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Saturday, July 21, 2018

THE INFLUENTIAL MIND: WHAT the BRAIN REVEALS ABOUT OUR POWER to CHANGE OTHERS (audiobook) by Tali Sharot



Published by Macmillan Audio in 2017.
Read by Xe Sands.
Duration: 5 hours, 24 minutes.
Unabridged.

The author.
Tali Sharot has written an interesting little book about our brains and the way they work. Clearly, she is an expert with a PhD in psychology and neuroscience, but she has that rare talent of being able to make the complicated seem pretty basic using real life examples.

If you've ever had an online argument, you know the frustration of doing research to show your opponent that they are clearly wrong, only to have them completely ignore the facts. I recently had this experience with a friend that posted a story about a single truck stop in a nationwide chain that had stopped flying the American flag. The "reporter" asked a cashier why the flag was not out and he said it was because they didn't want to offend drivers from Mexico. Boom! Big story, right? It turns out that their oversized flag pole's mechanism for raising and lowering the flag was broken and it was going to be fixed soon - not a conspiracy to insult America. I linked two articles about the true story behind the flag and still people continued to pile on about immigrants and crappy un-patriotic American companies even though it clearly wasn't even a real story.

What was that all about? Sharot starts with this phenomenon - it's called confirmation bias. Everyone tends to see the facts of any situation in such a way that they confirm what they already know. We make fun of conspiracy theorists for this (the fact that we don't have more proof that we faked the moon landings just shows how good the conspirators are at covering it up, right?!?!). However, it turns out we all do this with all kinds of less obviously conspiratorial matters.


For me, the most interesting thing was "the power of agency". In short, if the other person feels like they are participating in some way, you can influence them.  We are hard-wired to like choices and to feel like we are needed. Sharot refers to a study that involved nursing home residents who were given a plant to take care of - a plant that depended on the resident because there was no way that the staff had time to water it or make sure it sat in the sun (not true, of course). Those residents did much better because they had something depending on them. We need choice and we need to be needed - two important thing to remember in life.

This is the first audiobook that I have listened to that was read by Xe Sands. This is weird because she is a prolific audiobook reader and I am a prolific audiobook reviewer (this is my 456th audiobook review). Also, I am online "friends" with audiobook reviewers that know her. Because of that very loose connection I always note her name when I read reviews or look through audiobooks. She sounded exactly like a confident PhD in psychology and neuroscience making a particularly well-done presentation to a group of laypeople in an extended TED Talk. I finally get to hear Xe Sands in action and she nailed it.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: 
THE INFLUENTIAL MIND: WHAT the BRAIN REVEALS ABOUT OUR POWER to CHANGE OTHERS by Tali Sharot.

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