An MSiX reading list

Yesterday was day one of the Marketing Science Ideas Xchange (MSiX). As I mentioned in a previous post, it has been an interesting opportunity to see behavioural science outside of the academic and economics environments I am used to. There were a lot of interesting presentations, and a lot of good books were mentioned along the way.

First, a couple of blasts from the past: Claude Hopkins’s Scientific Advertising (if the one dollar Amazon price is prohibitive, it doesn’t take much searching to find some free pdf versions) and Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders. The idea of injecting more science into advertising is not new.

The usual behavioural science texts got plenty of mentions, particularly Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. System 1 and System 2 thinking were regular frames for the speakers (and in today’s workshops). Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge and Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational also got the expected mentions.

The first three speakers had an evolutionary thread in parts of their talks (nice to see), so naturally a few books I have plugged before came up. Rory Sutherland put up his reading list from Verge, which includes Paul Seabright’s The Company of Strangers, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, Robert Kurzban’s Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind and Robert Frank’s The Darwin Economy. All highly recommended, as is the rest of Sutherland’s reading pile, although I haven’t read Stuart Sutherland’s Irrationality: the enemy within, which I suppose will get added to my list.

Another book I had not come across before was Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, which looks interesting.

Uri Gneezy and John List got a solid mention from the last presenter, Liam Smith from Monash University’s BehaviourWorks Australia. Gneezy and List’s new book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life is also sitting on my reading pile.

Outside of the presentations, a few other interesting books came up in conversation. They included Jim Manzi’s Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society, which should be on your reading list. One of my favourite books, Christopher Buckley’s Thank You for Smoking was also mentioned, which was unsurprising considering the potential sin industry clients of many of the conference attendees – and if you do read it, rip out the last couple of pages. While Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice was not specifically mentioned, the phrase was regularly used.

Finally, Adam Ferrier, the conference curator, has a book out – The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour. After organising a conference myself earlier in the year, I feel for him – many rewards but so much effort.

One thought on “An MSiX reading list

  1. McGilchrist also has a much shorter ebook called The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning. His website has some useful info too: And the RSA animate video on his ideas is great:

    Judging by the books you’re interested in, McGilchrist’s work is definitely worth checking out.

    A favourite quote of mine from The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning:

    “the hemispheres pay different types of attention to the world – reach out a hand towards it (for that is what the word ‘attention’ means, the reaching out of a hand) in a different way or with a different set of priorities and values: to grasp and take for our own use, or to forge a connection and explore. The left hemisphere […] pays the narrow-beam, precisely focussed, attention which enables us to get and grasp: it is the left hemisphere that controls the right hand with which we grasp something, and controls the aspects of language (not all language) by virtue of which we say we have ‘grasped’ the meaning – made it certain and pinned it down. The right hemisphere underwrites sustained attention and vigilance for whatever may be, without preconception. Its attention is not in the service of manipulation, but in the service of connection, exploration and relation. That is, after all another reason why we reach out a hand – to connect, to create, to share in another’s fate, or to explore the world for what it is.”

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