The one-sentence summary

People do some very strange things, so don’t take anything for granted.


  • Psychology and the quirky science of everyday life have a deep bearing on consumer behaviour and as such lie at the heart of business understanding
  • There is a reason for pretty much everything, so we are entitled to ask how our surnames influence our lives, why women should have men write their personal ads, and why people in Delhi are more helpful than Londoners
  • Findings include:
  • Birth sign has no effect on behaviour at all, until people learn what their sign is and start behaving that way
  • People can, within reason, choose when they die based on significant dates such as birthdays, and whether their inheritance will fall into a new tax year
  • People can be made to remember things that they have never experienced
  • The original idea of six degrees of separation has now gone down to four


  • The author has conducted thousands of experiments that either challenge our preconceptions or provide new answers to age-old questions. These include:
  • People would rather wear a sweater that has been dropped in dog faeces and not washed, than one that has been dry-cleaned but used to belong to a mass murderer
  • The difference between a genuine and fake smile is all in the eyes – in a genuine smile, the skin around the eyes crinkles
  • The best way of detecting a lie is to listen, not look – liars say less, give fewer details and use the word ‘I’ less
  • Having a greater awareness of these possibilities could help all aspects of your life – business and social


  • Although the book answers a lot of questions, it probably raises a lot more
  • It is intended to make the reader more interesting, but it could equally make you a trivia bore if not handled carefully