The book The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot is an in depth look at the brains motivations and the power to change others. The nature of influence on instincts shape our need for control and opinion. Sharot shows the good and the bad of having this influence and how emotion is often the factor for our decisions. Emotion, influences, curiosity, and state of mind are all topics discussed. As she is a neuroscientist, her perspective into the mind and how we are influenced to make decisions is an eye opening read. The following discussion gives some insight to a few of the chapters and topics covered within this book.
Chapter one of the book, “Does Evidence Change Beliefs? (Priors)” has a great start to opening the mind up to the idea of the power of confirmation as well as the weakness of data. It starts off explaining a married couple who are trying to figure out where they want to live and raise their family. They both back up reasons for where and why they should live certain places and dispute their differences. Ironically they are both attorneys, they give facts to back up their opinions which is exactly what is predicted when it comes to instinct. Coming up with ammunition to back up your reasoning for your side of the argument. The chapter continues to discuss data and how even numbers from sources can not sway someone’s influence to changing someone's mind. Theories such as the boomerang effect when it comes to presenting people with information that contradicts opinions that end up strengthening their original view. When an argument is happening such as the married couple one, when something does not fit with their prior decisions their brain tends to shut off any new ideas. The chapter closes with discussing that instead of starting off arguing your points, finding common ground and building from that is a much better way to solve problems.
Another chapter I found interesting was chapter three, “Should You Scare People into Action? (Incentives)”. The chapter starts with the topic of employees washing their hands and how to improve the rate of washing their hands. Using positive feedback rather than threatening the employees had better feedback of the rate to which they actually wash their hands. The next topic covered in the chapter included the law of approach and avoidance. Sharot uses Hershberger’s chic study where he tries to train the chics that if they distance themselves from the food, then they would be rewarded with it. This showed that animals are built with this theory of approach and avoidance and humans are very comparable to this study as well. Incentives and using positive strategies instead of warnings is the core of this chapter. When being told that you have to do something, people freeze rather than do the act.
The final chapter that grabbed my interest was chapter four, “How You Obtain Power by Letting Go”. This chapter started with listing off things such as top causes of death and common phobias. Control over phobias and difficult situations is what makes us freak out about what is happening. “Most people become stressed and anxious as their control of their environment is removed.” is the theme of this chapter. Control is very similar to influence in that you are influenced by another person giving them control. When people see that their own ideologies are being removed, they tend to resist because of the control that comes with it. The IKEA effect is a strong example of a similar topic of control. Having people create their own self makes them think that it is better than buying a shelf that someone else had put together. Why humans like to control can be a concept of getting things completed what they think is the correct way. It is why managers at a store feel the need to micromanage their customers as it says at the end of the chapter.
Overall, the book contains many interesting aspects of human motivations and what triggers these characteristics. I felt that the first five chapters had the most interesting topics of the book and perhaps the most important concepts to take information from. This of course with the final chapter of what the future of influence will hold makes you wonder what new things will come from the world and how it will affect our motivations as humans. Throughout the entire book I felt that Sharot had great thought-provoking material. I felt that compared to the last few chapters of the book compared to the first five that it was not as exciting or memorable material. Looking back on it I only remember a lot of material from chapter seven more than any other one probably because I found the rest to be a little boring. But I do think that the other chapters make up for the two or three boring chapters. If I were to recommend this book, I definitely would because by the end of it I found myself finding surprising information that I can hold onto for the future. I think the book is a great read with a lot of valuable information on our motivation.
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