The book, The Influential Mind, by Tali Sharot is about the nature of influence and how influence can affect us. Being a professor of cognitive neuroscience, Sharot is very knowledgeable on how our brains work. In each chapter, she explores how the way we are influenced changes the way we behave and think. The book covers topics such as stress, losing control and fear. She goes over various experiments and situations to help better understand the power that influence has on us.
The first chapter that stood out to me was chapter 3. This chapter was titled “Should You Scare People Into Action?”. This chapter was all about how people are more influenced by positive feedback rather than threats. I found this to be very interesting because I would have thought it was the other way around. One of the examples Sharot used was hospital employees and washing their hands. The experiment wanted to see what would make their employees wash their hands more often. They first tried scaring them with cameras watching them but the method did not work. They then tried a board that would give them immediate feedback. The positive feedback option worked the best, causing most of the employees to wash their hands more often. Sharot explains how humans act better when they know they will be given an award. For example, if you work harder at work, you’ll be given a promotion. I also found the concept of “freezing in the middle of the road” to be interesting. Sharot suggests that when your goal is to get someone to stop doing something, give them warnings of bad consequences. This means that we freeze up when we are afraid, causing us to avoid doing what could potentially get us in trouble.
The next chapter that stood out to me was chapter 5. This chapter was titled “What Do People Really Want To Know”. This chapter is about wanting or not wanting to know information. Some people either want to know something right away because they are excited or they want to avoid knowing something that could hurt them. An example Sharot uses is a girl named Kate and wanting to know if she got into grad school. An email was sent to her saying she could find out early. Eager to know, she checked to see if she was in and found out she was accepted. After the school found out students were able to do this, they declined all of those students. Kate was influenced to check because she needed to know if she got in or not. The desire to know is normal, and putting myself in Kate’s shoes I feel as if I would have done the same thing. I do find it very interesting how sometimes people crave to find out information about certain things while other times they avoid wanting to know something. An example she used was people getting tested to see if they carry a disease. Some people want to know right away, while others will avoid getting tested because they are afraid of the results. People would much rather hear positive things rather than negative.
Another chapter that stood out to me was the last chapter, chapter 9. This chapter was titled “The Future Of Influence?”. This chapter was the most interesting to me. It was about the development and use of our brains and how we can alter others brains. I enjoyed how she opened the chapter with a quick history review of the brain's development. I also liked how she explained that when we communicate, we are connecting our own brains with other brains. That statement really made me sit back and think because I never thought of it in that way. The lab rat experiment was an example she used as connecting brains. The one rat would send signals to others to tell him what to do. I also found it interesting when Sharot spoke about the conversation she had with a professor about the brain. She mentioned if you were to lose a leg or an arm, you would still be you. But if you were to get a new brain, you would not be you. Brain injuries can drastically change who you are. I thought that was interesting because that is somethingI never really thought about either. This chapter was the chapter that caught my eye the most and made me do the most thinking.
I would recommend this book to anyone. The points that Sharot brings up are very interesting. She also provides a good amount of evidence and reasoning to support her theories. Being a psychology major, I love to learn about how and why people think and behave the way they do. This book has taught me a lot about how our brains work and what we are influenced by. It also taught me how different influences cause us to behave and think certain ways. I can not say that I disliked much about it, besides some of the chapters felt too long. Although the chapters felt long, I was still interested in what the chapters were about. I never felt bored while reading this book. If someone is looking to learn about the brain and what influences us, I would definitely recommend this book!