A well-written guide that can be useful in both business and personal life.



The way to change someone’s mind—about anything—is not to be more persuasive; instead, find out what is preventing change.

Time and again, Berger (Marketing/Wharton, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, 2016, etc.) has discovered in his research that “pushing harder” does not sell a car, change someone’s vote, or get a child to eat spinach. It is not more information, facts, or reasons that are needed. You change minds, he writes, by “removing roadblocks and lowering the barriers that keep people from taking action.” Indeed, “the more we hear about what is preventing someone from changing, the easier it is to help.” In each chapter, the author focuses on the key forces that encourage inertia: the tendency to push back when someone is trying to convince you, attachment to the status quo, reluctance to make big changes, uncertainty, and the need for more corroboration. Berger draws on research and case studies and offers intriguing anecdotes. He shows how a Florida anti-smoking effort built trust with teenagers, asking them what they wanted and encouraging their own decision-making rather than telling them what to do; and how a rabbi befriended a harassing Ku Klux Klan member and convinced him to abandon his extremist views. The author describes how people shed their “status quo bias” when they realize the cost of doing nothing and why identifying and exploiting a “movable middle” can win over swing voters. Uncertainty can be overcome by making new things easier to try by offering free samples. A reluctant boss’s mind can be changed by enabling her to personally experience a novel approach to customer service. Detailed case studies include the story of how Americans abandoned their considerable reluctance to eat less desirable cuts of meat during World War II (with better cuts going to the military) when given recipes for using liver in meatloaf.

A well-written guide that can be useful in both business and personal life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-0860-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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