity to become more and more isolated in their own echo chambers.

Never tell someone to do something, persuade them to take action.

No wonder one person’s truth is another’s “fake news.” Whether information seems true or false depends on one’s position on the field. Rather than uniting opposing sides, exposure to evidence sometimes just widens the gap.

So how can we combat the confirmation bias? How do catalysts avoid the region of rejection and encourage people to actually consider what they have to say? Three ways to mitigate distance are to (1) find the movable middle, (2) ask for less, and (3) switch the field to find an unsticking point.

Think of products in terms of vitamins and pain-killers. What types of people need your product as immediately as a pain-killer? What customers only need your product as a supplement?

Increase the "trialability" of your product. Users do what is easy for them. If your service is hard to understand or learn, market it in a way that demonstrates that there is no learning curve or time investment that needs to occur. Do this by: (1) harness freemium - When freemium works, it encourages upgrading without requiring it. Similar to the idea of allowing for autonomy that we discussed in the Reactance chapter, letting people choose if and when they want to move from the free version to the paid one.
(2) reduce up-front costs, (3) drive discovery, and (4) make it reversible.
Profile Image for Chris Boutté.
Author 8 books163 followers
February 13, 2021
Jonah Berger is one of my favorite authors when it comes to analyzing human behavior, so I just had to get this book on launch day. It was fascinating, and I binged it within the first 24 hours.

This book, as well as his others, aren’t just for marketing. It’s easy to see the wide application of these strategies. For me, it helped me figure out ways to help people want to improve their mental health.
Profile Image for Ramón Nogueras Pérez.
577 reviews266 followers
December 27, 2021
Un libro sobre persuasión que adopta una aproximación literalmente distinta, como es enfocarse en eliminar resistencias a la misma en vez de tácticas y argumentos más persuasivos. Está bien documentado y estructurado, si bien a veces peca de ese típico estilo de libro de psicología pop tan gladwelliano. Pero su utilidad y aplicabilidad lo compensan. Recomendable.
Profile Image for Martha☀.
708 reviews36 followers
April 23, 2022
What roadblocks sit in the way of changing minds? From trying to convince your spouse to stop smoking to getting a big corporation to adopt a new initiative, Berger has broken it down into five barriers to change and then dissects each to show how to catalyse the wanted change:
Reactance: people will push back when they are told to do something
Endowment: people are entrenched by their existing practices
Distance: people have a zone of acceptance, a zone of rejection and a moveable middle
Uncertainty: people won't change if there is uncertainty in the outcome
Corroborating Evidence: people need social proof and recommendations
I found the psychology fascinating, but the case studies and examples seemed a bit far-fetched and staged. I applaud the transgender person who went door-to-door, canvassing for a human rights bill and using the Distance strategy to do so, but I wouldn't recommend that as an effective political move. I also highly doubt that many KKK Klansmen will change their predatory ways and move in with a Jewish couple after a couple of kind phone calls.
I think the similarities between this and The Power of Habit are too close for comfort. They both explore in the same detail the 1940s government efforts to make offal meats regular fare in support of the war effort. The arguments are so close (ie. identical) that I feel this book relied too much on the other, which was published 10 years earlier.
Profile Image for Roy Madrid.
159 reviews2 followers
April 12, 2021
This book just resonated with me. It was written to be easily consumed, but its structure is why I’m giving it 5 stars.

I do not think the stories or examples themselves were mind-bending on their own, but the way they are prefaced and sequenced gave me more clarity about the art of negotiation and influence than all of my previous readings and words of wisdom combined. They just felt real, tangible, and actionable. Will look for a hard copy.
Profile Image for Liz.
13 reviews1 follower
October 16, 2021
Very easy to read and well laid out concepts in behavioral science. Definitely gives you a lot of food for thought when considering how to approach people with different mindsets. I read it as a ‘theme book’ for a conference and I highly recommend that idea and being able to discuss practical applications for your life or business with someone else who has also read the book.
Profile Image for Lucy Eisgruber.
113 reviews2 followers
December 8, 2022
Jonah berger does it again- sad i have no more of his books to read. Loved it and the little stories. Highly recommend :-)
Profile Image for Kristen.
519 reviews
February 11, 2020
Really interested dive into what prevents people from adopting new ideas, and how to nudge them along. (Hint: it's not spewing more facts at them.) Definitely want to revisit these ideas and work on applying them in my negotiations.
Profile Image for Rima.
203 reviews
February 6, 2020
This book is well written and easy to understand. The examples provided were practical and backed by good research. There was nothing super surprising to me, pretty much human nature. Some spots were repetitive but overall enjoyed the read.

I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Marta.
35 reviews
February 2, 2020
This is a quick read and provides a good overview of ways to overcome resistance, but the examples and case studies seem very oversimplified.
Profile Image for Roxanne.
103 reviews4 followers
May 3, 2020

The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger was one of my pre-pandemic book grabs knowing I’d be holed up for awhile. I mean, tough to resist the temptation to become a Svengali, right?

And while I don’t consider myself a mover and shaker type, Berger’s book can be applied to non-business relationships as well. Berger’s organization of chapters and methodical data driven approaches make the book palatable. Reactance deals with people’s resistance to change, endowment deals with how many of us prefer mediocre and inactive rather than change’s inherent risk. Distance confirms that unless we look for a moveable middle, two opposing forces will remain thusly polar. Uncertainty helps explain to businesses how to make change easier for folks, giving them free trials and low risk mini commitments. Last Corroborating Evidence explains how interventions have success with addicts, but that sprinkling multiple suggestions to prospective customers might also lead to change.

What struck me most about Catalyst was its Epilogue, where Berger highlights a Bill Clinton led 1993 Peace Accord Meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian Leaders. Clinton’s comments that day highlighted that the most important group in the audience were the teens from Seeds of Peace Camp, a Maine based summer camp which takes teens of both groups and has them work together and separately for three weeks. The bottom line is that teens got to see others of the ‘opposing’ camp as individual human beings. And as Berger ends the book, to truly change someone’s mind starts with understanding. As we all head back to work and play, there has never been a more important note for all of us to consider. We are all fallible and lovable human beings. Pretty great advice from a ‘business’ book, huh?
Profile Image for Zi.
50 reviews18 followers
January 4, 2022
This book is incredible; no one can change my mind on that (unless you’ve also read this book and mastered the principles of REDUCE).

When trying to change people’s mind, we often ‘push’ facts, statistics, and heaps of information onto others. But more often than not, things don’t budge.

Through this book, I have learned to start by asking the following questions instead:
- Why hasn’t the person changed?
- What are the barriers preventing them from changing?
Then, lower the barriers. This is what catalysts do.

- Reactance (when pushed, people push back)
- Endowment (people are attached to the status quo)
- Distance (zone of acceptance and zone of rejection)
- Uncertainty (seeds of doubt slow the winds of change)
- Corroborating Evidence (some things need more proof)

Side note: I love how this book is also secretly teaching us how to form better relationships. An underrated book for sure.
Profile Image for Kathy Cowie.
870 reviews21 followers
December 16, 2019
to be reviewed in the March-April issue of Global Business and Organizational Excellence.
Profile Image for Heather.
381 reviews50 followers
February 4, 2021
Insightful well-paced narrative.

Offers 5 principles of roadblocks that prevent change:
1. Reactance: when pushed, people push back. Listen actively to what people need.
2. Endowment: people dislike change. Brexit advocates turned the impetus to remain in status quo on its head by using loss aversion in their slogan “take back control”.
3. Distance: don’t activate people’s innate anti-persuasion systems. When trying to change someone’s mind, there is a small zone of acceptance and anything further than that from their view will backfire. The movable middle. This is why change comes in small increments.
4. Uncertainty: trials, freemium, reducing up-front costs, and guarantees all help reduce uncertainty. Make it easier to try and improve discovery by finding a way to enter their world in a seamless way.
5. Corroborating evidence: if it is something more subjective, there is strength in numbers. The more people/organizations like them recommend it, the stringer the case.

We must first remove barriers and then often reframe things in order to affect change.
Profile Image for Ietrio.
6,643 reviews25 followers
November 30, 2020
The book starts bad. A story of a bad drug dealer. Like they all are, right? And the wizard who got him out. How? By being a Catalyst. How do we know that? Because Berger told us.

And than story after story it goes lower and lower. Berger is a simple mind who loves his government and believes every governmental act is done for the good of the sheep. I kept failing to see the catalyst, in this bad set of short fairy tales, but the benevolent arm of the Big Brother that comes to save the day.

So how to change anyone's mind? I don't know. I think a good marketer helped Berger move on from unsold fantasy writing to the much more forgiving self-help market.
Profile Image for Thomas.
36 reviews4 followers
March 10, 2020
In chemistry, the purpose of a catalyst is simple: to reduce the energy needed for a reaction. In his third book, marketing consultant and professor Jonah Berger applies this concept to his world of marketing and persuasion. The titular “Catalyst” is a person who changes minds not by overloading with facts and figures, but by removing roadblocks and breaking down the barriers to change.

Berger prescribes his recipe for inciting change through acronym: REDUCE—reduce Reactance, ease Endowment, shrink Distance, alleviate Uncertainty, and find Corroborating Evidence. “The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind” includes nothing groundbreaking, but its clear presentation and convincing evidence make it a helpful read for anyone wanting to change minds.

Each chapter elaborates on a letter of the acronym and provides practical strategies to implement change. Berger explores techniques used by hostage negotiators and early e-sales pioneers like Amazon and Zappos and how people have done what truly seems impossible these days: changed political parties. He shows how catalysts help to alleviate the pains of change and make it easier for those involved to adopt a new product or way of thinking. The section on Corroborating Evidence reminded me of what we do here on Goodreads: provide reviews from multiple trustworthy sources to help us decide what books to read.

“The Catalyst” is written to be accessible and applicable to a broad audience and Berger hits the mark. It is easy to extrapolate its strategies to use in your own life, or at least to better understand the ways that marketers and change-makers do what they do. As an arts marketer, it helped me to clarify my thinking about decision-making and to structure key marketing ideas in a simple way.

Finally, thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and the author for providing an advance copy in exchange for my review. Happy publication day!

Overall: “The Catalyst” is a practical guide for making change, wherever you may need it. ★★★★ ½ .
951 reviews6 followers
July 22, 2020
While the title of this book, "Catalyst" intrigued me, the subtitle, "How to change anyone's mind," didn't. I thought to myself that I didn't want to change anyone's mind! But, I got hooked to the book right in the introduction where the author, Jonah Berger gives the example of a hostage situation. According to him in the hands of a skilled hostage negotiator, nine out of time the hostage taker comes out by himself and he comes out just because someone asks. The author gives us the mnemonic of REDUCE for Reactance, Endowment, Distance, Uncertainty, and Corroborating Evidence to share his position with us. By the end of the book we have absorbed his simple examples and indeed believe it is possible to change anyone's mind.
Profile Image for Neal Obermeyer.
84 reviews1 follower
May 11, 2021
Engaging and intriguing, even if it follows the pop-science formula of oversimplifying human behavior. Often doesn’t account for obvious counter examples, and presumes full knowledge of what contributed to case studies’ behavior changes, but as a thought-starter on how to influence change, it does well.
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