Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds Hardcover – Nov 2 2010
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"Revelatory . . . exposing, along with many other wonders, just how many scientists are currently at work in the shadowy territories of human personality, psychological improvement and, essentially, mind control."
— The Sunday Times (UK)
"As fascinating as it is alarming. . . . Read it. Apply it."
— Men's Health
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
KEVIN DUTTON was born in London in 1967. He has a Ph.D in psychology, and is an expert on the science of social influence. He is a research fellow at the Faraday Institute, St. Edmund's College, University of Cambridge, and at the University of Western Australia, in Perth. Split-Second Persuasion is his first book. He is currently working on his second book.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The book investigates the darker side of human nature. My mother once worked in a mental hospital, and she explained how, after she had been working there for a few months, she began to wonder whether she herself were insane. Many patients spoke with convincing sincerity when they were in fact speaking nonsense; reading this book might give you a similar feeling. We are shown an alternative world, a parallel world where people are not accountable for human suffering.
Although the cohesion of the book could be put on trial, we have many strands, more strands than are presented in similar books about guiltless manipulators. All of these strands are explained well, offering us some degree of protection against the worst elements of human nature.
When you read about how highly manipulative people work, you begin to realise the feeling of power that they must feel. They understand exactly how the rest of us work, yet because they lack empathy, they can work most people in much the same way that a puppeteer operates a puppet. These people have no emotional feeling for others, nor do they possess any sense of responsibility for their actions, yet ironically they would probably tell us that this shortfall `sets them free'. Again, as I mentioned in my review of Martha Stout's book, after reading this kind of literature we will tend to find ourselves looking around and trying to put various people we don't get along with into the `without conscience' bracket.Read more ›
If you really want this book, I'll give you my copy (you pay for postage; I've wasted more than enough money on this book).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There is lots of useful information in this work on how we change our minds, what factors influence us, and how our brain might operate. I found for instance the last chapter particularly illuminating. Emotion comes first - with a belief - and reasoning is the acid with which we test the validity of the belief. Unless we can "reason away" from belief - we are stuck (pg. 233). Of course the social environment plays a fundamental role, and so many inborn traits.
Simplicity, however, is not the author's strong suit. He has an inordinate fondness for metaphors, at times inapt, many inept - one might suspect some kind of attention disorder, which inhibits him from completing a phrase, or using plain words. His language tends toward obfuscation whenever approaching the gist of the argument. Just an example: "It comprises, in zoological terms, the modern-day equivalent of a key stimulus of influence." (pg. 163). A penny for clarification. Descriptions of experiments are at times shoddy, incomplete, or confusing: one has to go over the material several times in order to understand it - or conclude that the description is imperfect.
Maybe he is pursuing incongruity: he loves biological metaphors applied to consciousness: "persuasion virus", "cancer of the will", "genome of influence" - somehow he wants to get the message across that emotions have an unchanging biological basis - without making the case openly. Unless he happens to be lost in "airspace of perception" - that is. Given the central role of the brain in buttressing his case, one might have wished a brief and coherent description of the brain's functions. It all comes in bits and pieces scattered throughout the book.
His link of emotions to evolution is beyond the pale. Our knowledge of hominid evolution is far too scanty to allow inferences as to the role of evolution in behavioural traits. Dr DUTTON shows here masterly confidence is his own insights: "We have a powerful, inbuilt bias that predisposes us to think in a certain way: namely, that we do the things we do because we're the kinds of people who do those things! It's an evolutionary rule of thumb. A timesaving device programmed into our brains over millions and millions of years by natural selection." (pg. 106) I rest my case.
Does Dr. DUTTON generate empathy? This question I'll leave to other readers.
But for most of us, if we can come up with any such rejoinder at all, it will be an esprit de l'escalier - a comeback we think of too late when we're already out the door and down the staircase. We can't be trained to think of these rejoinders. Delivering one on target is often a matter of pure luck. Besides, this isn't the kind of persuasion I had in mind when I got this book. I was hoping to find ways of changing a person's mind on issues important to me, or of influencing people away from what I perceive to be their damaging fixations.
The book does eventually address this deeper aspect of persuasion. There are some insights here, particularly in the middle of the book where Dutton considers the type of influence that molds dedicated cult members and the type of influence that primes a person to become the victim of psychopaths or other very mercenary characters. However, there are a couple of things that detract from Dutton's presentation even in these more serious sections.
For one thing, he offers up a potpourri of brain studies and experiments that show which parts of the brain are involved in different thinking processes. The presumption is that if we can change people's neural pathways, we might be able to change their minds. Most of the brain studies cited are flimsy one-off researches on a limited set of volunteers. The book is really like one long "Psychology Today" series of updates for the casual lay reader. Such studies are often contradicted by the very next such study. I was especially put out with this kind of research after having read Ray Tallis' book "Aping Mankind," Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity which intelligently challenges the presumptions of such hit-or-miss studies.
Then what might be valuable insights here tend to be overridden, or overwritten, by Dutton's forced attempts at snappy writing. Dutton (an Englishman who uses a fair smattering of Brit colloquialisms) often indulges in barrages of mixed metaphors. "In the courtroom, rape often constitutes a crucible of persuasion jujitsu in which opposing lawyers lock horns not so much over the minds of the jury as over their hearts."
What's more, he often both anthropomorphizes the brain and simultaneously compares it to a computer. "Your brain's so busy running it's fear program - it completely overrides its lie detection "module." When you think things through using the standards that the more serious writer Ray Tallis uses, you can see how both types of metaphors are very misleading.
Overall, these pages tend to be just too much pop psychology. The insights offered don't form any consistent approach that a reader can put into practice. After all the mixed metaphor and parlor game type novelties involving modes of perception - what's left are the good old stand-by techniques of influence. Be friendly; make an appeal to self-interest; look people straight in the eye; dress well; and sound self-assured. But we already knew that.
When I read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) I couldn't put it down. I would have read it straight through if my wife hadn't made me stop to eat. A few years ago I let an employee of mine borrow it and told him to pass it on when he was done, and I still have random people thank me for passing the book along.
Dutton's writing is all over the place, and it's littered with needlessly wordy metaphors. Just turn to any page and you'll find yourself reading a two page story or a joke. It's almost as if he wanted to write a novel instead of an informative book on persuasion, but his story telling skills just weren't up to snuff. He overuses imagery, uses repetitive verbiage, is constantly making quips or being sarcastic, and fills pages with bad dialog that should have just been summarized.
"Do you think of yourself as a lucky person, Kev?"
"What do you mean?"
Silence. For about ten seconds.
"So what would you do?" I say.
"The business?" I repeat.
I'm on the ropes here.
"And what if she's not interested?"
"There's always later."
"Later? What do you mean?"
"I think you know what I mean."
Silence. Another ten seconds.
After a few pages of that you just kind of give up.
I truly believe that he was attempting to make the book interesting by adding some dramatic flair and humor, but you don't need to do that with this sort of information. Certainly not to the extent that he does.
I'm not going to lie and pretend that I finished this book. Over and over I found myself throwing my hands in the air trying to read it straight through. Eventually I tried to just skim the chapters to find some sort of treasure burred under the dirt, but the book is so disorganized that I couldn't even do that really. I certainly recognized some things that I already knew from other books. So, I'm not going to say that reading this will get you absolutely nothing, but there are a ridiculous amount of great books out there on this subject that you could read instead.
Anyone who is well read in the area of persuasion will instantly recognize Cialdini's work reflected in this text.
Don't waste your time with this book. If you haven't read it already, grab a copy of Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice (isbn 0205609996)
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