Making Sense of Behavior - William T. Powers
By Josh Kaufman
Why do people do the things they do, and how can we encourage them to do what we want? In companies and business schools across the world, the search continues for a “magical stimulus” – a reward or incentive that will encourage people to act exactly how we want them to act. B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov are still the hidden kings of business psychology, even though they’re dead wrong.
In reality, people aren’t behavioristic stimulus-response machines – our behavior is far more complex because we want things, and those desires and perceptions constantly shape our behavior. Making Sense of Behavior is an introduction to “Perceptual Control Theory,” a powerful and flexible way to understand why people do the things they do.
William T. Powers is a physicist by training – an unlikely background for understanding human behavior. Powers specializes in a field called “control theory,” which deals with systems that are capable of self-regulation. Humans don’t blindly respond to the world around them – we’re trying to keep certain perceptions about our environments and our internal states within acceptable boundaries. When those perceptions are “under control,” we do nothing. When they’re “out of control,” we act, given the available options present in the environment.
This is a difficult book to explain in a few words, which is why I highly recommend reading it if you’re interested in why people do the things they do. Making Sense of Behavior rewired how I think about human behavior, and I’m certain it will do the same for you.
(Special thanks to PJ Eby for bringing my attention to this book.)
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