I purchased this book for personal use.
I encountered Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive in A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior, a Coursera course by Dan Ariely. One of the authors of Yes!, Noah J. Goldstein, contributed a guest lecture to the course based on the findings laid out in the book. During his video, Goldstein stated that 95% of people who watched the lecture also bought the book and, hey, who am I to buck a trend?
The subtitle of Yes! exaggerates the book's contents slightly. While there are 50 bite-sized chapters, many of them offer extensions of previous ideas instead of completely new concepts. The best-known example of the authors' work is probably their experiment with "Save the Environment" cards in hotel rooms. If you've stayed in a hotel within the past 10 years or so, you've most likely seen cards explaining that washing towels that have been used only once wastes millions of gallons of water and tons of detergent every year. By hanging a towel on a rack or the shower curtain rod instead of dropping it onto the floor, the housekeeping staff would know to leave the towel in the room instead of washing it unnecessarily.
Assuming the staff follows the stated procedure, which in my experience has not been consistently true, the question is how hotel operators can best elicit cooperation from their guests? The researchers thought that appealing to guests' social consciousness would work well, but they found two approaches that were even more effective. The first approach, which achieved a 26% improvement, was to create a sign that said the majority of other hotel guests participated in the towel reuse program. The second approach, which worked even better, was to create a sign that said the majority of hotel guests who stayed in that room participated in the program. As Goldstein noted, even though those other people were the ones directly responsible for skunking up your room so it had to be cleaned, guests felt the persuasive pull of individuals with whom they had even the slightest bit in common.
The rest of the book presents the authors' research into a variety of persuasion techniques, such as how individuals react when presented with either a moderate versus a large number of choices. In one experiment, shoppers were presented with either 6 or 24 types of jam from which they could sample. Shoppers who were presented with only 6 choices were far more likely to make a purchase than those presented with four times as many options, most probably because the huge variety overwhelmed their ability to discriminate among the available flavors. The authors also found that waiters who repeated a customer's order back word for word increased their tip size by 70%. My personal opinion is that the customers were certain the server had heard them and paid attention to their request, which created a personal connection.
Yes! is a fun book to read. The authors present their material in an engaging manner and, while they avoid jokes, understand the humor inherent in persuading others to come around to your way of thinking. The individual vignettes are short enough that you can read each one quickly, so the book's perfect for light reading when you have a few moments away from work.
Curtis Frye is the editor of Technology and Society Book Reviews. He is the author of more than 30 books, including Improspectives, his look at applying the principles of improv comedy to business and life. His list includes more than 20 books for Microsoft Press and O'Reilly Media; he has also created over a dozen online training courses for lynda.com. In addition to his writing, Curt is a keynote speaker and entertainer. You can find more information about him at www.curtisfrye.com.