Books

- about behavioural insights

Are you looking for a good book about human behaviour?

Here you will find iNudgeyou´s recommendations on good books about Nudging, behavioual science and behavioural economics. On the list there will both be books for the beginner, who looks for an introductory book with good examples, and for the expert, who needs to be challenged by a more theoretical book.

 

Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably irrational. New York: HarperCollins.

Why do our headaches persist after we take a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a fifty-cent aspirin? Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup?

When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we’re making smart, rational choices. But are we?

In this groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.

 

Cialdini, R. (2016). Pre-Suasion: A revolutionary way to influence and persuade. Simon and Schuster.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? Using the same combination of rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic best seller, Robert Cialdini explains how to capitalize on the essential window of time before you deliver an important message. This “privileged moment for change” prepares people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change minds, a pre-suader must also change states of mind. 

His first solo work in over 30 years, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini – all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

Halpern, D. (2016). Inside the nudge unit: How small changes can make a big difference. Random House.

Behavioral scientist Dr. David Halpern heads up the UK government’s “Nudge Unit,” the world’s first government institution that uses behavioral economics to examine and influence human behavior, to “nudge” us into making better decisions. Seemingly small and subtle solutions have led to huge improvements across tax, healthcare, pensions, employment, crime reduction, energy conservation, and economic growth. Adding a crucial line to a tax reminder brought forward millions in extra revenue; refocusing the questions asked at the job center helped an extra 10% of people go off their benefits and back into work; prompting people to become organ donors while paying for their car tax added an extra 100,000 donors to the register in a single year. Now David Halpern and the Nudge Unit will help you to make better choices and improve your life. The Nudge Unit has attracted widespread media and public interest—large pieces have run in the New York Times and Economist; and it’s been subject to case studies and reviews by the Harvard Business School and Goldman Sachs.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation―each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.

Lewis, M. (2016). The undoing project: A friendship that changed our minds. WW Norton & Company.

Forty years ago, Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a series of breathtakingly original papers that invented the field of behavioral economics.

One of the greatest partnerships in the history of science, Kahneman and Tversky’s extraordinary friendship incited a revolution in Big Data studies, advanced evidence-based medicine, led to a new approach to government regulation, and made much of Michael Lewis’s own work possible. In The Undoing Project, Lewis shows how their Nobel Prize–winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality.

Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2013). Scarcity: Why having too little means so much. Macmillan.

Drawing on cutting-edge research from behavioral science and economics, Mullainathan and Shafir show that scarcity creates a similar psychology for everyone struggling to manage with less than they need. Busy people fail to manage their time efficiently for the same reasons the poor and those maxed out on credit cards fail to manage their money.

The dynamics of scarcity reveal why dieters find it hard to resist temptation, why students and busy executives mismanage their time, and why sugarcane farmers are smarter after harvest than before. Once we start thinking in terms of scarcity and the strategies it imposes, the problems of modern life come into sharper focus.

Norman, D. (2013). The design of everyday things: Revised and expanded edition. Constellation.

Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we fail to figure out which light switch or oven burner to turn on, or whether to push, pull, or slide a door. The fault, argues this ingenious-even liberating-book, lies not in ourselves, but in product design that ignores the needs of users and the principles of cognitive psychology. The problems range from ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, coupled with a lack of feedback or other assistance and unreasonable demands on memorization.

The Design of Everyday Things shows that good, usable design is possible. The rules are simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal: guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at the right time.

Thaler, R. H. & Sunstein, C. R. (2021). Nudge – The Final Edition

Since the original publication of Nudge more than a decade ago, the word has entered the vocabulary of businesspeople, policy makers, engaged citizens and consumers everywhere. The book has given rise to hundreds of “nudge units” in governments around the world and countless groups of behavioral scientists in every part of the economy. It has taught us how to use thoughtful choice architecture to help us make better decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society. Now, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein have updated the book, making use of their experiences in and out of government over the past dozen years as well as an explosion of new research. This final edition offers a wealth of new insights, for both its avowed fans and newcomers, about a wide range of issues that we face in our daily lives — health, personal finance, climate change, and “sludge” (paperwork and other nuisances we don’t want, and that keep us from getting what we do want) — all while honouring one of the cardinal rules of nudging: make it fun!

Thaler, R. H. (2015). Misbehaving: The making of behavioral economics. New York, NY: WW Norton

Traditional economics assumes rational actors. Early in his research, Thaler realized these Spock-like automatons were nothing like real people. Whether buying a clock radio, selling basketball tickets, or applying for a mortgage, we all succumb to biases and make decisions that deviate from the standards of rationality assumed by economists. In other words, we misbehave. More importantly, our misbehavior has serious consequences. Dismissed at first by economists as an amusing sideshow, the study of human miscalculations and their effects on markets now drives efforts to make better decisions in our lives, our businesses, and our governments.

Coupling recent discoveries in human psychology with a practical understanding of incentives and market behavior, Thaler enlightens readers about how to make smarter decisions in an increasingly mystifying world. He reveals how behavioral economic analysis opens up new ways to look at everything from household finance to assigning faculty offices in a new building, to TV game shows, the NFL draft, and businesses like Uber.

Mischel, W. (2014). The marshmallow test: understanding self-control and how to master it. Random House.

A child is presented with a marshmallow and given a choice: Eat this one now, or wait and enjoy two later. What will she do? And what are the implications for her behavior later in life?

The world’s leading expert on self-control, Walter Mischel has proven that the ability to delay gratification is critical for a successful life, predicting higher SAT scores, better social and cognitive functioning, a healthier lifestyle and a greater sense of self-worth. But is willpower prewired, or can it be taught? 

In The Marshmallow Test, Mischel explains how self-control can be mastered and applied to challenges in everyday life–from weight control to quitting smoking, overcoming heartbreak, making major decisions, and planning for retirement. With profound implications for the choices we make in parenting, education, public policy and self-care, The Marshmallow Test will change the way you think about who we are and what we can be.

Pink, D. H. (2018). When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Text Publishing.

Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink shows that timing is really a science.

Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. How can we use the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule? Why do certain breaks dramatically improve student test scores? How can we turn a stumbling beginning into a fresh start? Why should we avoid going to the hospital in the afternoon? Why is singing in time with other people as good for you as exercise? And what is the ideal time to quit a job, switch careers, or get married?

Alter, A. (2017). Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. Penguin.

Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction – an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction and explains why so many of today’s products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.

Benartzi, S. (2017). The smarter screen: Surprising ways to influence and improve online behavior. Penguin

The typical American office worker now spends the majority of his or her waking hours staring at a screen. In the 21st century, every business is a digital business, which is why it’s so critical to understand how we think and behave online. 

Acclaimed behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi reveals a toolkit of interventions for the digital age. Using provocative case studies and engaging exercises, Benartzi shows how businesses can update their nudges to help consumers make better decisions on screens. 

Cook, T. D., Campbell, D. T., & Shadish, W. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

This long awaited successor of the original CookCampbell QuasiExperimentation Design and Analysis Issues for Field Settings represents updates in the field over the last two decades.

The book covers four major topics in field experimentation

Chater, N. (2018). The Mind is Flat: The Illusion of Mental Depth and the Improvised Mind. Penguin UK.

Psychologists and neuroscientists struggle with how best to interpret human motivation and decision making. The assumption is that below a mental “surface” of conscious awareness lies a deep and complex set of inner beliefs, values, and desires that govern our thoughts, ideas, and actions, and that to know this depth is to know ourselves.

In this profoundly original book, behavioral scientist Nick Chater contends just the opposite: rather than being the plaything of unconscious currents, the brain generates behaviors in the moment based entirely on our past experiences. Engaging the reader with eye-opening experiments and visual examples, the author first demolishes our intuitive sense of how our mind works, then argues for a positive interpretation of the brain as a ceaseless and creative improviser.

Stanovich, K. (2011). Rationality and the reflective mind. Oxford University Press

In Rationality and the Reflective Mind, Keith Stanovich attempts to resolve the Great Rationality Debate in cognitive science–the debate about how much irrationality to ascribe to human cognition. He shows how the insights of dual-process theory and evolutionary psychology can be combined to explain why humans are sometimes irrational even though they possess remarkably adaptive cognitive machinery. Stanovich argues that to fully characterize differences in rational thinking, we need to replace dual-process theories with tripartite models of cognition. Using a unique individual differences approach, he shows that the traditional second system (System 2) of dual-process theory must be further divided into the reflective mind and the algorithmic mind. Distinguishing them will allow us to better appreciate the significant differences in their key functions: The key function of the reflective mind is to detect the need to interrupt autonomous processing and to begin simulation activities, whereas that of the algorithmic mind is to sustain the processing of decoupled secondary representations in cognitive simulation. 

Hallsworth, M., Kirkman, E. (2020). Behavioral Insights

Our behavior is strongly influenced by factors that lie outside our conscious awareness, although we tend to underestimate the power of this “automatic” side of our behavior. As a result, governments make ineffective policies, businesses create bad products, and individuals make unrealistic plans. In contrast, the behavioral insights approach applies evidence about actual human behavior–rather than assumptions about it–to practical problems. This volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, written by two leading experts in the field, offers an accessible introduction to behavioral insights, describing core features, origins, and practical examples.

 

Micheal Hallsworth and Elspeth Kirkman is both members of BIT (Behavioral Insights Team), also known as the Nudge unit. They work in partnership with national, regional and local governments, businesses, foundations and charities, to tackle major policy problems. Often through testing and implementing simple yet powerful changes.

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