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Niels Hoven

My recommended business and social psychology books

A commenter on a previous post asked what business and social psychology books are on my bookshelf. Here are some of my favorites:

First of all, Daniel Gilbert’s TED talk on synthetic happiness is short, free, and cannot be missed. It rocked my world.

Robert Cialdini’s Influence should be read by anyone who has ever sold something, bought something, or tried to change someone’s mind. It’s both entertaining and informative. I remember reading through all the different methods he describes about how people are persuaded to do things and remember thinking for each one, “Yeah, I’ve noticed this and already guard myself against it.” Then he got to “scarcity” and I realized that explained both the $140 worth of sheets I just bought and the useless bottle of coconut syrup on my shelf. Damn.

Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick explains why some ideas are remembered and others aren’t. They illustrate the concept with a class that is asked to present a persuasive speech and rank their classmates. Thirty minutes later, they’re surprised with another request – to write down what they remembered from each classmate’s speech. Turns out speaking ability and idea stickiness are completely separate concepts, and in many cases, the latter is more important.

Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational rocks my world. His lecture here in Seattle was fantastic and the book includes all the speech’s examples plus way way more. The book is about behavioral economics – why people don’t make the rational choices that traditional economics expects us to. However, their irrational behavior is predictable and exploitable (if you choose to take that route).

Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice. I’m including it here for completeness. It’s a great book, but 75% of it is covered in Dan Gilbert’s TED talk and Dan Ariely’s book. Schwartz includes their ideas under a slightly different framework and has a few other great points (like why it’s crucial to leave on a high note), so it’s still worth a read.

2 comments… add one
  • Cameron

    Thanks a lot for that Niels!

    I just finished “Ceasar’s Way” and enjoyed that a lot. Thanks

  • Good deal. I notice that the authors of Made to Stick have an article in Fast Company magazine (it’s great, check it out) and have been meaning to pick up their book. Unfortunately all my school reading kind of gets in the way, but I’ll add these to the “someday after graduation” list.

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