8 Books That Explain Human Behavior and How We Make Decisions

8 Books That Explain Human Behavior and How We Make Decisions

When testing and building products, we often face that our users don’t behave the way we assumed they would — sometimes their behavior seems irrational to us. In the end, understanding how our users and customers tick is the key to success. It’s not easy to understand human behavior and neither simple to describe how humans act in certain situations and how we make decisions. Fortunately, there are a bunch of amazing books that tackle this very interesting topic. Plus, these books will not only teach you more about humans in general, but also more about yourself.

Predictably Irrational

Predictably Irrational

The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
by Dan Ariely

Why read?

In this newly revised and expanded edition of the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable — making us predictably irrational.

400 pages, Harper 2009

Blink

Blink

The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell

Why read?

Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others? Blink reveals that great decision makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing”-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

206 pages, Back Bay Books pages 2007

Principles

Principles

Life and Work
by Ray Dalio

Why read?

Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, shares the unconventional principles that he’s developed, refined, and used over the past forty years to create unique results in both life and business — and which any person or organization can adopt to help achieve their goals. While the book brims with novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter what they’re seeking to achieve.

592 pages, Simon & Schuster 2017

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow

by Daniel Kahneman

Why read?

In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives―and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.

512 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2011

Factfulness

Factfulness

Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
by Hans Rosling, , Ola Rosling

Why read?

When asked simple questions about global trends―what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school―we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers. It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most. Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.

352 pages, Flatiron Books 2018

Behave

Behave

The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
by Robert M. Sapolsky

Why read?

From the celebrated neurobiologist and primatologist, a landmark, genre-defining examination of human behavior, both good and bad, and an answer to the question: Why do we do the things we do? Sapolsky’s storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person’s reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its evolutionary legacy.

800 pages, Penguin Press 2017

Misbehaving

Misbehaving

The Making of Behavioral Economics
by Richard H. Thaler

Why read?

Nobel laureate Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans―predictable, error-prone individuals. Misbehaving is his arresting, frequently hilarious account of the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth―and change the way we think about economics, ourselves, and our world. Traditional economics assumes rational actors. Early in his research, Thaler realized these Spock-like automatons were nothing like real people. Whether buying a clock radio, selling basketball tickets, or applying for a mortgage, we all succumb to biases and make decisions that deviate from the standards of rationality assumed by economists. Laced with antic stories of Thaler’s spirited battles with the bastions of traditional economic thinking, Misbehaving is a singular look into profound human foibles. When economics meets psychology, the implications for individuals, managers, and policy makers are both profound and entertaining.

342 pages, W. W. Norton & Company 2016

The Art of Choosing

The Art of Choosing

by Sheena Iyengar

Why read?

Every day we make choices. Coke or Pepsi? Save or spend? Stay or go? Whether mundane or life-altering, these choices define us and shape our lives. Sheena Iyengar asks the difficult questions about how and why we choose: Is the desire for choice innate or bound by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Sheena Iyengar’s award-winning research reveals that the answers are surprising and profound. In our world of shifting political and cultural forces, technological revolution, and interconnected commerce, our decisions have far-reaching consequences.

368 pages, Twelve 2011