Book #1: Flipnosis: The Art of Split-Second Persuasion (2010)

author: Kevin Dutton
language: English
length: 336 pages

book cover

Flipnosis is a pop science psychology book about persuasion. It’s quite an interesting read; I found it very easy to delve into, as the author has a dynamic writing style which lends the book an easy page-turning quality. He structures the book quite well, not making any one section too long, meaning that one can be tempted easily into reading further and further.

The subject matter is also interesting; it crosses over into linguistics quite a few times, since persuasion is something that humans tend to do with our linguistic faculties, and the section on evolutionary biology nearer the beginning is also very interesting. The word “flipnosis” applies to the concept (which I’m not sure was invented by Dutton, but we’ll assume that for now) of being able to flip someone’s perspective to the opposite, using only a few simple words – they tend to be the kind of statements that catch you offguard and make you think differently about a situation. The book is filled with anecdotes about examples of this “flipnosis” that Dutton has collected over the years, and many of them are interesting to read, and display a wide range of mostly real-life characters.

But beyond that, it gets a bit tiresome and repetitive, in the manner of countless pop science books before it. Dutton relies overly on anecdote to tell his tale, and sometimes it’s not very clear what he is trying to prove when he tells one of his stories. He makes quite a lot of his points by playing a “devious trick” on the reader by playing with their expectations (in the same sort of style as Derren Brown, but pulled off with less panache), yet half the time it’s so obvious what point he’s trying to make that you can see straight through his little trick. So in that case, not pulled off at all.

And so many of his tricks and points are ones that I’ve seen before, albeit often approached from the slightly different angle of focussing on persuasion. Even going back to Derren Brown again, the man’s already shown in a more showbiz TV style most of Dutton’s points, even if he doesn’t explain them explicitly.

The cover proudly proclaims that (someone thinks that) the book should be banned because it would be dangerous in the wrong hands, with the implication that it’s a guide to getting people to do what you want, and I feel that’s rather an inaccurate description of the book, as it’s a pop science book coming from the other angle of explaining how people who get what they want do get what they want. In some ways you could extrapolate from the examples and the psychological theory presented to real life, but Dutton’s final chapter pretty much states that most of us are lucky when we happen to say the right thing at the right time to influence flipnosis and that you’d normally have to be a psychopath (a group who feature quite prominently throughout the book) to be able to consciously do it more than the average population.

If you’re a psychologist, it’s probably all stuff you’ve heard before, anyway, although it might be worth a try, since I don’t know much about psychology as a field, so a lot of it may be new to you. I don’t know. For a non-psychologist like myself, it was interesting, certainly, an OK read. I just don’t think I would recommend it outright.

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