Category: Book Notes

Notes from ‘Prisoners of Geography’

This book is an interesting read that looks at the impact of Geography on global politics; I have made some notes from my reading. However there is much more in the book that I left out of my notes!


The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars the power, politics and social development of the peoples that now inhabit nearly every part of the earth. Technology may seem to overcome the distances between us in both mental and physical space, but it is easy to forget that the land where we live, work and raise our children is hugely important, and that the choices of those who lead the seven billion in habitants of this planet will to some degree always be shaped by the rivers, mountains, deserts, lake and seas that constrain as all -as they always have.

There are numerous examples of how different countries are limited by there geography, for example the author states that “In Russia we see the influence of the Arctic, and how its freezing climate limits Russia’s ability to be a truly global power. In China we see the limitation of power without a global navy.” Or alternatively how geographical decisions in the past impact the future: “The conflict in Iraq and Syria is rooted in colonial powers ignoring the rules of geography, whereas the Chinese occupation of Tibet is rooted in obeying them; America’s global foreign policy is dictated by them” These claims, among others made in the introduction are later discussed in further chapters.


Russia is not an Asian power for many reasons. 75 per cent of its territory is in Asia, only 22 per cent of its population lives there. Siberia may be Russia’s ‘treasure chest’, containing the majority of the mineral wealth, oil, and gas, but it is a harsh land, freezing for months on end, with vast forest (taiga), poor soil for farming and large stretches of swampland. Only two railway networks run west to earth. There are few transport routs leading north to south and so no easy way for Russia to project power southward into modern Mongolia or China; it lacks the manpower and supply lines to do so.


Until now China has never been a naval power- with its large land mass, multiple borders and short sea routes to trading partners, it had no need to be, and it was rarely ideologically expansive. Its merchants have long sailed the oceans to trade goods, btus its navy did not seek territory beyond its region, and the difficulty of patrolling the great sea lanes of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans was not worth the effort. It was always a land power, with a lot of land and a lot of people – now nearly 1.4 billion.

[The reason for the Chinese control of Tibet] is the geopolitics of fear. IF China did not control Tibet, it would be always be possible that India might attempt to do so. This would give India the commanding heights of the Tibetan Plateau and a base from which to push into the Chinese heartland, as well as control of the Tibetan sources of three of China’s great rivers, the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong.

China has locked itself into the global economy. If we don’t buy, they don’t make. And if they don’t make there will be mass unemployment. If there is mass and long-term unemployment, in an age when the Chinese are a people packed into urban areas, the inevitable social unrest could be – like everything else in modern China – on a scale hitherto unseen.

Western Europe

Western Europe has no real deserts, the frozen wasters are confined to a few areas in the far north, and earthquakes, volcanoes and massive flooding are rare. The rivers are long, flat , navigable and made for trade. As they empty into a variety of seas and oceans they flow into coast lines which are, west, north and south, abundant in natural harbours.

Greece suffers due to its geography. Much of the coastline comprises steep cliffs and there are few coastal plains for agriculture. Inland are more steep cliffs, rivers which will not allow transportation, and few wide, fertile valleys. What agricultural land there is is of high quality; the problem is that there is too little of it to allow Greece to become a major agricultural exporter, or to develop more than a handful of major urban areas containing highly educated, highly skilled and technologically advanced populations.

Geographically, the Brits are in a good place. Good farmland, decent rives, excellent access to the seas and their fish stocks, close enough to the European Continent to trade and yet protected by dint of being an island race – there have been times when the UK gave thanks for its geography as wars and revolutions wept over its neighbours.


Africa’s coastline? Great beaches, really, really, really loverly beaches, but terrible natural harbours. Rivers? Amazing rivers but most of them are rubbish for actually transporting anything, given that every few miles you go over a waterfall.

As long ago as the fifth century BCE the historian Herodotus said: ‘Egypt is the Nile, and the Nile is Egypt.’ It is still true, and so a threat to the supply to Egypt’s 700-mile-long, fully navigable section of the Nile is for Cairo a concern – one over which it would be prepared to go to ware. Without the Nile, there would be no one there. It may be a huge country, but the vast majority of its 84 million population lives within a few miles of the Nile. Measured by the area in which people dwell, Egypt is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

The Africa of the past was given no choice – its geography shaped it – and then the Europeans engineered most of today’s borders. Now with its booming populations and developing mega-cities, it has no choice but to embrace the modern globalised world to which it is so connected.

The Middle East

The Middle of What? East of Where? The region’s very name is based on a European view of the world, and it is a European view of the region that shaped it. The Europeans used ink to draw lines on maps: they were lines that did not exist in reality and created some of the most artificial borders the world has seen.

Groups such as Al Qaeda and, more recently, Islamic State have garnered what support they have partially because of the humiliation caused by colonialism and then the failure of pan-Arab nationalism – and to an extent the Arab nation state. Arab leaders have failed to deliver prosperity or freedom, and the siren call of Islamism, which promises to solve all problems, has proved attractive to many in a region marked by a toxic mix of piety, unemployment and repression.

In impoverished societies with few accountable institutions, power rests with gangs disguised as ‘militia’ and ‘political parties’. While they fight for power, sometimes cheered on by naive Western sympathisers many innocent people die.

India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan can agree on one thing: neither wants the other one around. This is somewhat problematic given they share a 900-mile long border.

Pakistan is geographically, economically, demographically and militarily weaker than India. Its national identity is also not as strong. India, despite its size, cultural diversity, and secessionist movements, has built a solid secular democracy with a unified sense of Indian identity. Pakistan wis an Islamic state with a  history of dictatorship and populations whose loyalty is often more to their cultural region than to the state.

With India, it always comes back to Pakistan, and with Pakistan, to India.


How do you solve a problem like Korea? You don’t, you just manage it – after all, there’s a lot of other stuff going on around the world which needs immediate attention.

North Korea is a poverty-stricken country of an estimated 25 million people, led by a basket case of a morally corrupt, bankrupt Communist monarchy, and supported by China, partly out of a fear of millions of refugees flooding north across the Yalu River. The USA, anxious that a military withdrawal would send out the wrong signal and embolden North Korean adventurism, continues to station almost 30,00 troops in South Korea, and the South, with mixed feelings about risking its prosperity, continues to do little to advance reunification.

The geography of the peninsula is fairly uncomplicated and a reminder of how artificial the division is between North and South. The real (broad-brush) split is west to east. The west of the peninsula is much flatter than the east and is where the majority of people life. The east has the Hamgyon mountain range in the north and lower ranges in the south. The demilitarised zone (DMZ), which cuts the peninsular in half, in parts follows the path of the Imjin-gang River, but this was never a natural barrier between two entities, just a river within a unified geographical space all too frequently entered by foreigners.

Latin America

Latin America, particularly its south, is proof that you can bring the Old World’s knowledge and technology to the new, but if geography is against you, then you will have limited success, especially if you get the politics wrong. Just as the geography of the USA helped it become a great power, so that of the twenty countries to the south ensures that none will rise to seriously challenge the North American giant this century nor come together to do so collectively.

The River Amazon may be navigable in parts, but its banks are muddy and the surrounding land makes it difficult to build on. This problem, too, seriously limits the amount of profitable land available.

The Arctic

The effects of global warming are now showing more than ever in the Arctic: the ice is melting, allowing easier access to the region, coinciding with the discovery of energy deposits and the development of technology to get at them – all of which has focused the Arctic nations’ attention on the potential gains and losses to be made in the world’s most difficult environment.

the Arctic Ocean is 5.4 million square miles; this might make it the world’s smallest ocean but it is still almost as big as Russia, and one and a half times the size of the USA.

There currently are at least nine legal disputes and claims over sovereignty in the Arctic Ocean, all legally complicated, and some with the potential to cause serious tensions between the nations. One of the most brazen comes from the Russians: Moscow has already put a marker down – a long way down. In 2007 it sent two manned submersibles 13,980 feet below the waves to the seabed of the North Pole and planted a rust-proof titanium Russian flag as a statement of ambition.

Perhaps the Arctic will turn out to be just another battleground for the nation states – after all, wars are started by fear of the other as well as by greed; but the Arctic is different, and so perhaps how it is dealt with will be different.




Pretty Good – or why we need Great Expectations in Education.

This poem was in ‘There are no shortcuts’ by Rafe Esquith, however was written by Charles Osgood in 1986. It is an interesting read and is an interesting explanation of why teachers should continually improve.

exam hall

Pretty Good

There once was a pretty good student,
Who sat in a pretty good class;
And was taught by a pretty good teacher,
Who always let pretty good pass –
He wasn’t terrific at reading,
He wasn’t a whiz-bang at math,
But for him, education was leading
Straight down a pretty good path.

He didn’t find school too exciting,
But he wanted to do pretty well;
And he did have some trouble with writing,
Since nobody taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems,
Pretty good was regarded as fine-
5+5 needn’t always add up to be 10
A pretty good answer was 9.
The pretty good class that he sat in
Was part of a pretty good school;
And the student was not an exception,
On the contrary, he was the rule.

The pretty good school that he went to
Was there in a pretty good town,
And nobody there seemed to notice
He could not tell a verb from a noun.
The pretty good student in fact was
Part of a pretty good mob;
And the first time he knew what he lacked was
When he looked for a pretty good job.
It was then, when he sought a position,
He discovered that life could be tough,
And he soon had a sneaking suspicion
Pretty good might not be good enough.
The pretty good town in our story
Was part of a pretty good state
Which had pretty good aspirations
And prayed for a pretty good fate.
There once was a pretty good nation
Pretty proud of the greatness it had,
Which learned much too late,
If you want to be great,
Pretty good is, in fact, pretty bad.

Taken from:

There are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquiththere are no shortcuts

Notes from “Addiction by Design”

I read this book because a small part of it was referenced in a book I read earlier this year. It presents an interesting view of what gambling is in Las Vegas, and how important machine gambling is. It also presents a interesting perspective of why people gamble – essentially they gamble because they need to, not because they want to win.


A quote from Mollie (a gambler), when asked if she was hoping for a big win:

“In the beginning there was excitement about winning,” she says, “but the more I gambled, the wiser I got about my chances. Wiser, but also weaker, less able to stop. Today when I win – and I do win, from time to time – I just put in back in the machines. The thing people never understand is I am not playing to win.”

Why, then, does she play? “To keep playing – to stay in that machine zone where nothing else matters.”

The author talks about the rise of gambling machines, by the late 1990s, gambling machines had been moved to key positions on the casino floor and were generating twice as much revenue as all “live games” put together. Prior to this they had been placed along hallways or near elevators and reservation desks, rarely without chairs or stools, the devices had occupied transitional spaces rather than gambling destinations. At industry conventions such as G2E the machines were being referred to as “cash cows”, “golden geese”, or the “workhorses” of the industry. In 2003 it was estimated that 85% of industry profits came from machines.

Machines gambling is distinguished by its solitary, continuous, and rapid mode of wagering. Without waiting for “horses to run, a dealer to shuffle or deal, or a roulette wheel to stop spinning,” it is possible to complete a game every three to four seconds. It involves the most intensive “event frequency” of any existing gambling activity.

The author talks about the increase in rate of game play when machines change from pull handle machines to push button machines. The rate of game play could double from 300 to 600 games per hour.

The CEO of Las Vegas Stratosphere said this about slot machines – “When we put 50 slot machines in, I always consider them 50 more mousetraps. You have to do something to catch a mouse. It’s our duty to extract as much money as we can from customers.

One surprising development is the decrease in denomination used for game play. In 2000 nickels began to overtake quarters as the most popular denomination of play. However it is not really nickel players, as machines also multiple line play at the same time. “You are not really a nickel player when you are playing 90 nickels at one time”.

The book talks about the two different casinos in Las Vegas; the tourist casinos and the local casinos. “Local-market casinos are not designed for enchantment; they are designed for connivence and habit.”


Notes from ‘The Energy Bus’

“Every morning you have a choice. Are you going to be a positive thinker or a negative thinker? Positive thinking will energise you.”

energy busThis book is a short book that presents a philosophy on life that is essentially, remain positive, and surround yourself by positive people. The message is given through the story of a man called George. The author explains what he means by positive energy. “No one goes through life untested, and the answer to these tests is positive energy – not the rah-rah, cheering kind of positive energy… But when I talk about positive energy I’m referring to the optimism, trust, enthusiasm, love , purpose, joy, passion, and spirit to live, work, and perform at a higher level; to build and lead successful teams; to overcome adversity in life and at work; to share contagious energy with employees, colleagues, and customers; to bering out the best in others and in-yourself; and to overcome all the negative people and negative situations”.

The story equips the reader with a list of 10 rules ‘for ride of your life’:

  1. You’re the driver of your bus. – If you don’t take responsibility for your life and control of your bus then you can’t take it where you want to go. If you’re not the driver, then you’ll always be at the whim of everyone else’s travel plans.
  2. Desire, vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your bus with positive energy.
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus – if people don’t get on ou bus just let them sit at the station as you drive on by.
  6. Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus. – E-motion stands for energy in motion and your emotional state is all about how the energy is flowing through you. So instead of letting negative emotions take you down a dark road of negativity, sadness, and despair we can take control of our emotions, charge ourselves up, and let the positive energy flow.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energises them during the ride.
  8. Love your passengers.
  9. Drive with purpose.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.

The author has this to say about complaining: When you complain you get more things to complaining. I don’t allow complaining because if you are complaining you cant be thinking about or creating what you do want. Plus complaining also ruins everyone else’s ride. Stop thinking about what you don’t want and start focusing your energy on your vision and what you do want.

As part of ‘being the driver of your own bus the author suggests you answer the following questions:

  • My vision for my life (including my health) is…
  • My vision for my work, career, job, and team is…
  • My vision for my relationship and family is…

The author expands on rule 8 (love your passengers); and gives five ways to ‘love your passengers;:

  1. Make time for them.
  2. Listen to them.
  3. Recognise them.
  4. Serve them.
  5. Bring out the best in them.

Energy Bus


One of the key takeaway quotes for me was:

“Your success and life are so important that you must surround yourself with a positive support team. No one creates success in a vacuum and the people we surround ourselves with have a big influence on the life and success we create. If you want to be successful you have to to be very careful about who is on your bus. After all there are people who increase your energy and there are people who drain your energy.”

The author has a website here.

The book can be purchased from amazon via the link below:

Social Media MBA in Practice


One of the books that I have read over the last week is ‘The Social Media MBA: In Practice’ by Christer Holloman. Although I am not in business there are a number of lessons for education and all users of Social Media. It is a book that consists of case studies of how different organisations have effectively used social media.

The book is supported by a LinkedIn Group – ‘The Social Media MBA Alumni’, search for it on LinkedIn!

Some thoughts about before beginning projects (on Social Media but could be applied to other contexts):

  • Time spent gaining understanding is not wasted, and should not be underestimated.
  • Taking the time to have a discussion can be more valuable than any report.
  • More haste, less speed. Take the time to plan and carefully implement.

Ideas about starting large scale social media projects:

  1. Start small, build confidence and get your back office in order.
  2. Get the right team of people for the job and provide training if required.
  3. Keep the messages simple and professional.

Notes from “Embedded Formative Assessment”


I purchased this book when it came out in 2011; however I decided to re-read it over the last few weeks. This is probably the best book out there on formative assessment; it has exactly the right balance between theory and practical ideas.

My notes are as follows:

  • To be able to use assessment formatively; or to use assessment to improve learning requires five key elements:
    1. The provision of effective feedback to students.
    2. The active involvement of students in their own learning.
    3. The adjustment of teaching to take into account the results of assessment.
    4. The recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self-esteem of students, both of which are critical influences on learning.
    5. The need for students to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.
  • Any assessment can be formative and that assessment functions formatively when it improves the instructional decisions that are made by teachers, learners, or their peers.
  • Assessment is the key process in instruction. Students do not learn what we teach. If they did, we would not need to keep grade books. We could simply record what we have taught. But anyone who has spent any time in a classroom knows what students learn as a result of our instruction is unpredictable
  • The teacher’s job is not to transmit knowledge, not to facilitate learning. It is to engineer effective learning environments for the students. The key features of effective learning environments is that they create student engagement and allow teachers, learners, and their peers to ensure learning is proceeding intended direction. The only way we can do this is through assessment. That is why assessment is, indeed, the bridge between teaching and learning.
  • Putting learning learning objectives and success criteria in student friendly language can have some merit. However it is also important that students understand the more subject specific language used in syllabuses or curricular
  • When a study analysed teacher questions over half the questions (57%) were managerial questions, such as “Have you got your books” or “Who has finished all the questions”, another third only required recall of previously taught information “How many legs does an insect have”, only 8% required analysis, e.g.”Why is a bird not an insect?”
  • Sharing high quality questions may be the most significant think we can do to improve the quality of student learning.
  • Whether feedback is given orally or in a written format it is not important; the most important thing is students are given time to improve their work.
  • When teachers allow students to choose whether to participate or not – for example, by allowing them to raise their hands to show they have an answer – they are actually making the achievement gap worse, because those who are participating are getting smarter, while those avoiding engagement are forgoing the opportunities to increase their ability..
  • There are five key strategies of classroom formative assessment:
    1. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success.
    2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning.
    3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward.
    4. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another.
    5. Activating learns as owners of their own learning.
  • Feedback functions formatively only if the information fed back to the learner is used by the learner in improving performance. If the information fed back to the learner is intended to be helpful but cannot be used by the learner in improving her performance, it is not formative.
  • A technique for structuring feedback relating to a piece of work is called “three questions”. When the teacher sees something they would like the student to reflect they place a numbered circle at that point in the text. Underneath the student’s work, the teacher writes a question relating to the first numbered circle, leaves a number of lines for the student’s response, writes a question for the second leaves space for the student’s response, writes a question for the second, leaves space for the student’s response, and then writes a third question. The first ten or fifteen minutes of the next lesson are devoted to students responding.
  • Having students work together (cooperative learning) is successful because:
    1. Motivation. Students help their peers learn because in well structured settings it is in their own best interest.
    2. Social Cohesion. Students help their peers because it is in their own best interest because they care about the group.
    3. Personalization. Students learn more because their moor able peers can engage with the particular difficulties a student is having.
    4. Cognitive Elaboration. Those who provide help in group settings are forced to think through ideas more clearly.
  • As long as group goals and individual accountability are present, cooperative learning is equally effective for students at all achievement level.
  • Students need to be taught how to self-assess, students’ first attempt at self-assessment are usually neither insightful nor useful.
  • A technique that some teachers have found useful is a learning log; get students to reflect on their own learning by responding to no more than three of the following prompts:
    • Today I learned…
    • I was surprised by…
    • The most useful think I will take from this lesson is…
    • I was interested in..
    • What I like most about this lesson was…
    • One think I’m not sure about is…
    • The main thin I want to find out more about is…
    • After this lesson, I feel…
    • I might have gotten more from this lesson if…



Notes from ‘Who’ by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

As a middle manager in a inner city school one of the activities I spend part of my time is the recruiting of new teachers. In the last academic year we had to recruit six new teachers for my faculty, and for some of those posts we did not appoint on the first time round. In addition if the wrong person is appointed; this will create additional work, and potentially have a negative impact on educational outcomes.

I saw this book on Amazon and thought it would be worth a read.


“The most important decisions that businesspeople make are not what decisions, but who decisions.”

– Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

  • The book opens by explaining the problems of finding the right people, and quotes The Economist in 2006 stating that “finding the right people is the single biggest problem in business today”.
  • The author states that the hiring process is something that has resisted an orderly approach; this is in a culture that every other management process has been studied and codified.
  • The first thing that is needed is a ‘scorecard: a blueprint for success’; it is important to consider what is needed in the individual that is being hired. What specialisms, skills, and other needs are best suited for the roles. Don’t hire the generalist, hire the specialist.
  • When creating a scorecard consider the following things:
    1. Mistion
    2. Outcomes
    3. Competencies
    4. Ensure Alignment and Communicate
  • There is a list of critical competencies that should be looked for in ‘a players’:
        • Efficiency – Able to produce significant output with minimal wasted effort.
        • Honesty/integrity – Does not cut corners ethically.
        • Organisation and planning – Plans, organises, schedules, and budgets in an efficient, productive manner.
        • Aggressiveness – Moves quickly and takes a forceful stand without being overly abrasive.
        • Follow-through on commitments.
        • Intelligence – Learns quickly.
        • Analytical skills – Able to structure and process qualitative and quantitative data and draw insightful conclusions.
        • Attention to detail.
        • Persistence – demonstrates tenacity and willingness to go the distance to get something done.
        • Proactivity – acts without being told what to do. Brings new ideas.
  • When looking for potential new employees don’t forget the power of business and personal networks.


  • When interviewing the following tactics need to be used:
    • Don’t be afraid to interrupt to get the interview back on track.
    • Use the three P’s:
      • Previous
      • Plan
      • Peers
    • Push versus Pull – were they pushed out of any previous roles.
  • Watch out for the following ‘major flags’ or ‘stop signs’
    • Candidate does not mention past failures.
    • Candidate exaggerates his or her answers.
    • Candidate takes credit for the work of others.
    • Candidate speaks poorly of past bosses.
    • Candidate cannot explain job moves.
    • People most important to candidate are unsupportive of change.
    • For managerial hires, candidate ha never had to hire or fire anybody.
    • Candidate seems more interested in compensation and benefits than in the job itself.
    • Candidate is too self-absorbed.

Selling the Job to the Candidate

  1. Fit – tie the candidate’s goals, strengths, and values with the company’s needs, vision and culture.
  2. Family – take into account the broader trauma of changing jobs.
  3. Freedom – make the candidate aware of the autonomy they will have to make decisions.
  4. Fortune – reflects the stability of your company and the overall financial upside.
  5. Fun – describes the work environment, and personal relationships that the candidate will make.



Notes from ‘Cities are Good for You’ by Leo Hollis


This book is one that I read about sixth months ago. I found it interesting and engaging. It provides lots of interesting information, and has recently been released in paperback. Before the summer holidays we purchased copies for all our A2 geographers to read.

Some of my notes are listed below:

  • It is estimated that by 2050 75% of the world’s population will live in cities.
  • The genius of the city is not it’s physical fabric but the complexity caused by interactions. We are constantly making connections, moving from place to place, these connections are important, they formulate the network of the city.
  • Dubai is a nation run by a constitutional monarchy, however most of the key government roles are in the hands of the family members. The city was built by thousands of workers shipped in from the sub-continent who have few rights and no chance to share in the pleasures of the state or citizenship. In Dubai the desires of the state, in person of the Emir, supersede the individual citizen.
  • Bangalore International Airport is India’s fourth largest airport. However the terminal opened well before the road that connected the airport to the city, causing three hour plus transit times. This is an example of the fabric of the city failing to keep up with the demand of the burgeoning creative economy it has spawned.
  • The world population is becoming more fluid; a survey of 8,500 people in fourteen major cities showed that 75% of residents had chosen their city.
  • An experiment by Robert Levine of California State University in Fresco timed the average walking speeds in thirty-one cities and found nine out of the top ten were wealthy cities – and economic factors such as earning power, cost of living and time accuracy were key factors. When time is money, we tend to pick up the pace.
  • Informal settlements have significant value. Dharavi contains 5,000 industrial units producing garments, pottery, leather and steel goods as well as a further 15,000 single-room factories. It produces almost $500 million in revenue every year.
  • Researchers are using ‘smart’ cities to save time and money. For example in Beijing researchers studied congestion on 106,579 roads within the city, over 5,500 kilometres, and created a smart grid forming a digital map of the city. This was also integrated with weather and public-transit information. As a result, the new smart grid improved 60-70 per cent of all taxi trips, and made them significantly faster.
  • Congestion is a significant sources of pollution within the city. In 2005 the average American spent over thirty0eight hours stuck in traffic. It is estimated in New York that gridlock adds $1.9 billion to the cost of doing business, a loss of $4.9 billion in unrealised business, and nearly $6 billion in lost time and productivity.
  • Cities are thinking of creative solutions, such as ‘shared spaces’. In 2012 exhibition road was re-opened as a ‘shared space’, a broad Victorian thoroughfare lined by the national museums of London. There is only a shallow brick lip between the road and the pavement. 92.9 per cent of the people interviewed considered the ‘shared space’ an improvement. Many felt the design had increased a sense of empowerment, and 80 per cent of shops reported a significant increase in takings.
  • In Park Space, Brooklyn, 45% of all traffic is created by cars circulating the block. In the Chinese city of Chongqing there is a deficit of 190,000 parking spaces, and this is growing by 400 a day.
  • Living in cities can make us fitter and healthier; a study compared the fitness of young men in inner Atlanta versus men living in the city suburbs. Compelled to walk more inner city dwellers were 10lbs lighter than their suburban neighbours.
  • City dwellers emit different amounts depending on where they live. The average New Yorker emits 6.5 metric tonnes of carbon, versus 15.5 for people living in Houston. The difference is the population density, in New York, people live on top of each other.

Notes from ‘The Psychology of Persuasion: Influence’


I have just finished reading this book. It is an interesting summary of psychological studies that relate to how people are able to influence each other. The book gives a number of ways that humans are able to control others.

  • The author explains that these methods are important to understand as we need short cuts. We can’t be expected to recognise and analyse all aspects in each person. Instead we must use our stereotypes, and rules of thumb to categorise things according to a few key features.
  • People are more likely to respond positively when asked for a favour if a reason is given. For example, if asking to jump to the front of a queue a request is more likely to be granted if the reason is explained. For example ‘I am in a rush’ or ‘Running late’.

Contrast Principle

  • The contrast principle – this is why when lifting a light object a medium weight object will feel heavy; however if you lift a heavy weight a medium weight will feel light. This can be used in sales, if someone has just paid £400 for a suit, then a £90 sweater will seem low. However if buying a £90 sweater, then a £400 suit, the second purchase will seem excessive.
  • The author reports estate agents showing prospective buyers run down and expensive properties first, these are set ups, this makes the later properties viewed seem more attractive.
  • This was also seen with ‘Billiard Table Sales’, when customer were shown cheaper models first, and then shown more expensive models the average sale was $150; whereas when they were shown the more expensive models first the average sale was $1,000.


  • This rule is essentially ‘we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us’.
  • This was tested by a professor who sent Christmas cards to people who he had never met, or heard of, and the majority returned Christmas cards.

Commitment and Consistency

  • This is our desire to be consistent with what we have already done. Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.
  • The example given for this was Christmas toy sales. Supply will often be limited of a must have Christmas toy, frequently this is a deliberate ploy by the manufacturer. This will lead parents to have to by a ‘substitute toy’; and then in January/February buy the must have toy now it has come back into stock. This leads to parent’s buying two toys when they might have otherwise only bought one.

Social Proof

  • Usually when other people are doing something it is the right thing to do.
  • This is why bartenders will ‘salt’ their tip jars with a few dollar bills.
  • 95% of people are imitators, and 5% are initiators.
  • When a emergency event was staged and there was only one bystander they received help 85% of the time (help was called), however when there were already lots of people standing around help was called only 31% of the time.




  • We prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like. This is also used by total strangers to get us to comply with their requests.
  • This is frequently used by salesmen who will get ‘referrals’ from friend’s; this will create a personal link between us and the salesman.

Quote from ‘Spilling the Beans’

Following the death of Clarissa Dickson Wright I read her autobiography “Spilling the Beans”. It was interesting reading about her life.


She suffered at the hands of an abusive father and she gave a poignant quote:

“What I particularly loved about school was the fact that the rules stayed the same; if you chose to break them you were punished but you knew what they were and what choice you were making. In an alcoholic home the goalposts move on a daily basis so what you are laughed at for one day you are thumped for the next.”