Whatever it is you do for a living, dig down deep enough and it probably comes down to understanding and manipulating human behavior. Design products? You need to understand people's problems and what motivates them to buy. Manage employees? Getting the best out of them means understanding what makes them tick. Program computers? Guess what, it's people who use those computers.
Which means whatever your job, you'll probably do it a whole lot better if you understand people better. Reading books on psychology and behavioral science can help. And if you're looking for a few suggestions, specialist online magazine Behavioral Scientist has a great list for you.
I've culled the list of the best new behavioral science titles of 2022, eliminating more niche topics like dealing with grief and the roots of war in favor of titles that are most likely to benefit entrepreneurs and other business leaders. I've included a snippet from the back cover of each book explaining further what it's about.
Between Us by Batja Mesquita. "We may think of emotions as universal responses, felt inside, but in Between Us, acclaimed psychologist Batja Mesquita asks us to reconsider them through the lens of what they do in our relationships, both one-on-one and within larger social networks."
Different by Frans de Waal. "World-renowned primatologist Frans de Waal draws on decades of observation and studies of both human and animal behavior to argue that despite the linkage between gender and biological sex, biology does not automatically support the traditional gender roles in human societies."
Don't Trust Your Gut by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. "Stephens-Davidowitz exposes that, while we often think we know how to better ourselves, the numbers disagree. Hard facts and figures consistently contradict our instincts." Here's one example of his unexpected conclusions.
Evolutionary Ideas by Sam Tatam. "Tatam shows how behavioral science and evolutionary psychology can help us solve tomorrow's challenges, not by divining something the world has never seen, but by borrowing from yesterday's solutions -- often in the most unexpected ways. " You can read an excerpt on Behavioral Scientist.
From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks. "At the height of his career at the age of 50, [Harvard professor] Arthur Brooks embarked on a seven-year journey to discover how to transform his future from one of disappointment over waning abilities into an opportunity for progress. From Strength to Strength is the result." Get a sneak peek at Brooks's thinking here.
Get it Done by Ayelet Fishbach. "With fascinating research from the field of motivation science and compelling stories of people who learned to motivate themselves, Get It Done illuminates invaluable strategies for pulling yourself in whatever direction you want to go." Read an article by Fishbach on Behavioral Scientist.
Hidden Games by Erez Yoeli and Moshe Hoffman. "In Hidden Games, Moshe Hoffman and Erez Yoeli find a surprising middle ground between the hyperrationality of classical economics and the hyper-irrationality of behavioral economics. They...use it to explain our most puzzling behavior, from the mechanics of Stockholm syndrome and internalized misogyny to why we help strangers and have a sense of fairness."
How Minds Change by David McRaney. "How Minds Change is a book about the science, and the experience, of transformation.... It's an eye-opening journey among cult members, conspiracy theorists, and political activists -- from Westboro Baptist Church picketers to LGBTQ campaigners in California -- that ultimately challenges us to question our own motives and beliefs."
How to Stay Smart in a Smart World by Gerd Gigerenzer. Many in the tech industry predict "machines will soon do everything better than humans. In How to Stay Smart in a Smart World, Gerd Gigerenzer shows why that's not true, and tells us how we can stay in charge in a world populated by algorithms."
Imaginable by Jane McGonigal. "How do we map out our lives when it seems impossible to predict what the world will be like next week, let alone next year or next decade? [...] Jane McGonigal draws on the latest scientific research in psychology and neuroscience to show us how to train our minds to think the unthinkable and imagine the unimaginable."
Influence Is Your Superpower by Zoe Chance. "Influence doesn't work the way you think because you don't think the way you think. Move past common misconceptions -- such as the idea that asking for more will make people dislike you -- and understand why your go-to negotiation strategies are probably making you less influential."
Mindwandering by Moshe Bar. "Our brains are noisy; certain regions are always grinding away at involuntary activities like daydreaming, worrying about the future, and self-chatter, taking up to forty-seven percent of our waking time. This is mindwandering.... Cognitive neuroscientist Moshe Bar is here to tell you about the method behind this apparent madness."
The No Club by Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, Lise Vesterlund, and Laurie Weingart. "The No Club started when four women...vowed to say no to requests that pulled them away from the work that mattered most to their careers. This book reveals...their over-a-decade-long journey and subsequent groundbreaking research showing that women everywhere are unfairly burdened with 'non-promotable work,' a tremendous problem we can -- and must -- solve."
The Power of Regret by Daniel H. Pink. "Drawing on research in social psychology, neuroscience, and biology, Pink debunks the myth of the 'no regrets' philosophy of life. And using the largest sampling of American attitudes about regret ever conducted as well as his own World Regret Survey -- which has collected regrets from more than 15,000 people in 105 countries -- he lays out the four core regrets that each of us has." Here's a sneak peak of Pink's thinking in the book.
Ritual by Dimitris Xygalatas. Rituals present "a profound paradox: people ascribe the utmost importance to their rituals, but few can explain why they are so important. Apparently pointless ceremonies pervade every documented society, from handshakes to hexes, hazings to parades.... Ritual reveals the deep and subtle mechanisms that bind us together."
The Secret Life of Secrets by Michael Slepian. "At what age do children develop the cognitive capacity for secrecy? Do all secrets come with the same mental load? How can we reconcile our secrets with our human desires to relate, connect, and be known? When should we confess our secrets? Who makes for the ideal confidant? And can keeping certain types of secrets actually enhance our well-being?"
Streets of Gold by Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan. "Using the tools of modern data analysis and ten years of pioneering research, new evidence is provided about the past and present of the American Dream, debunking myths fostered by political opportunism and sentimentalized in family histories."
Thinking Like an Economist by Elizabeth Popp Berman. "Elizabeth Popp Berman tells the story of how a distinctive way of thinking -- an 'economic style of reasoning' -- became dominant in Washington between the 1960s and the 1980s and how it continues to dramatically narrow debates over public policy today."
The Voltage Effect by John A. List. "Drawing on his original research, as well as fascinating examples from the realms of business, policymaking, education, and public health, [List] identifies five measurable vital signs that a scalable idea must possess, and offers proven strategies for avoiding voltage drops and engineering voltage gains." You can read an article by List on Behavioral Scientist.
Wired for Love by Stephanie Cacioppo. "Stephanie tells not just a science story but also a love story. She shares revelatory insights into how and why we fall in love, what makes love last, and how we process love lost.... Woven through it all is her moving personal story, from astonishment to unbreakable bond to grief and healing."
Happy summer reading!