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Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds Hardcover – Nov 2 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Nov. 2 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038566270X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385662703
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 3.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #378,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Taylor on May 20 2012
Format: Paperback
This is not a book about persuasion along the lines of Cialdini, nor is it about conversational hypnosis along the lines of Milton Erickson, this is about manipulators and manipulation.

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.
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By QLE on Dec 18 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A summary of psychology research findings from various other authors. It does provides some concise examples how to apply. I would have expect more original findings from the author though.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brew on Oct. 5 2011
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps foolishly, I bought this book hoping for a look at some of the science of persuasion and if 'split-second persuasion' was indeed possible. Instead, the book reads like a late-night TV infomercial. It was painful to read, and I felt like I needed to bathe once finished.

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).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 51 reviews
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Cognitive distraction March 12 2011
By Sceptique500 - Published on
Verified Purchase
SPICE stands for: simplicity, perceived self-interest, incongruity, confidence, and empathy. These are the pillars of persuasion - says Kevin DUTTON Ph.D. From someone who has studied persuasion for so long, one would expect a grand and persuasive performance.

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.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Not Recommended March 30 2011
By Robin - Published on
Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book, but found it tedious, disorganized and overwritten. What could have been said in three or four paragraphs went on for page after page after page. In the end, it just didn't seem particularly relevant. The book suggests you'll learn something about the art of persuasion by reading, but that's not the case. Long stories about bugs and eye contact. Save your money.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Mixed Bag of Pop Psychology July 20 2012
By R. Schultz - Published on
Verified Purchase
A lot of the "persuasion" this book refers to depends on your being able to deflate someone with a witty rejoinder - "Yes Madam, I am drunk. But tomorrow I'll be sober and you'll still be dumb." Or the persuasion referred to depends on diffusing a situation by making common cause with someone - "I stole a souvenir fork too. But I think the hostess saw us. I suggest we return the forks to the table."

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.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Analyze and Disarm Dec 26 2010
By Kevin L. Nenstiel - Published on
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Hundreds of persuaders barrage us daily, trying to change our decisions or hook our loyalty (such as book reviewers who seek to steer our buying). Some persuaders act straightforwardly and honestly, while others seek to manipulate, deceive, or steal from you. How do we identify them, disarm them, even learn from them? Kevin Dutton has spent years studying how people change others' minds. The answers he finds may surprise you.

Dutton combines new discoveries in cognitive psychology and neurobiology with funny, playful anecdotes, to explain how our brains perceive common stimuli, showing that we're wired for occasional deception. We communicate even when we don't realize; we receive signals from others that have little basis in reason. Surprisingly, the people who most easily persuade us are psychopaths, those who least have our interests at heart, though they seldom mean us harm.

I question how useful Dutton's discoveries are for crafting persuasion. The intricate steps he describes contradict his "split second" promise. But in terms of analyzing and disarming influence, careful reading to comprehend psychological tactics could defend us against those who would treat us like resources. If this book can help people recognize when others want to persuade or even deceive us, I would call it nothing short of a miracle.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Rehashed information Dec 11 2012
By 123 - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found the first chapter (the part about the frogs) interesting enough to buy the book. When I got it home and read the rest I was very disappointed. 90% of this book is unoriginal view points on information sourced from the work of Robert Cialdini among others.

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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