Hooked by Nir Eyal
Now I am not normally a person who takes to non-fiction very easily, but the thing about Hooked is that it’s so effortlessly narrated that it almost seemed like I was consuming it through a 90-minute video or lecture. As its name suggests, Hooked is a book that keeps you gripped right till the last word, no matter what your background. It was my first ever non-fiction success and I guess that’s also what makes it the most obvious choice for my first book review.
The book opens with an astonishing yet oddly believable statistic about human behavior stating that most Americans would rather give up sex than their smartphones. It jumps into a few more pointers about how oblivious we are to the nature of human consumption. And if you’re one of those that believes we are in complete control of our actions, this book is sure to burst your bubble. It scientifically breaks down how habits are formed, citing that the everyday actions we perform with little or no conscious thought are actually engineered by designers. And while this premise should ideally scare the reader, the narration is anything but threatening. The book calls out, very early on, that the end goal should always be to help users cultivate healthy habits and not unhealthy addictions. Later chapters delve more into this idea and happily affirm that there is still hope for us if we choose to design well.
What makes it bookshelf-worthy?
Author Nir Eyal methodically writes that there exist 4-steps to ensuring that a product becomes a habit and they are –
triggering the user to use a product
making him act to use it
offering a reward in exchange for using it
asking him to invest in the product so that he can use it again
While many will have you believe that this model is the highlight of this book, for me, the examples cited in support of it were actually the crown jewels. There were multiple points in the book where I found myself entirely amazed at how the human psyche was described, especially with regards to online behavior.
Excerpt: My recent search for a DVD (on Amazon.com) revealed there were “only 14 left in stock”, while a search for a book I’ve had my eye on says only three copies remain. Is the world’s largest retailer almost sold out of nearly everything I want to buy or are they using the scarcity heuristic to influence my buying behavior?
The book is rife with similar examples about the habit-inducing nature of Instagram, Facebook and the iPhone – products that have become inseparable parts of our everyday existence. What I particularly enjoyed was how I started out as a reader, but through the course of the book, I gradually transformed into the person who was being written about.
If I had to fault this book, and this is going to be hard, it would have to be because of my inability to consume non-fiction for long periods of time. I found myself drifting out of the book towards the middle, but to be fair, I was just as easily pulled back in with all the wonderfully relatable examples. In my opinion, the biggest drawback of this book is that it hasn't received the adulation it deserves.
Here is a book that can be read by anyone because habit-forming transcends the realm of design. As everyday users, it is important to know why we behave a certain way to help define the line between a habit and an addiction. It is for anyone who wants to know why certain products pull us back and why some just don’t make it big. It is a book that forced me to stop asking ‘What problem should I solve?’ and instead ask ‘What problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?’ And that’s exactly why I liked it. That’s what kept me hooked.