Sway, The Irresistible Pull Of Irrational Behaviour – Review

People are irrational. Every day there are unseen psychological forces at work controlling your actions and you are not even aware of them… until you’ve read this book! (unless you’re a psychologist).

Loss Aversion

We don’t want to lose and we’ll do anything to avoid it. Whether its capital tied up in stocks and shares, paying extra for food, or if its our reputation on the line, we avoid loss like the plague. We want to gain but we don’t want to lose more because loss is painful.

If a loss is more meaningful we’ll avoid it even more and even the word loss has a powerful effect on us.

We see a regular $20 being sold for $200 at an auction, people giving up buying eggs and investors losing everything when they refused to cut their losses.

Value Attribution

Our brains have a useful shortcut as to whether we should pay attention to something, we give it an instant value. This shortcut can trip us up though because things aren’t always what they seem. What about that priceless antique at the jumble sale or a world class violinist…

Diagnostic Bias

Beware diagnostic bias. You are constantly labelling things then ignoring or ‘refining’ all future information about it. But what if you were wrong in the first instance?

And its not just you who is affected by your grossly innacurate view of things. People react to the labels placed on them (The Cameleon Effect) and this can have profound effects on a persons ability, confidence and health.

Fairness

Fairness is irrational. People have an acute sense of fairness however it is vastly affected by cultural factors so your idea of whats fair will be different to someone in another part of the world.

Commitment

Committing to a course of action can undoubtedly help us achieve our goals but the examples in the book show catastrophic plane crashes and people losing everything when they commit to a course of action then don’t rationally evaluate things along the way.

Selfish or Altruistic?

When performing tasks we are either being driven by a selfish part of our brain or the altruistic part. Both can’t operate at the same time and the selfish brain will hijack the altruistic brain given half a chance.

For this reason we should be careful to offer a reward for tasks which may be done better for altruistic reasons. Such behaviour has seen great teachers become poor ones and rewarded children perform worse on tests.

Group Dynamics

In groups we see 4 types of people – initiators, blockers, supporters, observers and they are all important in helping the group reach correct decisions. People are reluctant to voice opinions which differ from those of a group, unless someone else has voiced an alternative opinion.

Key Learnings

Irrational sways are everywhere an affecting our lives. Being aware of them can help us to avoid the pitfalls of irrational behaviour.

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