An accessible, well-researched inquiry into how minds get changed.



A social psychologist considers why and how we make decisions.

In his previous book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1984), Cialdini (Emeritus, Psychology and Marketing/Arizona State Univ.) aimed to help consumers “resist influence attempts employed in an undue or unwelcome way.” A bestseller, that book led to requests from people “ravenously interested in learning how to harness persuasion” in business or their personal lives, which inspired this illuminating, easy-to-digest follow-up. Although aimed at persuaders, the book also gives insight to consumers about the forces that shape decision-making. Drawing on studies in psychology, business, and the social sciences, which comprise the majority of his 90-page bibliography, Cialdini makes two central arguments: persuaders must trigger in their audience associations favorable to change, and “the factor most likely to determine a person’s choice in a situation is not the one that counsels most wisely” but rather “one that has been elevated in attention…at the time of the decision.” The book is filled with anecdotes and punctuated by cartoons (“Doonesbury” and “Dilbert” make appearances), advertisements, and, occasionally, graphs. Although some findings seem common-sensical—to get consumers to buy French wine, play French background music before they decide—others surprised even the author. If we want people “to feel warmly toward us, we can hand them a hot drink,” for example; and because the concept of weight “is linked metaphorically to the concept of seriousness,” manufacturers making e-readers as light as possible may “lessen the seeming value of the presented material” and “the perceived intellectual depth of its author.” Late in the book, Cialdini confronts the ethics of his entire enterprise: is he, in fact, “doing more harm than good” by imparting means of tricking consumers? Unethical business practices eventually undermine an organization by creating a corrosive “culture of dishonesty," he asserts; but he concedes that his “argument against duplicity” may not convince profit-hungry business leaders.

An accessible, well-researched inquiry into how minds get changed.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0979-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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