The best books to understand human behavior

Susan M. Weinschenk Author Of How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation
By Susan M. Weinschenk

Who am I?

I have a Ph.D. in Psychology and a lifelong fascination with people and why they do the things they do, including why I do the things I do. My life and career have been all about trying to learn as much as I can about psychology, brain science, how people think, how people learn, and how to use this body of knowledge and research to understand myself and others. My work is about applying behavioral science to the design of technology to better fit and serve people.

I wrote...

How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation

By Susan M. Weinschenk,

Book cover of How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation

What is my book about?

Whether you want your customers to buy from you, your employees to take more initiative, or your spouse to make dinner—a large amount of every day is about getting the people around you to do stuff. Instead of using your usual tactics that sometimes work and sometimes don't, what if you could harness the power of psychology and brain science to get people to want to do the stuff you want them to do.

In this book you’ll learn the 7 drivers that motivate people: The Desire For Mastery, The Need To Belong, The Power of Stories, Carrots and Sticks, Instincts,  Habits, and Tricks Of The Mind. You will learn the research behind each drive, what works when, and strategies for how to make them work.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live by

Why did I love this book?

Redirect describes the research on how self-stories drive our behavior. “Self-stories” are the small stories we tell ourselves and others about why we do what we do. There are two reasons why this book is so amazing: First, it makes you see that these largely unconscious self-stories are really controlling our whole lives, and secondly, Dr. Wilson shares his research on how very easy it actually is to change the stories and therefore change our lives. I’ve used his techniques many times to make it through my own life challenges and it works. Changing your self-story is the only way to get your life to change. Luckily, if you follow Dr. Wilson’s research and techniques you will discover it is much easier than you think to change the stories.

By Timothy D. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Redirect as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What if there were a magic pill that could make you happier, turn you into a better parent, solve a number of your teenager's behavior problems, reduce racial prejudice, and close the achievement gap in education? There is no such pill, but story editing -- the scientifically based approach described in Redirect -- can accomplish all of this.

The world-renowned psychologist Timothy Wilson shows us how to redirect the stories we tell about ourselves and the world around us, with subtle prompts, in ways that lead to lasting change. Fascinating, groundbreaking, and practical, Redirect demonstrates the remarkable power small changes…

Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert,

Book cover of Stumbling on Happiness

Why did I love this book?

I used to spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out why I wasn’t happier in my life and how I could change my life so I could be happier. Then I read this book and realized that in many ways happiness is an illusion, and that chasing after happiness was actually making me less happy, not more happy. It’s not that everyone around me had figured it out and I hadn’t. Instead what I learned from the research that Gilbert covers in the book, is that, like everyone else, I’m really bad at predicting what will actually make me happy. It’s a fun and enlightening book and it freed me from the fruitless pursuit of “happiness” so I could spend my time living my life instead.

By Daniel Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Stumbling on Happiness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bringing to life scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, this bestselling book reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. 

• Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?

• Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight?

• Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they…

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman,

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why did I love this book?

OK, I’ll admit that this is not necessarily a short or easy read. But if you really want to understand people, how they think, what makes them tick, then you have to read it. Kahneman describes a lot of research, but he is good at explaining it, so don’t let the research put you off. Whether you want to understand yourself better, or whether you want to be better at selling yourself or your products and services this is a must-read. I keep this on my bookshelf and I refer to it all the time when I am thinking, consulting, or putting together my workshops. It will take you a while to read, but it is definitely worth it. It’s the definitive source of how people think.

By Daniel Kahneman,

Why should I read it?

37 authors picked Thinking, Fast and Slow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The phenomenal international bestseller - 2 million copies sold - that will change the way you make decisions

'A lifetime's worth of wisdom' Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics
'There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Thinking, Fast and Slow' Financial Times

Why is there more chance we'll believe something if it's in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast,…

Book cover of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Why did I love this book?

A lot of our behavior is behavior we have learned to do without even realizing we are doing it. A lot of our behavior is actually a series of habits. We think that habits are hard to change, but actually, they aren’t. Think about it. You have dozens of things you do every day that are habitual (the route you use to drive to work or school, where you put your keys when you leave your home…). Do you even remember creating that habit? Probably not. So it couldn’t be that hard to create a habit. Duhigg explains the science of habits. I’ve personally used this to improve my self-care and my own health and wellness habits all for the better.

By Charles Duhigg,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Power of Habit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • This instant classic explores how we can change our lives by changing our habits.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal • Financial Times

In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporterCharles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents…

Book cover of Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment

Why did I love this book?

It’s the 2nd book on my list that’s about happiness, but it’s more philosophical and personal than Dan Gilbert’s book. This book changed my life. It made me realize that I had an expectation that my life should be easy and comfortable. Before I read this book whenever something happened in my life that was not easy and comfortable – my plane was delayed, I got sick, a client was late paying an invoice – I would spin into unhappiness. Why was this happening to me? Everything was personal. Stuff happens all the time. What makes us miserable is how we react to it. I remember reading a passage from the book and feeling my frame of reference change. It permanently changed my view of myself and how I deal with life.

By Ezra Bayda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beyond Happiness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Zen teacher explains that true happiness can only be found by dropping our ideas about happiness—and learning to live fully and fearlessly in the moment

Many books have been published in recent years on happiness. Ezra Bayda, a remarkably down-to-earth Zen teacher, believes that the happiness “boom” has been largely a bust for readers. Why? Because it's precisely the pursuit of happiness that keeps us trapped in cycles of dissatisfaction and suffering.

In Beyond Happiness, Bayda draws on Zen teachings to question our conventional notions about what happiness is and where we can find it. Most of us seek…

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