16 July 2014

Five Books Related to Behavioral Science that You Probably Missed

When it comes to books on (applied) behaviroal science, titles such as  Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman capture the headlines and are top of mind.

There are, however, some other great books on or related to behavioral science that somehow fall under the radar. Here are five of them

Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It) by William Poundstone

William Poundstone is a journalist, not a behavioral scientist. Although I became allergic to books written by non-academics, I have to admit that Priceless is The Best Book on Behavioral Science I read so far. Yes! It is better than the all famous Thinking Fast and Slow, at least in my opinion.

William Poundstone does a great job in summarizing a huge array of academic research in Behavioral Science and writes in a very human-accessible way. Now, Priceless is not popular science, it’s not a book to read while sitting on the toilet. It keeps science intact and links it to real life situations.

Second and third are two books that go together very well.

The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think by Douglas T. Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius

Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior by Geoffrey Miller

These two books bring the evolutionary psychology perspective to human behaviour. Although they don’t have huge practical value, their beauty comes from giving very nice explanations for what is often seen as irrational behaviour. These two books simply cast a new light on human behaviour and remind us that, in the end, we are all products of evolution (natural and sexual selection).

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

N.N. Taleb is known mostly for The Black Swan and recently for Antifragile. Fooled by randomness is Taleb’s first book and to be honest it is much more humane than The Black Swan. Although a bit old, Fooled by Randomness is a wonderful read.

The book is not necessarily about behavioral science, but it gives great illustrations of cognitive biases in everyday life.

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Poor Economics is a great collection of (potential solutions) for alleviating poverty and includes many Nudge like approaches. Although it is more economics than behavioral, this book gives a very practical approach to the use of findings from behavioral science.

I couldn’t make a reading list without including

Naturally I’m biased when evaluating this book, but I do recommend it because it is one of the very few books which explains (in depth) the psychological mechanisms that are behind the main findings from behavioral science. 

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