Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior
Simon & Schuster
June 14 2016
From the publisher:
If you’re like most people, you think that your choices and behaviors are driven by your individual, personal tastes, and opinions. You wear a certain jacket because you liked the way it looked. You picked a particular career because you found it interesting. The notion that our choices are driven by our own personal thoughts and opinions is patently obvious. Right? Wrong.
Without our realizing it, other people’s behavior has a huge influence on everything we do at every moment of our lives, from the mundane to the momentous occasion. Even strangers have a startling impact on our judgments and decisions: our attitudes toward a welfare policy shift if we’re told it is supported by Democrats versus Republicans (even though the policy is the same in both cases).
But social influence doesn’t just lead us to do the same things as others. In some cases we conform, or imitate others around us. But in other cases we diverge, or avoidparticular choices or behaviors because other people are doing them. We stop listening to a band because they go mainstream. We skip buying the minivan because we don’t want to look like a soccer mom.
In his surprising and compelling Invisible Influence, Jonah Berger integrates research and thinking from business, psychology, and social science to focus on the subtle, invisible influences behind our choices as individuals. By understanding how social influence works, we can decide when to resist and when to embrace it—and how we can use this knowledge to make better-informed decisions and exercise more control over our own behavior.
I should probably preface what follows with the fact that I am a big fan of Jonah Berger’s work. As a researcher, Berger has a knack for asking intriguing questions and finding ways to analyse those insights through interesting experiments. As a writer, Berger is extremely talented in conveying scientific research in a way that isn’t just easy to understand, but enjoyable to read. And in all of this, Berger’s latest book Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behaviour lives up to prior expectations.
In Invisible Influence Berger explores examples of social influence, or ways people are swayed by the choices and actions of others around them. Berger shares findings on how familiarity, difference, and competition, among others, encourage people to behave in certain ways. In so doing, Berger draws from his own research, as well as the work of many more scientists, including other favourites such as Robert Cialdini.
Berger builds engaging narratives with each type of social influence, creating chapters based around human stories and examples. With each aspect of social influence explored, Berger applies this understanding to practical examples where using persuasion could encourage people to make better decisions.
Invisible Influence is an immensely enjoyable read – almost too much so. I breezed through this book so quickly I was left wanting more. Berger’s style is so simple and fun to digest it makes Invisible Influence the perfect summer or holiday read. It’s definitely a book I will be revisiting in the future, both for the fun of it, but also the 15 pages or so of footnotes and source material.
La Generalista is the online identity of Alicia Wanless – a researcher and practitioner of strategic communications for social change in a Digital Age.
Alicia researches how we shape — and are shaped — by a changing information space. As the Director of Strategic Communications at The SecDev Foundation, Alicia develops campaigns and strategies for engaging beneficiaries in outreach and behavioural change. Her work includes developing a training program that deals with verifying information and the spread of content online, and has supported projects in the Middle East, Vietnam and the post-Soviet space.