Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Persuaders: The Hidden Industry that Wants to Change Your Mind (2016) by James Garvey, Book Review

The Persuaders: The Hidden Industry that Wants to Change Your Mind (2016)
by James Garvey

Brought this book (worth RM79.90) for RM19.90 @ BookXcess PJ. I'm one happy customer! Now, about the book, if you're new to the world of persuasion, this book is a good way of learning the basics. If you're already familiar with it, there's not much here that you haven't already heard before. Because I've read Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Robert Cialdini's Influence and parts of Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow - must-read books - some of the information, scientific researches and arguments stated in this book are not new to me. Not to say that it's a bad book (it's not) just that it's a primer. By the way, his historical and current examples are superb, scary, and mind-boggling. His view from philosophical perspectives is refreshing, deep and thoughtful.

If I were to retitle this book, I will put it as "The Persuaders: How We Let the PR Industry Control Our Minds." James Garvey shows that we are no longer thinking, reasoned and argued (well) - instead, our opinions and behavior are manipulated by advertisers, lobbyists, marketers, politicians, companies, organizations and more, especially in the way they go about selling their ideas and products. Persuasion is now big business and big politics. In the technological era today, you'll never see the world in the same way again after reading this book. For example, in the case of near election periods, Google might change its algorithms and support one candidate rather than another. And because those algorithms are secret, the people wouldn’t know. And they wouldn’t be able to tell that that was going on. When people search for more information about the election on the internet, they thought they have come to their own conclusions, having read the different articles that they searched for, even though they didn’t know that those articles were slanted in one direction or another. They thought that it was their own conclusion they were arriving at, so they believed (presumably) it in a way – in a sense – rationally (this also happened when we were persuaded to buy a product or to respond to an idea).

If you've ever wondered how the hell we ended up in the post-truth world we inhabit today, this is the book that you want to read. You see, we are constantly manipulated in our everyday lives. We were nudged, anchored, and incentivized in barely noticeable ways. Whether the ability to reason is something we've lost or something we've never really had, being at least vaguely aware of the methods used to make us spend our money or distract our attention or cast our votes gives us some small defense against them. This book makes a great service to its readers by explaining how powerful individuals and groups take advantage of the natural irrational weaknesses of human beings. By reading this book you will learn how to be more aware of them. You will also be more prepared to advance the discussion about the ethics of Public Relations.

"[If] you are now asking yourself what you can do about modern persuasion, its sometimes enough to think that if a critical mass of us learns to listen to reason again, maybe then we'll realize that there's power in the simple but very difficult act of withholding assent and insisting on good reasons. Sheer numbers can change things. They always do," writes James. Thanks man!

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