Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World

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"How can you know when someone is bluffing? Paying attention? Genuinely interested? The answer, writes Sandy Pentland in Honest Signals, is that subtle patterns in how we interact with other people reveal our attitudes toward them. These unconscious social signals are not just a back channel or a complement to our conscious language; they form a separate communication network. Biologically based "honest signaling," evolved from ancient primate signaling mechanisms, offers an unmatched window into our intentions, goals, and values. If we understand this ancient channel of communication, Pentland claims, we can accurately predict the outcomes of situations ranging from job interviews to first dates." Pentland, an MIT professor, has used a specially designed digital sensor worn like an ID badge - a "sociometer" - to monitor and analyze the back-and-forth patterns of signaling among groups of people. He and his researchers found that this second channel of communication, revolving not around words but around social relations, profoundly Influences major decisions in our lives - even though we are largely unaware of it. Pentland presents the scientific background necessary for understanding this form of communication, applies it to examples of group behavior in real organizations, and shows how by "reading" our social networks we can become more successful at pitching an idea, getting a job, or closing a deal. Using this "network intelligence" theory of social signaling, Pentland describes how we can harness the intelligence of our social network to become better managers, workers, and communicators.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Designated by Newsweek in 1997 as one of the 100 Americans most likely to shape the century, Pentland (director, Digital Life Consortium, MIT) introduces a fascinating new way to understand how we read our social environment. To gather scientific data, Pentland has devised the "sociometer," an ingenious instrument for measuring the ways in which humans communicate by "honest," or unconscious, signaling. This device allows Pentland to track social networking by measuring four kinds of signals: influence, mimicry, activity, and consistency. He argues that the influence each person has in social interactions, the reflexive copying of gestures, increased levels of activity when mutual interest occurs, and the consistency of emphasis and timing contribute to our unconscious, hardwired paths of communication. Pentland's lucid treatment of complicated psychobiological principles effectively enables lay readers to grasp difficult but significant concepts. Moreover, his appendixes provide full descriptions of the relevant research methodology. Similar in scope to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking , Pentland's book is better-suited and recommended for university collections.-Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA

From the Publisher
"Pentland's lucid treatment of complicated psychobiological principles effectively enables lay readers to grasp difficult but significant concepts...

Similar in scope to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Pentland's book is better-suited and recommended for university collections." Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262162562
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Prof. Alex (Sandy) Pentland is a pioneer in mobile information systems, technology for developing countries, consumer health, and smart environments. One of the most-cited computer scientists in the world, with international awards in the Arts,Sciences and Engineering, he was chosen by Newsweek as one of the 100 Americans likely to shape this century.Prof. Pentland's focus is the development of human-centered technology, and the creation of ventures that take this technology into the real world. His work provides people with a clearer picture of their social environment, and helps companies and communities to reinvent themselves to be both more human and productive.He is founder of more than a dozen companies, research organizations, and academic communities, and is Founder and Faculty Director of both MIT's new Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, and of MIT's Human Dynamics Laboratory.

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Table of Contents

Preface: A God's Eye View

1 Honest Signals 1

2 Social Roles 21

3 Reading People 33

4 Survival Signals 45

5 Network Intelligence 57

6 Sensible Organizations 71

7 Sensible Societies 85

Epilogue: Technology and Society 95

App. A Social Science Background 99

App. B Success 113

App. C Connecting 127

App. D Social Circuits 135

App. E Unconscious Intelligence 145

Notes 151

References 165

Index 179

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