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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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