Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Influential Mind

The Influential Mind

What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others

Tali Sharot

Henry Holt and Co.

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A cutting-edge, research-based inquiry into how we influence those around us and how understanding the brain can help us change minds for the better.

In The Influential Mind, neuroscientist Tali Sharot takes us on a thrilling exploration of the nature of influence. We all have a duty to affect others—from the classroom to the boardroom to social media. But how skilled are we at this role, and can we become better? It turns out that many of our instincts—from relying on facts and figures to shape opinions, to insisting others are wrong or attempting to exert control—are ineffective, because they are incompatible with how people’s minds operate. Sharot shows us how to avoid these pitfalls, and how an attempt to change beliefs and actions is successful when it is well-matched with the core elements that govern the human brain.

Sharot reveals the critical role of emotion in influence, the weakness of data and the power of curiosity. Relying on the latest research in neuroscience, behavioral economics and psychology, the book provides fascinating insight into the complex power of influence, good and bad.

EXCERPT

Prologue

A Horse-Sized Syringe

The Surprising, Baffling, Mysterious Case of Influence

You and I share a role. Maybe you never stopped to consider this role, or perhaps you think about it all the time....

Reviews

Praise for The Influential Mind

“Sharot, a London neuroscientist, covers the topic more fully and more authoritatively in a book whose title gives appropriately equal billing to thought, behavior and neurons…Her book is a witty survey of techniques to influence and guide human behavior.”—The New York Times Book Review

“It not only demonstrates the failings of the human mind to learn from our mistakes – for instance, resorting to fear-mongering – but carries a practical series of lessons in overcoming those habits. And those habits, are everywhere we look…Beyond the tricks of mind influence, there is a great deal of promising news in the book about what we as humans value.” —Wired UK

“Lucid and engaging… Sharot’s treatment is particularly valuable for its balance between accessibility to the reader and solid grounding in scientific research. In today’s “post-truth” environment, her efforts to increase awareness of the pitfalls of human reasoning, and how to overcome them, are an indispensable contribution from the coalface of cognitive scientific research.” —Science

"The Influential Mind will make you gasp with surprise—and laugh with recognition. Many of our most cherished beliefs about how to influence others turn out to be wrong; Sharot sets them right. Packed with practical insights, this profound book will change your life. An instant classic."—Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard University; former Administrator for the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and bestselling coauthor of Nudge

"Take it from a leading neuroscientist: every day, we all miss opportunities to influence others. This timely, intriguing book explains why it's so difficult to shift the attitudes and actions of others—and what we can do about it."—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

“In this perceptive study, cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot isolates seven factors central to influence. She shows how US President John F. Kennedy framed the space race emotionally as risk and opportunity, boosting neural synchronization and encouraging adherence to his view; and how “taming the amygdala” (the brain structure key to processing emotions) can reduce stress and susceptibility to fear-mongering.”—Nature

“Better facts tend to be counterproductive on hot-button issues like gun control. As Tali Sharot notes in her book The Influential Mind…The smarter a person is, the greater his or her ability to rationalize and reinterpret discordant information, and the greater the polarizing boomerang effect is likely to be.” —David Brooks, The New York Times

“In the age of big data, it’s easy to assume that cold, hard facts can drive change. Not so fast, argues cognitive scientist Tali Sharot, whose new book, The Influential Mind, explores how emotion tends to overpower reason when it comes to human decision-making.” —TIME.com

“In the arena of behavioral science, little has held more potential than the striking advances in behavioral neuroscience and little has stood to gain as much from those advances as the study of social influence. With The Influential Mind, Tali Sharot has offered an account that makes the connection in a way that is both instructive and engaging.”—Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence and Pre-Suasion

“[A] fascinating, accessible primer on what current research teaches us about the art of persuasion. Her book strives to 'reveal the systematic mistakes we make when we attempt to change minds,’ a topic that resonates in today’s divisive political climate… She has a gift for providing engaging vignettes that are apt and illustrative for nonacademics. The writing exhibits model clarity and brisk pacing. Readers will find themselves jotting notes to apply Sharot’s findings to a wide range of areas, including workplace politics, parenting, and Facebook arguments.”—Publishers Weekly

“Sharot smartly pairs findings based in neuropsychology with those derived from behavioral psychology to illustrate how one field builds upon another…Sharot’s target audience is the general public, not specialized professionals, but her presentation of numerous interdisciplinary findings in psychology, behavioral economics, and neurobiology lends her book nuance and sophistication… [She] has a lot to teach us about our power to change others.” Psychotherapy Networker

“A fantastic journey through the process of forming beliefs and ideas”—Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com and New York Times best-selling author of Delivering Happiness

“This book not only a primer on persuasion; it is far more valuable than that. It explains why so many of our well-meaning attempts to change people's minds can backfire so badly.” —Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy & Mather

"This brilliant and timely book is essential reading for anyone who wants an intelligent, principled guide to getting their ideas heard and their hopes fulfilled. If you follow Tali Sharot's scientifically-backed guidance, you'll become one of those great communicators and change makers that everyone raves about—persuasive and inspirational in equal measure." —Caroline Webb, Author of How to Have a Good Day, CEO of Sevenshift, Senior Adviser to McKinsey & Company

The Influential Mind brilliantly unpacks the science of influence, offering guidance not only on how to influence others—but how to stop others from influencing us.” —Michael Norton, Harvard Business School, coauthor of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending

“Concisely written, compellingly presented, and eminently applicable” —Steve Martin, New York Times bestselling co-author of Yes! 60 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion

“…readers will discern plenty of ways to sharpen their abilities to carry an argument. Good, readable pop psychology that doesn't get too arcane but explores the hidden mental corners all the same.” —Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Tali Sharot

Tali Sharot is the author of The Optimism Bias and an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience with degrees in economics and psychology. She is the founder and director of the Affective Brain Lab at University College London. Her papers on decision-making, emotion, and influence have been published in Nature, Science, Nature Neuroscience, Psychological Science, and many others. She has been featured in numerous outlets and written for The New York Times, Time magazine, The Washington Post, CNN, the BBC and more. Before becoming a neuroscientist Sharot worked in the financial industry for a few years and completed her national mandatory service in the Israeli airforce. She lives in London and Boston with her husband and children.

Tali Sharot

Tali Sharot

Tali Sharot's TED Talk

Affective Brain Lab