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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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Brafman, Ori and Rom: Sway

  Amazon  

4.5 stars

The Brafman brothers' Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior is another in the crop of compulsively readable behavioral economics books that have been published over the last five or six years. Like others of the type--Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics, Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Chip and Dan Heath's Switch, Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point--the book is written in commendably lucid prose. (I am in fact beginning to think all of these books were written by the same person! They are similarly organized, and the writing style across them is also very alike. They're a pleasure to read, but I'm confused by the similarity.) The Brafmans dissect real-life examples of irrational behavior to uncover the forces at work in bad decision-making--our aversion to loss, our commitment to a preconception, and so on. The book begins, for example, with a discussion of an airline disaster on the island of Tenerife in 1977 that killed more than 500 people. (The accident was caused by the pilot of one plane--a man who had recently taught classes on airline safety--attempting to take off without clearance.) The Brafmans also discuss the methodology and results of a bunch of social experiments. That humans act irrationally due to our aversion to loss, for example, is demonstrated by a Harvard professor's classroom antics. On the first day of class he holds an auction for a $20 bill; because of the auction's peculiar rules, it routinely ends with two students in the class irrationally bidding far more than $20 for the twenty--the record is $204. It's all very fascinating stuff. As with the similar books named above, I enjoyed reading Sway immensely, but I suspect that I won't long remember much in the way of details: in my experience these books go down easy but don't linger in my head for long. My fault, I'm sure, and I don't mind at all since they're so damn readable.

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