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Book Review: " Sway" by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

Last updated on May 25, 2020

“Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior”

Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

I was looking forward to this book after listening to two other eye-opening books on Behavioral Economics: Predictably Irrational and Freakonomics. In fact, I had learned about this upcoming book from Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational. I just finished listening to the audio version of this book.

Sway is in every way as absorbing and thought-provoking as the other two are. While the other two books illustrate how irrational our day-to-day decisions and opinions can be, and how conventional wisdom can be misleading, this book presents a theory on how we get swayed by some emotional forces. The authors follow a similar style and build their theory using numerous examples.

Why does a renowned aircraft pilot, known for his impeccable record and attention to safety, decide to take his plane off, without even asking for clearance from the control tower, and cause a disaster that kills everyone aboard? Why do the French audience of the TV show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” mislead one of the participants? Why do some doctors keep turning their backs on a sick young girl and her mother, leading to a tragic end? Why did the scientific community reject a brilliant discovery by one anthropologist, and accept a completely bogus claim by another?

Using anecdotes such as these to discuss bizarre human behavior, Ori and Rom Brafman develop a theory to explain what sways us into doing highly uncharacteristic things. They explain how our sensitivity to perceived loss affects our sense of judgement, and how our expectations are clouded by trivial considerations such as appearances and surroundings.

Why did some students pay $200 for a $20 bill? Why do we hold on to stocks that are sinking until they are worth nothing? Would a rose by any other name really smell as sweet, or was Shakespeare mistaken?

If these questions intrigue you, read the book and you will enjoy every bit of it.

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