Thursday, April 30, 2020

Influential Mind Book Report

The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot explores how we as humans have an influence on ourselves and others in regards to decision-making, choices, and emotions. Sharot breaks down the seven elements necessary to influence someone; prior beliefs, emotions, incentives, agency, curiosity, state of mind, and the knowledge of others. These elements are explored and fleshed out  in each chapter. Sharot's writing is captivating with her knowledge sound and backed by empirical research.

I was hooked onto this book from page one. However, there are a few chapters that stick out to me. The first being chapter 1 Does Evidence Change beliefs? (Priors) The Power of Confirmation and Weakness of Data. For this chapter, Sharot presents the reader with an example many would be familiar with. A married couple, Thelma-born in France and Jeremiah-raised in America are argueing over where their family will settle down. Both believe their respective countries are the best place to settle down, and support their opinion with evidence such as articles and research. However, neither side see the other's point of view. Sharot attributes this to the fact that established beliefs are very difficult to change, even when strong, opposing evidence is brought. In fact, Sharot notes this can cause a "boomerang effect"; presenting someone information that contradicts their opinion can cause them to come up with counterarguments that further strengthen their origional view. Humans are also influnced by their innate instincts such as hope, fears, motives, and desires. Sharot concludes that in order to influence someone without causing a boomerang effect or a greater argument, common ground must be stablished. Sharot refers back to Thelma and Jeremia. If Thelma presents Jeremiah with an argument that did not conflict with his views, such as stating "The U.S is indeed a wonderful place to work and raise kids, but I will be happier being close to my parents". She is abating his point of view and influencing her own on common ground.

The next chapter that captured my attention was chapter 4 How Do You Obtain Power By Letting Go? The Joy of Agency and the Fear of Loosing Control. This chapter tackles the concept of control; how we, as human beings, are uncomfortable when we lack control. Subconcoiusly, we are rewarded with satisfaction when in control, and punished with anxiety when not. Sharot notes that "People who feel in control of their lives are happier and healthier". Its a notion that I agree with. Afterall, I know I feel most at ease when I have control over my life and my enviornment. Rodin and Langer conducted an experiment with a nursing home to see if residents were given more choices more responsibility would they feel a grater sense of agency? They selected two floors, one would be an "agency" floor, and the other a "no agency" floor. After three weeks Rodin and Langer found that the residents on the "agency" floor were the happiest and engaged in the most activities and 18 months later they were more healthier than the "no agency" floor. Control, or at least a perception of control is greatly beneficial to humans.

The final chapter that influenced me (literally)  was chapter 5 What Do People Really Want To Know? (Curiosity) The Value of Information and the Burden of Knowledge. As someone who lives by the motto "Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back" this chapter was particularly interesting to me. In this chapter, Sharot tackles the enigmatic concept of curiosity and how it can be used to influence others. The urge to fill a gap in knowledge is driven by evolution. To support this, Sharot cites an experiment conducted by Neuroscientists Ethan Broomberg-Martin and Okihide Hikosaka with monkeys. For each trial, the monkeys either recieved a big water reward, or a little water reward by moving its eyes to one of two symbols, seconds before the water was delivered, the monkey would indicate if it desired advanced information. Broomberg-Martin and Hikosaka found that not only did the monkeys want advanced information, they were willing to pay for it. Sharot follows up the findings by concluding that advanced information is needed for survivial. As such, the desire to " fill the knowledge gap" is evolutionary based. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Tali Sharot kept me invigorated and hooked from page one. I would highly recommend this book to my fellow classmates and book clubmates. Its so fascinating to see the breakdown of our minds. A person's ability to unconciously influence others is fascinating, but to understand the mechanisms at work makes it feel like a super-power. I will take the knowledge that positive emotions influence behavior more so then negative ones and apply that to my professional and personal life.

The Power of Habit Book Report

Taylor Chrisman
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Stockton University

“The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.” InvestoPress, 20 July 2017,

The Power of Habit, written by Charles Duhigg, focuses on explaining how and why habits are at the core of everything we do, how we can change them, and what impact they will have on life, business, and society. He discusses not only good habits, like brushing our teeth and exercising, but also bad ones, like smoking. The book is filled with research-based findings and numerous anecdotes, making it credible and relatable. Duhigg explains that habits go beyond our conscious control. In fact, we have more unconscious habits than we do conscious ones. However, changing those habits when we know about them is within our control. Overall, this book details what habits are and how we can change them.

Chapter 2, “The Craving Brain – How to Create New Habits,” was a particularly interesting chapter. The previous chapter introduced the habit loop. Habit forming follows the following pattern: cue, routine, and reward. However, chapter 2 introduces a fourth variable, craving. A new habit is only formed if there is a craving for the reward. Habits create neurological cravings. As we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brain that starts the habit loop spinning. Duhigg used toothpaste (Pepsodent) to explain this theory. Instead of selling beautiful teeth, Claude Hopkins was selling a tingling sensation. This is what set Pepsodent apart from other brands. They added chemicals to create a tingling sensation in the mouth after using the product, which consumers craved. This enticed customers to repurchase the item over other brands. Similarity, Febreze’s sales skyrocketed when they rebranded. Instead of promoting “masks bad smells,” they promoted “freshens room/clean air feeling.” The company created a craving for a feeling of fresh clean air that could be sensed.

Ping, Jonathan. “The Real Pepsodent Habit Loop.” My Money Blog, 22 Mar. 2012,

Chapter 5, “Starbucks and the Habit of Success – When Willpower Becomes Automatic,” was one of my favorites because of how relatable it was. Starbucks is an enormous corporation that most people have probably been to at least once in their life. This chapter discusses how Starbucks’s approach to training is through willpower. Willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success. People can get better at regulating their impulses and learn how to resist temptation. Similar to other habits, repeatedly resisting temptation can increase willpower as the brain practices a new habit loop. Starbucks uses self-discipline in its employees to achieve better service quality. For example, Travis Leach faced a lot of challenges during his upbringing. He is described as an individual who never had a decent upbringing given the fact that both his parents abused drugs. During his upbringing, he faced a lot of problems both at home, and in school. After being fired from his first job, he was later employed in Starbucks. At the age of 25, he became the president of two Starbucks, accumulating a net worth of $2 million. This proves that the use of self-discipline and willpower to train employees can create a successful company and change people’s lives for the better.

Lastly, Chapter 7, “How Target knows what you want before you do – When Companies Predict (and Manipulate) Habits,” explains how statisticians can analyze and identify patterns in data to detect specific buying patterns. Companies take advantage of consumers’ buying habits and target certain groups of people. Studying people’s patterns has increased many corporations’ abilities to make money. Companies collect data about how we regularly shop. Duhigg explained that humans prefer familiarity, and when we are doing activities like shopping, we often make choices automatically by relying on our habits. Therefore, if companies are able to figure out those habits, they can predict what we will buy. Target is guilty of this. They used data from loyalty schemes to separate their customer groups based on buying patterns to then direct specific product offers and coupons at them. For example, a pregnant woman is likely to buy an increased number of products, such as lotions, vitamins, and hand sanitizers. By analyzing the data, Target may be able to guess that this customer is pregnant and send her more offers and coupons for items that pregnant women typically need.

Chou, Yu-kai. “How Target Knows You Are Pregnant.” Yu-Kai Chou,

               Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am not typically the type of person to sit down and read a book, but I actually enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and kept me engaged the entire time. I found the information to be relatable and applicable to everyday life. My favorite aspect of the book were the numerous anecdotes. I often felt like I was reading a story within a story. One downside to the book is repetitiveness. At times, I found it to drag on and explain tedious information. However, even with that said, I would still recommend this read to a friend. I have learned a lot about not only why I do the things I do, but why companies do the things they do as well. I have recognized some bad habits that I have, and I have managed to find ways to break then. I have also recognized good habits that I subconsciously have.

The Influential Mind Book Report

      The book the Influential Mind by Tali Sharot delves into the power that the human brain has in how it is influenced by others. It discusses the truth about the conventional methods that we are taught to influence others and presents other approaches that might work more efficiently based upon research. Sharot includes extensive research both conducted by herself and others to back-up her findings. This book is extremely significant because it provides a unique insight on the ways in which one can influence others to reach a desired outcome.
       There were many parts of the book that really stood out to me. In particular, I enjoyed chapter one entitled, Does Evidence Change beliefs? (Priors): The Power of Confirmation and the Weakness of Data. In this chapter, Sharot presents the idea that when trying to influence our instinct to provide facts as to why we are right and the other person is wrong is generally ineffective. She explains how our established beliefs are very difficult to change and even when scientifically proven evidence opposing our way of thinking is presented, opinions often still do not shift. Furthermore, Sharot reveals that humans are more influenced by their innate human qualities that include motives, fears, hopes and desires. Sharot comes to the conclusion that in order to influence someone rather than attempting to prove them wrong, it is beneficial to try to find common ground. She uses the example of influencing those who are reluctant to vaccinate their children. After a 1998 study was conducted suggesting a link between vaccinations and autism many people have been reluctant to vaccinate their children. Even when counter data is provided few people shift their beliefs fearing the possible risk. Nevertheless, based upon an idea established by a group of psychologists from UCLA and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Sharot concluded that it might be more effective to establish a new belief in the minds of parents who are resistant to vaccinating their children rather than to counter their current beliefs. For instance, instead of countering the idea that vaccines cause autism, emphasize that vaccines have the potential to save children from illnesses that could be deadly. Thus, no matter one’s belief, the “common ground” of wanting what is best for the health of their child will make more receptive to new ideas.

       Another chapter that stood out to me was Chapter 5 entitled What Do People Really Want to Know? (Curiousity): The Value of Information and the Burden of Knowledge. This chapter describes the effective ways to get people to listen to what we have to say and breaks down the common misconception that if the information is important people will pay attention. On the contrary, Sharot reveals how people attempt to evade information that can induce negative thoughts. In attempts to prove this notion, Sharot describes a research experiment that she conducted with her colleague Filip Gesiarz in which they created a lottery game and presented the participants with two doors, a red and a blue one. The red door always had a bigger cash prize behind it then the blue door. The doors were digital and would be selected at random for the participants. Even though they could not change the outcome of which door they would get, when given the opportunity to look behind one of the doors, most of the participants chose the red one. This helped prove the point that people prefer the desirable outcome over the event that is less appealing. Ultimately, the chapter by presents the idea that if a message, either positive or negative, can be altered to incite feelings of hope instead of dread, there is a greater chance people will be inclined to listen to it.

       Lastly, chapter seven entitled Why Do Babies Love iPhones? (Others Part I): The Strength of Social Learning and the Pursuit of Uniqueness was particularly compelling to me. In this chapter, Sharot discusses how social learning influences our decisions and behaviors. For this reason, despite human’s desire for individuality, Sharot found that humans often still made similar choices. In efforts to display how we learn from the actions of others, Sharot references a popular study conducted by psychologist Albert Bandura in the early 1960s. Bandura had preschoolers as participants in his study. In one instance, he placed the preschooler in the room with stickers and stamps and a member of his research team playing with toys on the opposite corner of the room. Bandura’s researcher then proceeded to beat an inflatable doll, and shortly after the preschooler was taken into a room with toys that he could play with. When the preschooler was forced to go back into the original room which lacked the “fun” toys, he proceeded to beat the doll just as the researcher did. While this experiment is well-known, it provides significant insight to the nature of social learning. Sharot goes on to describe the power of social influence in memory and recollection as well. She describes how the opposing opinions of others can affect the way a person remembers something. Sharot uses the example of a dress color in a movie. Nevertheless, she concludes the chapter by highlighting that just as others have the power to influence you, you have the ability to influence them as well and many times it starts with being independent yourself.

       Overall, I felt that this was an excellent book. I think that Sharot provided excellent research to back up her findings and wrote the book in a very clear and easy to understand manner. Throughout the book, I remained thoroughly interested in the information that Sharot was presenting. There were really no negative aspects of the book that I can recall. I think one of the most crucial aspects of The Influential Mind, was the research that Sharot provided. She really found both relevant and fascinating studies, some of which included her own. I would definitely recommend this book to other students.