cover image Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior

Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior

Jonah Berger. Simon & Schuster, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5969-2

Expanding on the ideas explored in his 2013 bestseller, Contagious, Berger offers an engaging guide to the concept of social influence. He examines how opposing categories of socially motivated behavior—imitation and differentiation—combine to create complex cultural patterns. He shows, for example, the imperceptible communal nudges behind baby-naming trends, racial achievement gaps, and group decision-making at work. Though Berger teaches marketing, his book appeals to readers beyond the M.B.A.s. Ultimately, the focus is on applied psychology. “We like things that are moderately similar,” he says, “blending the allure of novelty with the comfort of the familiar.” Some of his points are familiar from Psychology 101: familiarity increases attraction, stereotypes are shortcuts used to process new information. But unlike the writing in the average psych textbook, Berger’s prose is consistently entertaining, applying science to real life in surprising ways and explaining research through narrative. He can be repetitive, and his stylistic brevity becomes distracting: sentence fragments are overused. Still, it makes for good retention. Social influence is an intricate subject, but Berger simplifies without patronizing. His book fascinates because it opens up the moving parts of a mysterious machine, allowing readers to watch them in action. (June)