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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sway by Ori & Rom Brafman


Ori & Rom Brafman reveal the much needed facts in “SWAY – the irresistible pull of irrational behaviour”

Genre: non-fiction (psychology)

Our say: Must be on bookshelf – read it before taking any important decision 
or when you think you are “swayed”. 
Fit for all adults, working professionals, non-working, irrespective of age/occupation.




Review:

It is said “Do not judge a book by its cover” – but the cover-page of this book effortlessly conveys the message. Inspite of the clear direction to go leftwards, the person is shown moving in the opposite direction.

Beneath this interesting cover, the book opens with a mind numbing example of how a pilot, Jacob van Zanten famed for his spotless flying career makes the one worst decision of his flying career that not only costs him his life but also the lives of numerous others in the aircraft. 

And all this only because he was so committed to reaching the destination on time – so much that he took off without airport’s ATC (air-traffic control) clearance. “Swayed”, is what the authors call him, by irrationality.




The authors quote many instances like this which highlight the excessive extent of irrationality seen often in people’s decisions –the most remarkable of them being the one where an experiment is conducted among students of a b-school to bid for a 20$ bill.

The one who bids highest – gets the bill. Rationally, the bid should have stopped at 20$ - surprisingly it goes upto 200$...
“How can management school students make this folly?” We may wonder. And that’s precisely what the authors attempt to answer.


All through the various examples, they speak about the different aspects that make us victims of irrationality – from loss aversion to diagnosis bias.
Each of these concepts is linked so intelligently & practically to real-life situations that it forces the reader to stop and think about the reasonability quotient of his/her choices.

The examples along with their succinct interpretation and synopsis are veritably the essence of the book and make it what it is.

A little deeper into the book, it talks about a mind-boggling phenomenon called “chameleon effect”.

What the Brafmans(Ori & Rom)do show through this concept is that diagnosis bias can lead to the patient themselves changing their behaviors to fit the diagnosis. Once people are labelled, they tend to live up (or down) to those labels, or take on the characteristics of the diagnosis. 





The epilogue of the book talks about how one can resist this irresistible pull – extremely simple ways to withstand these sways. “The best strategy for dealing with the distorted thought process that results from value attribution is to try & observe things for what they are, not just for what they appear to be.” 
However, the major problem faced here is that humans work against a lifetime of learned behavior, so it’s not so easily undone as simply “observing things for the way they really are.”

However, the fact remains that Sway provides a lot of learning and once a reader reads this book, he’s definitely more prepared to take rational decisions and not be swayed.



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