Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot - Book Report

General Overview

The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot is a great book that shows the reader that as people, everyone shares a role in influencing events around us, both consciously and unconsciously.  Sharot, a neuroscientist, explains how data is actually noneffective in changing someone’s mind but instead, the things that make us human: our motives, fears, hopes, and desires, are. Sharot takes the reader through multiple real-life experiences some may be facing to explain complex ideas. Within these short stories, Sharot makes it relatable while explaining the correct way to influence someone's opinion within that scenario. As an author, Tali Sharot shows how motivation taints our ability to analyze and reason and she then proceeds to show the reader how to proceed in a way to get the outcome you want to receive. 

Favorite Part & Related Part

One of my favorite parts of the Influential Mind would be where Tali Sharot explains the value of information as well as the burden of knowledge. Sharot starts off a short story within this section that involves Kate who was applying to Harvard’s business school to receive her MBA. Kate restlessly anticipated the decision later until she got an email from a friend that implied Harvard had already made their decisions for admission and if you clicked a link and signed in, you could see your admission results early. Kate followed through with the said process and was led to believe she was accepted. The same day that Kate “found out” these result, Harvard found out about their system failure, fixed the problem, and gave out rejection letters to those who “checked” their results on the grounding that the act was a breach of ethics. 

This specific short story relates to having self-control as well as incentives. Self-control is not about willpower but instead about the conflicting outcomes. Kate did not exhibit self-control and delete the email and just wait for a formal acceptance/denial letter because she did not believe there were any possible outcomes that would occur out of using the website to check early. If she had reason to believe using the website would sway her possibility of going to Harvard in a negative way, I doubt she would have used the untrustworthy website. To Kate, incentives played a large role in her acting the way she did. Due to her restless anticipation to know the decision that Harvard made, her behavior was motivated by this very feeling. 

This is one of my favorite parts of the book just because of how relatable it actually is. In being an upcoming senior, I too have to begin applying for graduate school and feel that constant pit of nervous in my stomach waiting for an answer from the school of my choice. I know that the best way to know the answer to what could be a life-altering decision to which school I would be able to attend is to wait and if put in Kate’s position I know to not jump on the opportunity. Although it is easy to know what self-control is, self-control is hard to practice and it is evident in Kate’s situation. More often than not, a possible positive incentive would lead to many people abandoning their sense of self-control.  



As I read the book and learned that numbers do not actually work in influencing people’s opinions, I feel like an issue that can help be solved is climate change and global warming. Whenever these issues are discussed, people try to use statistics and numbers to explain how bad the situation is. Those who care about the shape of the earth and how humans are affecting it would be able to take great pointers from the Influential Mind by Tali Sharot. Instead of using numerical values I feel like we can start talking about what animals we love and know now will no longer be around in 10 years. Environmentalist can talk about how the upcoming generation will not be able to have a generation after them instead of saying “the earth will be demolished in 100 years.” To have people actually react and care we have to appeal to human nature as Sharot explains within her book.

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