Are you looking for the best books on power?
You have come to the right place.
This website is dedicated to power dynamics, and this is a complete reading list of the very best books and resources to understand power in all its aspects.
- #30. The Prince
- #29. Power Moves
- #28. The Psychopath Whisperer
- #27. Codependent No More
- #26. Evil
- #25. Psychopath Free
- #24. People Skills
- #23. Emotional Vampires
- #22. Don’t Think of An Elephant
- #21. Controlling People
- #20. Power Cues
- #19. Trust Me I’m Lying
- #18. Getting Past No
- #17. Fooled by Randomness
- #16. Confessions of a Sociopath
- #15. 33 Strategies of War
- #14. In Sheep’s Clothing
- #13. Influence
- #12. Workplace Poker
- #11. How to Lie With Statistics
- #10. The 4 Hour Workweek
- #9. No Logo
- #8. Will I Ever Be Good Enough?
- #7. Secrets of Power Negotiating
- #6. 48 Laws of Power
- #5. I’m OK – You’re OK
- #4. The Psychology of Leadership
- #3. The Art of Seduction
- #2. The Selfish Gene
- #1. Social Power
#30. The Prince
By N. Machiavelli
Summary | Amazon
The Godfather of all power books.
It’s last in the order as it’s aged a bit, but also commands the top position of this power-list.
Machiavelli was the first to write about realpolitik, and centuries later, it’s still an eye opener for generations of (previously) naive folks.
For many politicians and leaders, power is something to hold on to at any cost with a web of lies, manipulation and, if necessary, fear.
Quote: A good person is ruined among the great numbers who are not good
#29. Power Moves
“Power Moves”, frankly, is good but not great.
Why does it make it to this list of best books on power, then?
For a simple reason, it’s the only book I’ve read which draws a clear line between the personalities of those who seek power.
“Power Moves” distinguishes indeed between “takers”, who are in it only for themselves, and “givers”, who also enrich the people whom they lead.
Of course, it would be simple-minded to think that boundary is clear and immutable.
In real life, it’s fuzzier.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not valid.
The concept that some personalities -and their values- are unfit for power positions is also an important principle of this website, which seeks to promote and nurture more “givers” to challenge the more common “takers”.
Not everyone is the same and some personalities are unfit to hold positions of responsibility.
#28. The Psychopath Whisperer
Who should you learn power games from?
If you want to learn the games people play for power and dominance, learn from the biggest game players.
And convicted psychopaths are a great start.
Kiehl, the author, worked with countless psychopaths and shares much insight on the games psychopaths play.
They ranged from a staged “I’ll defend you from that crazy inmate who wants to kill you” (ie.: “you owe me game”) to “joking” threats of physical assault (ie.: “I own you”).
And of course, some good inmate on inmate power moves.
Like Ritchie, the guy who walked naked in front of the TV everyone was huddled around on his first day in prison.
“To mess with their heads and establish myself as someone you better not f*ck with”, he explains.
This one makes a good companion to “Without Conscience” by Robert Hare.
Violence, intimidation, and the right reputation can be great tools for power.
Especially if you can make the victim feel defenseless…
#27. Codependent No More
Power dynamics in relationships is important.
Intimate relationships are one of the most important attachments people form in their lives, and understanding their power dynamics is crucial to get relationships right.
“Codependent No More” explains the dynamics of a relatively common toxic relationship type.
Before you rise up in arms to defend this or that victim, realize that in some cases (but not all, of course) the victims are allowing, enabling and even unconsciously seeking abuse.
by R. Baumeister
There can be an overlap between the quest for power and evil deeds.
And that’s why many, mistakenly, shy away from power: they, mistakenly, again, believe that the two are the same.
Baumeister is the only social scientist with a realistic, amoral, and data-backed analysis of what causes violence and evil.
And he even explains what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to the use of violence for power.
I know you’re curious to read what works… Sign up for the newsletter and you’ll know :).
“Idealistic evil” is the most destructive, systematic and unrelenting type of evil.
These “evils” -or “idiots”, if you wish- fervently buy into their leader’s set of morals and relinquish their egos for group belonging.
Then they brainwash themselves that their evil deeds are for an ultimate good cause.
Quote: The goals of instrumental evil are generally acceptable ones, such as money or power, but they are not normally endowed with sufficient moral force to make people think that it is right and good to use violent means.
Idealism can make the methods seem right and good, or at least acceptable.
#25. Psychopath Free
Long and rather unscientific.
So unscientific, I would even recommend more academic-oriented folks to skip it.
So why on this list?
Because it’s vivid.
And one of the best descriptions of how sexual and romantic predators wield close to unlimited power when they can sink their claws into their prey.
In “Psychopath Free” you can feel the pain and the despair of the author, caught hook, line and sinker in the throes of a sociopath.
He was in it for love.
The sociopath was in there to wield power, get him hooked… And then enjoy his despair after the discard phase.
It’s also similar to what might happen with a narcissist and, to some extent, with certain types of womanizers.
This book will help you prevent being in a similar situation and, possibly, help people around you.
If it seems to good to be true… It might be wonderful.
But it might also be a big con, so watch out.
#24. People Skills
Socially weak people have one thing in common:
They are afraid of confrontation, and they fail to enforce their boundaries.
Mostly, they are passive and submissive.
But they can swing from submissive to aggressive because they don’t know how to strike that assertive balance which is so crucial in life.
People’s Skills is the best book I have read on assertive communication, which in turn is one of the main fundamentals of social skills and social power.
Both submission and aggression have their own payoffs, but both lead to poorer lives.
#23. Emotional Vampires
Some are in it for the power.
While some other to be admired and to feel the pleasure of their seductive pull.
Yet some others need to control the environment for their own safety.
But they can all suck you dry, if you let them to.
“Emotional Vampires” is by far the quickest, simplest overview and most effective field-guide for the laymen to understand (and protect against) sociopaths, BPD, narcissists, paranoids and OCDs.
Guys and gals: this is a great guide to help you avoid toxic and low-quality partners.
And there is nothing which can decrease your power over life (and your finances) as the wrong life partner.
It’s when you’re at your weakest that you attract the vultures.
Quote: Of course, not all emotional vampires are mean.
But they do are hollow.
Like children, they see their needs, but not yours.
#22. Don’t Think of An Elephant
Have you ever head this quote:
The biggest trick the devil pulled was to make people vote against their own self-interest.
I just made it up.
But how could you otherwise explain that Warren Buffet’s secretary pays more taxes than one of the richest men in the world?
Well, we’re not going to attempt an answer here.
Because George Lakoff does it in one of the best books on framing, reframing and political persuasion (or manipulation, if you prefer).
Not only for the political discourse to which it’s tailored, but for the general influencing of the masses as well.
Caveat: this one is extremely partisan (liberal).
Facts do matter, but only if morally framed.
But you better latch onto an existing one, or have the means to create a new one, because the latter takes plenty of repetition.
Quote: People do not necessarily vote in their self-interest. They vote their identity. They vote their values. They vote for who they identify with.
#21. Controlling People
Controlling people are all about power.
And this book will help you understand the psychology of controllers.
Of course, it’s mostly focused on controlling (and abusive) partners, but here is one of the best kept secrets in the world: most men have controlling tendencies.
Maybe you have them, too.
Or your boyfriend has them.
And if you want to become a high quality leader of your relationship, you must rid yourself of them.
Unluckily, it’s not super practical.
It’s mostly high-level theory, and to understand how it applies to everyday interactions you first need a good grasp of power dynamics.
More focused on abusive men is the wonderful “Why Does He Do That” and a briefer overview of manipulation techniques in intimate relationships is “30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Techniques“.
Controllers seek total power over their partners because they seem them as an extension of themselves.
Any sign of independence is an affront to their power and a threat to themselves and the relationship.
#20. Power Cues
Your body signals the power you feel you have.
Thus, you can get powerful people with incongruently weak body language. And people with no title who look and act powerful, and thus command influence through unofficial channels.
Power Cues is one of the best books to tie nonverbal signals (including voice) to power.
Beware though that it doesn’t tackle the basics of body language and the true beginners should look for that information somewhere else (see “best body language books“).
To project power and confidence we need to sync our unconscious cues with our words and voice tonality.
If you’re serious about maximizing your life’s potential, it’s worth hiring a coach.
#19. Trust Me I’m Lying
There is great power in being able to influence (or manipulate) the media.
And this is one of the most honest books on media manipulation.
Unluckily, it’s not from a power player at the upper echelons of the political food chain.
But you’re hardly going to hear from, say, Bush on how he manipulated everyone to back the Iraq war.
So, for now, we must content of a smaller player’s coming out confessions.
But still, it’s great to understand the weakness of the media system and how distorted most of the news you read actually is.
If you want PR, sell the media the trash news that helps them sell.
Quote: Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion
#18. Getting Past No
People with the most power win at negotiations.
But skills also help.
But this one is a good mix of negotiation skills, conversational best practices, influencing and, as well, a solid overview of negotiation power dynamics.
If you can use force, only use it to instruct and teach, not to punish.
Force used to punish will sour the relationship and make negotiations unfruitful for both.
The goal of using force is to show that not agreeing is the worst solution for them.
Quote: “Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way”
#17. Fooled by Randomness
Critical thinking is power.
In countless ways, including:
- Support you to reach better decisions
- Insulate yourself from propaganda and manipulation
- Not falling prey and wasting time on silly superstitions
- Become an intellectual authority among the masses of acritical thinkers
Some people preferred “Antifragile” from Taleb, which is also excellent (but a bit scatterbrained).
But few texts can help you hone your critical thinking and BS detector as well as Fooled by Randomness can.
Noise and news are there to distract the fools.
The real power shakers focus on their task and goal.
Quote: This is one of the many reasons that journalism may be the greatest plague we face today—as the world becomes more and more complicated and our minds are trained for more and more simplification
#16. Confessions of a Sociopath
Guys, answer this:
If you had to learn fishing, would you rather learn from the zoologist researcher at university, or would you rather learn from the fisherman who fishes every day?
Probably the latter, right?
So when learning about power, why wouldn’t you learn from those who obsess about power?
And those are the sociopaths.
No book will give you a better glimpse inside the mind of a sociopath, people who see the world as a big game for the acquisition and actualization of power.
The author, in particular, was extremely effective in leveraging afirmative law and (trumped up) sexual harrasshment charges for personal gain (:S).
Some people in this world target others for the simple pleasure of ruining them.
The simple act of wielding destructive power makes them feel good.
Yes, gratuitous evil does exist, and you better know how to spot and how to deal with it.
Quote: If you combine the propensity for manipulation, dishonesty, callousness, poor impulse control and the rest of the sociopathic traits, you could end up with a socially dangerous individual… Or the next big thing entrepreneur
#15. 33 Strategies of War
Albeit it purports to discuss war strategies, many of these principles adapt to social settings as well.
Most of all I found useful the concepts of “advancing while negotiating”, “occupying the moral high ground” (you gotta know this to combat social justice warriors!) and “give rope to hang themselves”, a super effective and vastly underrated strategy.
The biggest conquest is always the conquest of your mind.
And the biggest war you can win is always the war you didn’t have to fight for.
Quote: Do not fight them. Instead think of them the way you think of children, or pets, not important enough to affect your mental balance
#14. In Sheep’s Clothing
Another crucial book both for power and for this website.
Simons differentiates between “fighting”, which is normal and we all do, and “fighting unfair”, which is what manipulative and aggressive individuals do.
A wonderful text also to understand the dynamics of covert aggression, which is not to be confused with passive aggression.
Covert aggression is probably the most widespread use of aggression and the most common mean with which people seek power.
I have to say that Simons is also one of the most astute observers of human nature and the only one who realized this important rule of manipulators and power-hungry individuals:
Manipulators and power-hungry individuals don’t internalize social rules because obeying social rules is the equivalent of submission.
And they cannot stand submission.
Individuals who are out to win and dominate have very clear priorities: winning and dominating.
They sometimes have impaired conscience as well, so don’t be the sucker who expects allegiance and support.
Their bonds are temporary and they will throw you as soon as you’re not useful anymore (see Michael Cohen, first order sucker to Trump).
Quote: Power by itself doesn’t have the ability to corrupt a person’s character.
It’s the character flaws already present in people’s character that lead people to pursue power and abuse it once they have it.
The ability to influence and persuade is power.
I picked Cialdini not because it’s a classic, but because it’s very good.
You shouldn’t stop here though, of course. I can recommend Pre-Suasion from the same author, Methods of Persuasion and all these best persuasion books here.
And since you’re here, learn some typical sales techniques (from Brian Tracy and Tony Robbins for example).
Salesmen and persuaders of any kinds all use similar triggers.
Learn what they are so that you can stop being buffeted left and right, possibly against your best interest (and maybe you can start doing some influencing yourself, instead).
Quote: Where all think alike, nobody thinks very much
#12. Workplace Poker
The best book I have read so far on workplace politics and workplace power dynamics.
Companies don’t care about employees.
They care about employees’ output.
Employment is always a contract of ethical egoism based on pure transactional values.
Don’t fall for anything else, which are only corporate manipulations.
Quote: You can’t get inside someone else’s head until you get out of your own
#11. How to Lie With Statistics
by D. Huff
Knowledge is power.
Especially if you can make your statements sound unassailable.
And what a better way to do it than with data and science?
Our society reveres science!
And that’s why we should all learn how easily science can lend itself to manipulation.
Not juts manipulation by the way, but also:
- Mistakes (see “Replication Crisis“)
- Bastardization (see “Self-Help Myths” and “Pop-Psychology Myths“)
- Made up theories (evolutionary psychology is a darling for it lends itself really well to all kinds of speculations)
And, of course:
- Political movements of any sorts (see nazism and all kinds of utopian societies backed by “science” and which, conveniently, benefit the ones in power)
Numbers, as much as science, can be manipulated to support almost any argument you want to make.
And it carries a big manipulative punch for being “data-driven” and “scientific” (you know as they say… Numbers don’t lie).
Quote: A well-wrapped statistic is better than Hitler’s “big lie” it misleads, yet it cannot be pinned on you.
#10. The 4 Hour Workweek
Money & power are highly interconnected.
And entrepreneurship, as in the ability to generate income, is power.
That being said, I don’t think that Ferris here will be of great help in launching a business.
As a matter of fact, I haven’t read any book that will make a real and a major difference to your business.
But Ferris does provide readers with something equally valuable: a perspective with which to break free of the hedonic treadmill.
Money indeed is a double-edged sword: if can free you. But it can also enslave you.
This book is a stark reminder that money should be used to buy freedom, experience and time.
Ie: you need money to gain power and control over your life.
And, equally powerful, Ferris shows that you don’t need much for that.
And I couldn’t agree more.
That’s how, after all, I structured my life and values-based business.
Money is power.
But it goes both ways: it can give you power, or it can enslave you.
Once you understand how to use money as an enabler of freedom, you will also realize that you don’t even need that much of it.
Quote: “They have riches, but the riches actually have them”
#9. No Logo
I still can’t fathom how underappreciated this pearl is.
Or, sometimes, how over-hyped it’s been.
Actually, I know why: “No Logo” presented itself as the theoretical and intellectual foundation of the anti-globalization movement.
And of course, it’s been later usurped by the left and radical left as their own manifesto (I know that well as a protesting,”no global”, a clueless teenager with a dyed faux-hawk and whom, of course, hadn’t even read the book).
However, let’s look at the ideas independently of the politics.
And “No Logo” is the best book I have ever read to describe and explain the immense power and influence that brands and marketing exert on the psyches of easily impressionable minds.
Brands are the new myths.
And they become a conduit for self-actualization and to advertise one’s own personality to the world.
And who cares if they cost more?
People are very willing to shell out 10x the value of a product to express and defend “who they are” (see Family Guy brilliantly spoofing this phenomenon).
Later on Simon Sinek will further develop this theory with his “Start With WHY“, another highly recommended read.
The capitalistic ethos of “freedom of choice” masks the true and almost boundless manipulative power of the best marketing and brands.
No Logo not only helps you understand the power of marketing and brands, but also to free yourself from their yoke.
#8. Will I Ever Be Good Enough?
What this one doing here?
A book subtitled “healing the daugthers of narcissistic mothers” on a list of the best books on power?
I’m sure most people wouldn’t expect this book here.
And that’s why most people don’t understand power dynamics and why most never never become influential.
Don’t be “most” people!
You’re not here to be like most people, are you.
This is the best book to understand one of the biggest, most impactful and most underappreciated power dynamics of them all: the one between parents and children.
Any parent -or any parent who wants to grow healthy children- should read this one.
But also those who don’t want to become parents should read it.
Because, of course, parent-child dynamics get replicated outside of parent-child relationships.
The dynamics of judgement, approval seeking and emotional depedency that are at the strongest in the parent-child relationship get repeated as adulds.
And they form one of the fundamentals of soft power and social power.
#7. Secrets of Power Negotiating
The power dynamics of negotiation tables can make you rich.
And that’s why you better learn the power moves of the best negotiators.
Lest you are going to pay them to teach you in real time: with the money you leave on the table during the negotiation.
This is by far the best book on power negotiation techniques.
Don’t negotiate anything worthwhile before learning the tricks of the trade (and the power dynamics of negotiations).
Quote: “If we can do that for you, what can you do for us”
#6. 48 Laws of Power
Here’s a book which doesn’t need any intro.
The net effect of “The 48 Laws of Power” has probably been to make those who crave power to have even less of it.
Because to get the book it’s crucial that readers are able to contextualize the laws within a deeper understanding of social dynamics and power dynamics.
Without basics of social skills and emotional intelligence “The 48 Laws of Power” doesn’t add much value.
And without context the laws by themselvse are meaningless.
Funny stories and power anecdotes at best and, at worst, confusing and counterproductive.
Here is an example of a question that I got asked more than once:
And here is an example of someone without basic social skills who’s probably behaving like an awkward weirdo (mis)applying the “laws” out of context:
That being said, for those who have a sufficiently developed social and emotional intelligence, “The 48 Laws of Power” is the modern day “The Prince”.
Self-interest is the currency that makes the world go around
Appeal to self-interest is one of the most significant -and easily forgotten- laws (see freeloaders-approaches).
You can switch to intrinsic motivation once you have the leverage (see “Drive“), but on first approach best to focus on self-interest (see “WIIFM“and “law of social exchange“).
Quote: Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less.
#5. I’m OK – You’re OK
Warning: it’s a heavy read.
This is a manual on transactional analysis, the same psychoanalytic theory of the much more popular “Games People Play“.
So if you’re looking for an entertaining read before bedtime, you better stick with the masterfully crafted stories of Robert Greene :).
On the other hand, if you want to understand true social power, then the dynamics of parent-child are crucial.
Whenever you’re dependent on someone’s approval, you’re the child. When someone is dependent on your approval, you’re in power.
Overreacting and getting violent often underlies an emotional dependency and, thus, a subordinate child role in the relationship.
Quote: Central to most religious practices is a Child acceptance of authoritarian dogma as an act of faith, with limited, if not absent, involvement of the Adult.
#4. The Psychology of Leadership
Leadership is power.
And true power requires leadership and influence over others.
And “The Psychology of Leadership” is the best book on leadership, bar none.
All other leadership books look like children’s books in comparison.
However, similar to “I’m OK – You’re OK”, this is a very heavy rad.
Persuasive leaders are not different or special like most people think.
To be accepted, influential and persuasive, leaders must first of all be prototypically similar to the people they lead.
Quote: Just as politics is too important to leave only to politicians, so too leadership is far too important a matter to be left only to leaders.
#3. The Art of Seduction
Greene again, for the third time.
How not surprising, eh? 🙂
To me, “The Art of Seduction” is his best work, and it’s also the only book on seduction of this list.
In spite of not being the best when it comes to seduction efficiency in a modern world, it’s also the only one which deserves a top spot in a book list focusing on power (besides Dating Power Dynamics, but don’t want to list my own product here).
As a matter of fact, “The Art of Seduction” is almost embarrassing for the pick-up community authors.
It took the community years to slowly drudge out of “techniques” which were not only poor, but actually counterproductive.
And it took Robert Greene, a guy who doesn’t even chase women, a single foray into seduction to blow everyone out of the water.
“The Art of Seduction” is the deepest treaty on seduction psychology -including dark psychology- I have ever read.
But it’s not just sleeping around.
This one goes further deep into “social seduction”, being helpful to social charmers as well.
“Being yourself”, vulnerabilities and all, is for contract-style partnerships.
True seduction is about fantasy and idealization.
Quote: Your greatest power in seduction is your ability to turn away, to make others come after you, delaying their satisfaction
#2. The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene in the top 3 on a list of “best books on power?”.
Are you crazy, Lucio?
If you are asking that, you haven’t yet developed a holistic mindset around power.
Power permeates all facets of life, both on the outside and within us.
And of course, it runs much deeper than our conscious mind, too.
“The Selfish Gene” operates at that deeper level of power that most people miss out on.
“The Selfish Gene”, here as a representative of the best evolutionary psychology book, will teach you how your genes are exercising power over you.
Our genes have us on a rail system.
We can barely budge that they get us back on course. But here is the biggest problem with it: it’s their course, pushing us to pursue ambitions, status symbols, people and things that we haven’t even vetted -let alone chosen-.
Your genes have shaped our drives and urges not for us, but for themselves.
And until we learn what that progamming is, the selfish genes have total power over us.
This book then is about learning our gene’s programming so that we can understand where that railing system takes and, if we don’t like it, change it and transcend it.
And that’s the first step to gaining power over ourselves and our world.
The Selfish Gene is about true freedom and power of choice.
Understanding our evolutionary psychology is also the foundation of any self-development effort.
Any improvement must start with self-awareness, and that begins with our innate programming.
Your selfish genes have a program in store for you.
And you may or may not agree with that program. But sure as hell, it wasn’t designed to make you happy or fulfilled. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even designed with your best interest in mind.
The only way to upset that program and gaining a foothold of power over yourself (and the world around) is to understand what that program is all about.
Quote: Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.
#1. Social Power
by L. Buffalmano
Social Power is this website’s flagship course.
And albeit I’m not a big fan of plugging, it was either I put this here, or I’d lie.
Social Power contains all the best information from all the books in here, and many more (plus researches, video analyses and examples and own content).
The more academically-oriented might not enjoy: Social Power is real-life power and more practically-oriented.
Those who seek a short format will also be disappointed.
Social Power drip-feeds over the course of a month.
The lessons average 2.500 words and have a mix of videos, text, dialogues and quizzes.
On the other hand, those who make it through the month will understand how to accrue and keep power better than 99% of people ever will.
It also includes a meta-summary of all the best self-development books to curate the mindsets and mental aspects of power (Ultimate Power), while Dating Power Dynamics is a spin-off of the dating module in ebook format.
Quote: The difference between power and abuse is in your moral compass.
Note on Financial Power
I would have loved to include some books on financial independence, business and power.
Financial independence is huge in having power over your own destiny and it’s always been a goal of mine.
Mastering your finances and having a way to independently generate income will give you huge leverage in almost any interpersonal negotiation you enter in life.
But I don’t find any title in the personal finance literature to be good enough to make it into this list.
They’re all too basics, mostly centered around the idea of “spend less than you earn and invest the difference (true) and the stock market will always go up anyway (not true).
And you don’t need a heavily padded book for that.
Note on Absentees
You might notice that some popular classics are missing.
For example, “How to Win Friends”, “Propaganda”, “Games People Play” and “Meditations” for the mindset side.
Simple: as for all my other lists and products, this “best books on power list” prioritizes on utility, not on “fame”.
“How to Win Friends” is basic social skills, and some of the suggestions don’t always apply to powerful people.
“Propaganda” was groundbreaking for his time, but today it’s misleading. And let’s be honest, do you think that after a century of social research you can’t find more factual and scientific information?
Games People Play concerns the tactical level games.
Like “The 48 Laws of Power” it makes for a fun reading, it sells well and it can be eye-opening.
But the tactical level is only really useful if you are able to contextualize it within the larger context of social dynamics, power dynamics and people’s innate drives and psychology.
And finally, with “Meditations” and similar content we would have gone too much into the self-development arena, which is yes important, but it’s also too off-topic for a book list of power.
Also, all that information is part of the bonus material of “Social Power”, and it’s somewhat included in the #1. entry here.
What Do You Think?
I have long thought about this list.
As I mulled it over I added some titles and then removed some more.
I wanted it to be comprehensive, but also not crazy long otherwise you’d lose the point of a “best of” list.
What do you think?
Do let me know in the comments or in the forum.
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