Book Review: SWAY – The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior


SWAY – The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman – Doubleday Copyright (c) 2008.

In my opinion, an socio-economic, social-psychological classic. This volume is jam-packed with keen insights about human behavior. Irrational tendencies endure like mold – they grow in the damp darkness of our existence. Ori and Rom Brafman turn the light switch on and examine the realities that are inhabiting the recesses of human perception, judgment and value-attribution. As they point out:

Once we attribute a certain value to a person or thing, it dramatically alters our perceptions of subsequent information. This power of value attribution is so potent that it affects us even when the value is assigned completely arbitrarily.” (p. 55)

They go on to illuminate what they refer to as the “diagnosis bias” or:

“our propensity to label people, ideas or things based on our initial opinions of them — and our inability to reconsider those judgments once we’ve made them. (p.70).

This work blends into the new thinking that appears to be oozing from the field of macroeconomics from sources like Shiller and Akerlof, as well as the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. As the Brafman’s write:

“It’s all about keeping valuations tentative instead of certain, learning to be comfortable with complex, sometimes contradictory information, and taking your time considering things from different angles before coming to a conclusion.” (p.178)

A superb contribution – providing encouragement to those charged with expanding the boundaries of what we think we know — and the appreciation we must resurrect for exploring the frontiers of the unknown.

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