Nathan's Reviews > Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Made to Stick by Chip Heath
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's review
Jun 11, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: other-non-fiction, brain-cogsci-behavioural-economics
Recommended to Nathan by: Roger Dennis
Read in June, 2008

An easy-to-read book that talks about what makes messages "sticky" (memorable). Draws from urban legends, good teachers, management, and marketing. It's very resonant, and I'll certainly try to follow its tenets, but I'm not sure whether analysis can be so easily turned into prescription.

Lots of pointers to interesting work in the book:
* Pamela Hinds asked salespeople at a cellular company how long it should take people to perform various common tasks on their phone, but the estimates were on the order of 1/3 the length of time it actually took. "The Curse of Expertise" from The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 5
* Tversky and Shafir, "The Disjunction Effect in Choice Under Uncertainty" -- decision paralysis
* George Lakoff has a book, "Metaphors We Live By" that I want to get
* I want to read everything by Robert Cialdini, who writes on persuasion ("Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion", 1993) but also published articles on keeping kids interested in schoolwork
* George Loewenstein, "The Psychology of Curiosity" in Psychological Bulletin (1994). Curiosity comes from gaps in knowledge.
* NBA set up their new players by arranging for pretty women to be at the "welcome to the NBA" weekend initiation hotel. The players made plans for later assignations in the bar, only to be greeted by those women the next morning: "Hi, my name is Kristy, and I have HIV". ex Michelle Kaufman, "Making a Play for Players" (Miami Herald)
* James A. March, "A Primer on Decision Making" (1994). People make decisions based on consequences (economic rationality, in theory) and upon identity (people like me would ...). Few people talk about the latter method, though it is very important. I see it as a consequence of our pattern-finding behaviour (why engage higher thought when I've abstracted myself away to a class of people whose behaviour can be largely predicted? Of course, my class of people is the class of people too smart to lump people into classes ...)
* "Don't Mess With Texas" originally planned to increase fines for littering, but didn't implement them after the "people like me don't litter"-built campaign worked
* Nancy Pennington and Reid Hastie, "Explanation-based Decision Making: Effects of Memory Structure on Judgement" (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning): juries attempt to construct stories from the defense and prosecution arguments. If one side presents their argument as a story and the other does not, the jury overwhelmingly leans toward the story side ... even with no change in the actual evidence.
* Driskell, Copper, and Moran, "Does Mental Practice Enhance Performance?" (Journal of Applied Psychology 79): overall, mental rehearsal gives 2/3 the benefits of physical rehearsal.
* Rose Blumkin, Russian immigrant, started furniture store in 1937 with $500 she had saved. Almost 50 years later, it was doing $100M in revenue. At age 100 she was still on the floor seven days a week. She postponed her 100th birthday party until an evening when the store was closed. At one point competitors sued for violating fair trade agreement because her prices were so low. Warren Buffet says, "she was able to explain to the court how she could profitably sell carpet at a huge discount, and sold the judge $1,400 of carpet". (1983 Berkshire Hathaway letter)

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