Designers, marketers, and salespeople must understand how to persuade customers. But you can’t persuade people if you don’t understand how they think.
The books below represent a solid foundation of psychology and behavioral science knowledge from which to build better experiences. These are the best behavioral science and psychology books for designers, marketers, and customer experience managers — anyone who manages touchpoints, interaction design, or the customer journey itself.
1. Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman (paid link)
"Thinking is to human as swimming is to cats. They can do it but they prefer not to." - Daniel Kahneman
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman conducts a deep dive into the biases and psychological principles that drive people’s behavior. Kahneman introduces the Dual Process Model of System 1 (fast) and System 2 (slow) thinking.
2. The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz (paid link)
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” - Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice
In this book, researcher Barry Schwartz explores how people make decisions in a world overcrowded with options. Schwartz introduces the science-backed idea that less choice can make a big impact on everyone’s behavior and happiness.
3. Psychology for Designers, by Joe Leech (paid link)
“Psychology can make your designs better by providing a design problem with a discrete solution. It can make you a better designer by helping you advocate for your designs.” - Joe Leech
In this tactical guide, author Joe Leech walks the reader through the process of researching and applying psychology to design. From the basics of what psychology is, to how to apply specific principles, this is a great end-to-end guide for designers of any level.
“Our understanding of human behavior can be improved by appreciating how people systematically go wrong.” - Richard H. Thaler
The book that launched a thousand ad agency “Nudge Units”, this is a well-written and easy read that introduces the concept of “nudging” — using science to arrange the environment so that people are more likely to choose a certain option or behavior.
5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal (paid link)
“All humans are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to seek hope and avoid fear, and finally, to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection.” - Nir Eyal
In Hooked (paid link), author Nir Eyal explores the question, “Why do some products capture our attention, while others flop?” Eyal uncovers the patterns that make certain apps and technologies hook us. These insights form the basis of the author’s “Hook Model”, a four-step process that designers can use to build addictive products.
“We usually think of ourselves as sitting the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we made...but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires...than with reality”
In this fascinating read, behavioral economist Dan Ariely outlines the ways people behave irrationally. From assuming that more expensive products are more effective to exploring the “power of free”, Ariely demonstrates how mental shortcuts, biases, and leaps in logic often win over rational thought.