Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Psychological Books

I'm always interested in understanding perception and how people come to their decisions, rational or not. Having knowledge of how human psychology operates gives me a better perspective on addressing these needs. Also, it's just cool to understand how people tick. =D

I have recently read some books on the subject that have really helped me gain better insight into understanding the processes that our brain progresses through in making a decision, as well as how to create subtle cues in order to influence a person in making a choice.

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness
by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

This book and website ( is focused on behavioural economics. This topic is somewhat controversial when it is applied in practice, a recent example of this is the recent ban of soda drinks of over 16 ounces in New York City. This is related to the portion sizes that consumers are given. People behave in very odd ways when given options regarding food. The book has a chapter on mindless choosing that deals with the topic and specifically on a case where the size of the container of the food influences the behaviour of how much people will believe they should eat/drink, regardless of how hungry the person actually is. This is correlated to the option at any fast food outlet where having the option of having a larger sized meal is a small cost, and most people will tend to choose it just because the perceived value is too much of a deal to pass up.

I could go on regarding all the topics in this book, but I think you should read this book for yourself first.

A dive into the decision-making process and a dip into neuroscience to discern the processes and the differences between our emotional brain and our rational brain. I am really interested in Lehrer's theory of how the mind evolves from rationality when learning something and then when enough hours have been put in to become an "expert", then the mind changes gears and shifting that learned behaviour into instinct and modifies that learning it into the emotional brain so that the thought process takes shortcuts into feelings to provide a faster option for the brain.
There is also explanation into the perils of when our brain doesn't operate properly and is fooled into making poor decisions which is also highlighted in the book below by David McRaney.

This is a good book that goes through the popular economic studies but also goes into the neuroscience of explaining how the different parts of the brain behaves and how it processes information leading the person in ultimately making their decision. It gives a general overview of the sections of the brain that are the key parts in decision making without making it overly scientific.

by David McRaney

This book is a great crash course in understanding the pitfalls of human logic. The other books I'm writing about cite the same studies but this is a more succinct guide on understanding the tricks that fool the brain. 

Fast, and easy read and I recommend reading this book first to get familiar with a lot of the economic studies that most economics books reference.

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