I write a lot. Hopefully you have noticed that. But surprisingly, I have read, and hope to continue to read, even more. And yet, when having several discussions with people over the past months on what the best books are in Behavioural Science I draw a complete blank. Why? Because I have disliked most books I’ve read so far. And no one likes a hater.
So what then? Well, I’ve done some serious research, and here is a list of book that I think you should read as a behavioural scientist. I still have to some of them myself, yet have read most, and will dedicate 2020 to doing more reading and research!
Note: this list is non-exhaustive, I’m sure there’s many more great books to come, and already out there, so please do recommend me some, but leave out the “classics” everyone and their grandmother has already read, because I left them out for a reason…
Here’s my list:
1. The Hour Between Wolf and Dog Describes how we change biologically in and during different investment scenario’s. Nothing is as humbling to know as that you’re just a hormonal piece of meat, even after you’ve made million dollar deals on the stock market. I’ve read it. I love it. Not for the faint hearted when it comes to the bio- and neurology stuff, but it’s interesting as hell!
2. Phishing for Phools Another nice humbling book about how you’re being cheated out of your money. Nice. I love studying manipulation and deception (I am trained in psychology too!), they are my favourite topics besides personal finance. This book lines out quite nicely how you’re being scammed, and how you can scam the market! One quick note: the writers are academics. Do with that what you will…
3. Animal Spirits This one is by the same writers as Phishing, but writing wise it’s worse (sorry). I’m going to be honest here, I don’t think it’s the best of reads (still better to read than Thinking Fast and Slow). Both writers are excellent academics, but you can tell that from the writing… (no offense). Still worth to read, as the concepts discussed are great and really do show that we’re not the homo economicus we think we are. Nicely aligns with The Hour Between Wolf and Dog.
4. Mindwise I’ve read Mindwise. It’s an easy read, very intuitive and relatable, but often isn’t classified as “behavioural science” because it’s so heavy on psychology and communication. However, it has a massive focus on empathy and understanding others. And isn’t that were manipulation, I mean marketing, begins? 😉
5. The Person and The Situation This is the only Malcolm Gladwell book I haven’t read yet, but I will. I have read every other book by him, and quite controversially, really enjoy them. I think they are insightful and for once actually well written in the sense that they are engaging, even if we are discussing the genius of others (outliers) or how to make Doc Martens popular (tipping point). My main issue with Gladwell is that he describes this book as: “All of my books have been, in some sense, intellectual godchildren of The Person and the Situation.” Now why is that an issue? In the average podcast he rejects all his own findings and books. So, do with that what you will. I’m still going to read it, hope for the best, knowing it’ll be an easy read anyway. "I was mistaken in attributing this book to Malcom Gladwell. He wrote an introduction to the book, but years after it was published. The book is written by Lee Ross and Richard Nisbett. I'm editing this in as my initial opinion remains valid, but I do want you to be able to have the correct information!"
6. Priceless: The hidden psychology of value Another book that I haven’t read, is this book by William Poundstone. This entire book focusses on the psychology of value – covering everything from how lawyers use anchoring to boost their settlements to the tricks of menu design. Given that I study what marketeers call pricing (I call it payment methods but whatever), it’s actually quite weird I haven’t read this yet. This book was recommended to me and I will read it. Also fun to mention, I will be reading "The Psychology of Price" by Leigh Caldwell for the exact same reason.
7. The Last Mile This book touches on a still undervalued part of the process going from idea to the selling of the product/service. All the focus on the strategy, the development, pricing, marketing, but not quite so much focus on the consumer decision-making. Dilip Soman shines a spot on where things are going wrong, and how they could be done a whole lot better. Easy to read, good examples, lots of research into government projects applying Behavioural Insights. I liked it.
8. The Mind is Flat I’m biased as hell in recommending this, because I know Nick Chater, the author (Behavioural Science Group, Warwick Business School). He taught me, and I think he’s a great contrarian. His book focuses on how all the “depth” we attribute to ourselves and our mental processes is all just one hell of a mind trick, an illusion if you will. I love a good contrarian book and it is an entertaining read, even when it touches more philosophical topics. Thanks Nick!
9. Influence It’s a dead give away. Well written, easy to relate to and still relevant to this day. Cialdini really opened the floodgates when publishing this and I’m glad he did. This book however relates more to the marketing aspect of behavioural science as compared to any of the other books here.
10. Alchemy I haven’t read this one yet, but I have read The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland. It’s well written and engaging. Again, this is heavily applied to marketing, so if you don’t care about this, give it a miss. In general, if you have a chance to interact with Rory Sutherland (pick his brain) I suggest you do so!
So there you have it. Most of these books I have read. They range from behavioural science on investing, personal finance, pricing, marketing to almost philosophy. Please do let me know how you feel about these books, and whether you think there’s better books to represent the field. I’m open to suggestions as this list very clearly points towards the niche I operate in myself.