By Richard Birke
With daylight savings upon us, we’re now back in the dark season, or as I prefer to think of it, the season of reading. Those of you who have read my book reviews and followed my work know that I am a big fan of psychology and neuroscience. After all, if you want to know how to negotiate better, you need to understand how to make better decisions and what’s going on for the decision-makers across the table.
In that vein, I highly recommend Peter L. Bernstein’s Against the Gods – subtitled, the Remarkable Story of Risk. Bernstein brings journalistic gifts to bear when he teaches us how Daniel Bernoulli discovered that we bet more when we are losing, how Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman advanced that study into a Nobel Prize winning theory of loss aversion, how former decision theorist-turned Pentagon Papers-author, Daniel Ellsberg, taught us why we prefer known risks to uncertain ones and more. It’s a must read for anyone trying to value a case or claim, whether working with or against anyone’s deity.
Another great book is David Linden’s The Accidental Mind. This book is a neuroscientist’s explanation for everything from love to religion to dreams and more. The first half of the book is a primer on the brain and the second half goes into applications. Doctor Linden revived my interest in science by writing an entertaining and educational work that helped me understand the automatic processes of the mind and how they shape our perspective on our wants and desires. Nothing accidental about this recommendation.
I also love Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. Gilbert is a Harvard Psychology Professor who has studied why we are so bad at predicting what will make us happy. He discusses such fun concepts as “experience squishing and expansion” in which a person who couldn’t possibly be as happy as we are (think conjoined twins) must take the range of happiness from 1-10 and expand it into a larger space. The twin must actually experience a true range from 1-7 (Gilbert nor I actually believe that the twin is less happy) and stretch it to make it a 1-10. This book tells us why it’s so hard to reach a durable settlement and why we are so prone to buyer’s remorse. Read it – you’ll be happy you did.
Let me give you more that I think are great – no lengthy explanations– just strong recommendations.
Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman – Negotiation Genius (how to negotiate better)
Robert Axelrod – The Evolution of Cooperation (how cooperation can emerge in competitive environments)
Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler – Nudge (how to get people to do things that are good for them)
David Eagleman – Incognito (how the subconscious mind controls our lives)
Joseph LeDoux – The Emotional Brain (how the brain creates emotion)
Paul Ekman – Emotions Revealed (the art and science of facial recognition)
Marco Iacaboni – Mirroring People (the neuroscience of empathy)
So there’s a nice collection for you – each one entertaining and stimulating at the same time. If you read one every few weeks, that ought to take you through the darkness and back into the light, in more ways than one.