Recommended Reading


I read the books below along with dozens of others, as well as countless articles and research papers, as part of writing my book. I hope that Unleash Your Primal Brain has whet your appetite, and you will want to explore some of the topics in more depth. I am sure that there are many other worthy books to explore, but the ones below should keep you excited and occupied for a while!

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

Susan Weinschenk – ISBN-13: 978-0136746911

The focus is for the graphic designer and how to communicate information more effectively. But this handsome full-color book also covers dozens of behavioral and visual biases that have evolutionary origins.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Malcolm Gladwell – ISBN-13: 978-0316010665

A testament to our unconscious brain, and its ability to synthesize massive amount of information and turn them into near-instant decisions. Through vivid writing and compelling anecdotes, the power and limitations of the primitive brain are revealed.

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing

Roger Dooley – ISBN-13: 978-1118113363

The focus of this book is on neuromarketing and persuasion. But the compact chapters also cover a lot of the behavioral economics principles and perceptual biases that influence consumer choices.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

John Medina – ISBN-13: 978-0983263371

Snappy contemporary stories outline key parts of brain functioning for a non-technical audience. Applications to child development, learning, and memorization are explored. The importance of sleep, and exercise are emphasized for brain performance.

The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumers’ Instincts

Matthew Willcox – ISBN-13: 978-0134772042

A solid overview and applications of behavioral science to marketing. Primarily written for professional marketers, but does touch on underlying evolutionary mechanisms and biases.

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy

Martin Lindstrom – ISBN-13: 978-0385523899

An entertaining romp through the applications of brain imaging to advertising and marketing. Interesting insights into branding, tribal identity, and what influences buying decisions.

The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good

David Linden – ISBN-13: 978-0143120759

Written for a popular audience by a neuroscientist, this book breaks down the basic mechanisms of compulsion and pleasure seeking in the brain. The influence of neurochemistry and on a wide variety of human behaviors and addictions is explored.

The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature

Gad Saad – ASIN: B0084QW4MO

A vivid overview of our consumption habits, status seeking, and social and sexual signaling through the products we acquire.

Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy

Phil Barden – ISBN-13: 978-1118345603

This handsome full-color book not only looks good, but it is also packed with insights from an active marketing and branding practitioner about what makes consumers tick. It addresses how we perceive and take in information, the power of context, and ways that marketers can influence decisions.

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

Antonio Damasio – ISBN-13: 978-0143036227

A dense book that explores the biological basis of thinking, emotion, and cognition. Detailed knowledge of brain anatomy and functional areas is either required or expected to be picked up as you read this book.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies

Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff – ISBN-13: 978-1422161982

A practical guide to engaging people, amplifying audiences, and creating brands in the age of social media.

Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels

Loretta Breuning – ISBN-13: 978-1440590504

A great overview of the motivational or “happy” chemicals that circulate in your brain, including their downsides.

How We Decide

Jonah Lehrer – ISBN-13: 978-0547247991

A punchy fly-by of decision-making strategies and learnings from diverse professional fields ranging from pilots, to athletes, and others who make high stakes decisions under pressure. It discuses the tradeoffs and handoffs between the intuitive brain and reasoning brain.

I, Mammal: How to Make Peace With the Animal Urge for Social Power

Loretta Graziano Breuning – ISBN-13: 978-1941959008

Explores the dynamics of social hierarchies among mammals. The focus is on how we react to both threats and opportunities to gain status in our tribal group.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Robert Cialdini – ISBN-13: 978-0061241895

An influential book based on direct marketing research that focuses primarily on the social nature of our decisions. It documents the effects of gift giving, public consistency with our commitments, the influence of our surrounding tribes and authority figures.

Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions

Tim Ash, Rich Page, Maura Ginty – ISBN-13: 978-0470610121

The second edition of my bestselling book on Landing Page Optimization (written with brilliant co-authors). It is a detailed guide for the digital marketing professional on the art and science of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), and also covers quite a bit of information on the psychology of persuasion.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein – ISBN-13: 978-0143115267

Written by two eminent researchers, this book covers behavioral economics “nudges” to influence both personal and social decisions in a wide variety of applications.

Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?

Susan Weinschenk – ISBN-13: 978-0321603609

A solid overview of applying psychological principles to the creation of websites.


Patrick Renvoisé, Christophe Morin – ISBN-13: 978-1595551351

A solid overview of the emerging field of neuromarketing. Covers approaches to engage the automatic response of the primitive brain regions.

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Chris Voss, Tahl Raz – ISBN-13: 978-0062407801

A powerful book on negotiating in a high-stakes setting. Touches on many interpersonal and social dynamics that are key to getting the best possible outcome.

Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal

Oren Klaff – ISBN-13: 978-0071752855

A dynamic first-person account of controlling the narrative in financial negotiations by understanding how to appeal to the primitive brain. Interesting perspective on the psychology of dominance and how to take others off of their game in a variety of situations.

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

Al Ries, Jack Trout – ISBN-13: 978-0071373586

A marketing classic that details how to frame the discussion of your product in the minds of the consumer and take advantage of subconscious shortcuts.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Dan Ariely – ISBN-13: 978-0061353246

A readable and thought-provoking first-hand of a top behavioral economics researcher. Applications are mainly to consumer economics and forced choice decision making.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Yuval Noah Harari – ISBN-13: 978-0062316097

A stunning tour-de-force of a book that charts a whirlwind course from man’s early rise as a species through our cultural and social evolution to the present day.

The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter

Joseph Henrich – ISBN-13: 978-0691178431

A compelling and powerful book that lays out the interdependence of our ability to transmit culture and our evolution. Numerous examples show the advantages of tribal learning over the abilities acquired individuals through direct experience.

Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect

Matthew Lieberman – ISBN-13: 978-0307889102

A compelling book about the basis of our social natures. Describes social versus non social thinking as well as our need to continue to reexamine and update our social standing.

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

Jonathan Gottschall – ISBN-13: 978-0544002340

Vividly describes why we need to create stories and explanations to make meaning out of our experiences.  The power of the imagination and recurrence of universal themes are described from the perspective of psychology and evolution.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman – ISBN-13: 978-0374533557

In this weighty tome, a career’s worth of original research on psychology and decision making is distilled for the lay audience. Although a bit uneven at times, it can be repeatedly mined for a wide variety of purposes.

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Matthew Walker – ISBN-13: 978-1501144325

A comprehensive work by a top sleep researcher. Considers the evolution of sleep, disorders, impacts of sleep loss, and how to get better sleep. The most important self-help book I have read in many years.

Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link Between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships

Amy Banks – ISBN-13: 978-1101983218

The critical importance of our social natures is explored in this readable book. Practical strategies are also presented to strengthen our social and relationship abilities within the brain.