May 13, 2011 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Best books about manipulating people - e.g. via game theory, behavioural economics, inaccurate cognitive algorithms and so on?

If "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is an example of a book about good faith winning friends, what are books that are examples of Machiavellian winning friends, or gaining advantage, or exploiting typical cognitive errors (foot in the door, drip pricing, ambit claims, exploiting sunken cost fallacy)?
posted by kid A to Human Relations (24 answers total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
It's not as, uh ... exploitative as you might want, but try Cialdini's Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:47 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

"One-upmanship" by Stephen Potter, although that shows how to do it via humour.
posted by joannemullen at 6:51 AM on May 13, 2011

Do pick-up artists' books like The Game and those by Mystery count for your purposes?
posted by knile at 6:55 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thank You For Smoking is a political satire that demonstrates the effective use of rhetoric. There's a movie by the same name.
posted by lizbunny at 6:57 AM on May 13, 2011

The Big Con, by linguist David Maurer, is a seminal account of the world of confidence men and how they went about winning the trust of their victims and manipulating them, sometimes for months at a time.
posted by Diablevert at 7:01 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

How about The Prince by Nicollo Machiavelli? It's the original!
posted by COD at 7:14 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

+1 for Caildini's book, although with great power comes great responsibility.
posted by Silvertree at 7:44 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Coercion by Douglass Rushkoff.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 7:46 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.
posted by Dragonness at 7:49 AM on May 13, 2011

I had a computational linguistics professor who said that William Labov's Therapeutic Discourse: Psychotherapy as conversation contained everything you need to know to manipulate people to do what you want.
posted by mammary16 at 8:39 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ender's Game.
posted by brand-gnu at 8:44 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think The Game would be right up your alley. If you're looking for some more academic thinking in about this topic, the area you want to delve into is Neuro-linguistic programming.
posted by mkultra at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2011

I think Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational does a good job of pointing out where people have these blind spots in their decision-making, though it would be up to you to come up with a game plan to exploit them
posted by Mchelly at 9:13 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff discusses the significance of framing devices in political rhetoric.
posted by c lion at 9:45 AM on May 13, 2011

I second the Ariely suggestion. If I am correctly interpreting what you mean by "manipulation," you might also try "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness," by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.
posted by terezaakarenin at 9:46 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Influence is definitely a great read. It has academic rigor (lots of footnotes to journaled papers) but it has a fun tone that is a joy to read. I think anyone could learn something from it.
posted by mmascolino at 11:17 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.
posted by jbenben at 11:19 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I haven't read it yet (it's in my metaphorical bedside table pile), but The Art of Deception looks like it would fit.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:47 PM on May 13, 2011

exploiting typical cognitive errors - you might enjoy How We Decide, which runs its way through cognitive decision-making processes both at a chemical level (don't worry, there are analogies for the faint of science) and how they play out in high-stress situations, standardized studies, and can be taken advantage of for good or eeeevil. The author is a science writer, so it in some ways reads like lots of small, linked chapters but is an interesting pop psych book.

My second recommendation would be Why We Buy or The Call of the Mall or anything else by Paco Underhill because he is The Man. A professional psychologist who went to the dark side as a marketing consultant, his books all relate somehow to how our brain works and how this is exploited by marketers, stores, designers, and other entities that want our money. I love Why We Buy and notice there is an updated version now, but I read the classic.
posted by whatzit at 11:17 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ender's Game.

Came in to say this, as well as all the "Shadow ..." sequels, though each one is not quite as good as the last.
posted by jpdoane at 10:38 AM on May 14, 2011

It's a bit more high-level, but The Art of War by Sun Tzu does this, as does The Book of Five Rings. You'll find that books that seem to be about military strategy are really books about manipulation of people; war, and its strategies and tactics, are nothing more than understanding why and how people do things, and using this understanding to either (a) get people to do what you want them to do, or (b) preventing people from doing what they want to do. And, you may as well read The Prince by Machiavelli. All of these books are classics and when it comes to manipulative psychology.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:09 PM on May 14, 2011

Not a book, but Derren Brown's programmes are worth investigating. He touches on some of the themes in a book, but having not read it myself I'm not 100% aware of how much depth he goes into.
posted by mippy at 7:09 AM on May 16, 2011

I'd recommend Priceless which covers the psychology behind the setting of prices and getting consumers to pay them. One example - menu engineering, designing a restaurant menu to maximize sales.

Seconding Cialdini's book.
posted by storybored at 7:41 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

For those interested in the master manipulation that is the stock market, The Black Swan is revolutionary, although Taleb swallowed all the hubris pills the last few years and has now transformed into what he used to mock. Also on the same line is the Paradox of Choice which becomes more insightful with each new terabyte downloaded.
posted by MinneapolisMike at 11:11 AM on May 17, 2011

« Older Why do some videos look so dang good?   |   Twice as opinionated as the average blogger Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.