Book Review: Sway


I recently received a recommendation to read Sway, The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior. To me, this work looked similar to Dan Ariely’s work, The Upside of Irrationality. As it turns out, there were some similarities but there were also enough differences to make this one a worthwhile read.

I always enjoy books that give me insight to how others think. Actually, this gave me insight into how I think too.

Of particular interest to me was the information on Altruism vs. Greed. The fascinating point that was made had to do with how our brain processes these opportunities. For example, say you are a mechanic and a friend says, “I’m flat broke and I need to fix my car. Can you come over and fix it for me?” Even if the labor was worth $1,000, the altruistic part of your brain is activated, and you would likely make a decision to help your friend in need. But, if the same friend offers to pay you $50 for your help, studies have shown that two things happen:

1. The altruism center (there’s a real medical name for it, trust me) shuts off.
2. The Profit minded part of your brain takes over, says “that’s a bad deal”, and you likely turn him down.

Of course, the final decision could have other factors (schedule, “c’mon man” pressure, etc.)

The real point here is how our brains work. It turns out we’re hard wired to evaluate charitable opportunities and profitable ones from totally different points of view.  And activating the profit center has the potential to shut down the charitable part of the brain.

If you’ve ever worked with volunteers, this news can make a huge difference in how you recruit help. (i.e. give rewards after vs. offer rewards up front) This insight was worth the read for me.

There’s more, like another explanation into the $10 experiment I commented on in a previous post. Also, there were numerous references to some interesting and recognizable stories, and how the power to sway someone or group made a difference. I’d give you more specifics, but I don’t want to ruin a good read for you by giving everything away.

Check out their web site for more insights.

If you like to understand how people think, this was a pretty interesting and easy read. Grab it.

Rob’s Rating system (bolded, the rating is)
Buy now (today!) at full price
Buy if you get a discount
Wait for the paperback
Wait for someone else to be done with the paperback
If you’ve read my review, you got the gist of it



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *