Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Why do our headaches persist after taking a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a 50-cent aspirin?Why does recalling the Ten Commandments reduce our tendency to lie, even when we couldn't possibly be caught?Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup?Why do we go back for second helpings at the unlimited buffet, eve...

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Title:Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
Author:Dan Ariely
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Edition Language:English

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions Reviews

  • Trevor

    It is important that you move this one up your list of books that you have to read. This is a particularly great book. My dear friend Graham recommended I read this book. He has recommended four books to me – and the only one I couldn’t finish was “My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist: A novel” by Mark Leyler – but he did recommend, “The Tetherballs of Bougainville” also by Leyler and that is still one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. I haven't written a review of that book, but where th

    It is important that you move this one up your list of books that you have to read. This is a particularly great book. My dear friend Graham recommended I read this book. He has recommended four books to me – and the only one I couldn’t finish was “My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist: A novel” by Mark Leyler – but he did recommend, “The Tetherballs of Bougainville” also by Leyler and that is still one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. I haven't written a review of that book, but where the hell would I start?

    When I’m reading books I often think – you know, I would like to re-write this. I would cut out a lot of the fluff and perhaps change the voice a bit, add some cellos, perhaps even a bassoon (there is nothing that can’t be improved with some cellos and a bassoon). But not this book. I really, really liked this book.

    This is a companion to Freakonomics – except I liked this one even more. Which reminds me that I must look how many stars I gave that one so that I can give this one more… If I am going to be irrational I might as well work at being consistently irrational.

    Which is the point of this book. Economic Rationalism – otherwise known as the nonsense that got us into this mess – holds that the world is full of rational economic units and you are just one of those units. We always know what is good for us, we are free to choose what we need and we invariably make the choices that reflect our best interests. The absurdity of this view is being played out as I type with the world financial markets in meltdown and with the new Prime Minister of Japan saying today – “Honestly, this for us is beyond our imagination. We have huge fears going ahead," Which I believe is Japanese for, “The fundamentals are all in place. We have nothing to worry about.”

    Like Freakonomics this presents a series of experiments to show how we behave under various circumstances in ways that are both less than rational and yet perfectly predictable. I’m going to have to spoil bits of this book, but just to show you how wonderful it is and why you need to run to your local purvayour of tantalising texts to obtain your copy of this fine book.

    I guess one could group a lot of the experiments in this book under the general title of Placebo Effect. This makes two books in a row in which the Placebo Effect has been given a starring role and I’m, quite frankly, in seventh heaven. One of the questions this book seeks to answer is whether social stereotypes have an impact on a person’s performance. THIS IS THE SPOILER – SO LOOK AWAY IF YOU MUST.

    What do we know? Well, we definitely know that all Asians are brilliant at mathematics. This is as true as the fact that anyone with an English accent is a mass murderer – or at least, that is definitely true in that strange world that is American movies and IRA propaganda. The other thing you know about mathematics is that all women are hopelessly, pathetically, mathematically inept. What is it about that Y chromosome?

    You might have noticed that the particular Venn Diagram I am describing here has a rather interesting intersection – that is, woman who have a preference for thinking of themselves as Asian. Let’s see if we can’t mess around with the minds of this particular sub-set of humanity.

    We are going to give them a bit of a maths test in a minute – but before we do, let’s ‘prime’ them. Let’s ask half of them some questions related to them being Asian (not too obvious, let’s just ask questions like how many languages do you speak, what is your migrant experience – you know, vague enough so we aren’t directly saying “THINK ASIAN, THINK ASIAN” at them, but actually, when you think about it a little bit, that is exactly what we are doing). The other half we will ask questions that make them think about themselves being female – when was the last time you bought Cosmo or ‘Are those really your nails?’

    Anyway, then you give them the maths test. And guess what? The Asians who have been primed to think of themselves as women did worse on the test than the women who were primed to think of themselves as Asians.

    When I hear things like that a shiver runs down my spine. I know I have learnt something incredibly important and something I’m going to have to think about for days and days and weeks. And this book is over-flowing with exactly that kind of idea. The sort of thing that makes you go – shit, who’d have thought?

    I mean, which other book have you read lately that asks a MIT student if he would be willing to have sex with a sheep while he is masturbating to images of naked women displayed on a Mac laptop covered in Glad Wrap? Actually, don’t answer that.

    The stuff in this book about stealing and its relationship to money is so interesting I can only just stop myself not telling you about it. We used to have a President of the Liberal Party (don’t be confused by the name, the Liberals here are as far right as the Republicans in the US) called John Elliot who basically stole – never tested in court (but then, he was rich and politically well connected) $66 million and was released on a technicality. Yet another of our Corporate Magnates, Richard Pratt, recently was able to steal $300 million from the Australian people and only had to repay $36 million. This time his crime was tested in court, but he is still seen as some sort of corporate hero here, rather than the thief that he is. How is this possible? Well, this book will help you understand and perhaps even help you see what we can do about these abominations.

    I loved this book. It is a romp and the guy telling the stories is just the nicest person to be around while he chats away to you. Okay, sometimes I got a little annoyed with the “You’ll never guess what happened” – style – but this was such a minor criticism I feel petty bringing it up.

    A large part of what I do in life involves negotiating stuff – actually, that is also true of you too, it is just that the negotiations I’m involved in are more up front than the ones you probably do day by day. As much as I don’t like to admit this, this book taught me things about negotiating that I ought to have known before. Not since

    have I read a book quite as worthwhile or one that made me re-think stuff I do in quite the same way. I hope to be able to say in six months time that I’m still considering the implications of some of the ideas in this book – if I’m not, then more is the pity for me.

    You’ve been told. What the hell are you waiting for?

    Oh, except you Tina – you are the only person in the world I wouldn’t recommend buy this book. When was your birthday again?

  • Riku Sayuj

    Written in the tried-and-tested and bestselling tradition of the Malcolm Gladwell books and the Frekonomics clones, Dan Ariely's book too is an entertaining and counter-intuitive look at the world around us.

    While I am getting more and more inured to this way of analysis of behavioral economics and physchology, these kinds of books are still hard to resist - that is because they do, no matter if they have now become an industry doling out similiar books by the dozens, still stretch our perspecti

    Written in the tried-and-tested and bestselling tradition of the Malcolm Gladwell books and the Frekonomics clones, Dan Ariely's book too is an entertaining and counter-intuitive look at the world around us.

    While I am getting more and more inured to this way of analysis of behavioral economics and physchology, these kinds of books are still hard to resist - that is because they do, no matter if they have now become an industry doling out similiar books by the dozens, still stretch our perspectives about the things we normally take for granted or think unworthy of a second thought. In that sense then, this book was "unputdownable" and "highly instructive".

    One of my favorite passages from the book is as follows -

    This is in the same wavelength as some of my thoughts on education -

    I am hoping to convert this idea on education into a short story or incorporate it into my ongoing novel. So the book helped me crystallize that thought.

    Sorry for the tangent. Getting back to the book, one more caveat - the author loses the plot a bit in the middle chapters. The beginning chapters about relativity and the power of zero were amusing and fun and the last two chapters on honesty is amazing, but the chapters in between was a bit of a drag.

    Despite my mocking tone and slightly negative review, I will hurry to say that it is a very good purchase for anyone who enjoyed Gladwell's books or others of that genre, and also for marketeers and businessmen and maybe even for policy makers.

    Despite sugar coating the book with the requirements of this genre/industry, Dan does raise some poignant questions about human nature and consumer behavior that is worth pondering over. In the final analysis then, I enjoyed the book and will read it again, and hence, four stars.

  • Pouting Always

    Honestly all the business books that talk about psychological research or behavioral economics talk about the same things. I haven't even read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman but all these books literally rehash it again and again so I probably wouldn't even get anything out of reading it now. That said this one's much better written than most of the other books I've read and so if you haven't read anything else about behavioral economics or that way we make decisions this is a good ch

    Honestly all the business books that talk about psychological research or behavioral economics talk about the same things. I haven't even read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman but all these books literally rehash it again and again so I probably wouldn't even get anything out of reading it now. That said this one's much better written than most of the other books I've read and so if you haven't read anything else about behavioral economics or that way we make decisions this is a good choice. If you have read other books on those things though I'd skip this one because it doesn't add anything new.

  • Petra X

    This book is generally brilliant if you ignore the misogyny. It is a book written by a man about a man's world for men. The "Our' in the title does not include half the world.

    The misogny, the putting down of fat women, ugly ones, old ones in this often otherwise insightful and percipient book is making me groan. The a

    This book is generally brilliant if you ignore the misogyny. It is a book written by a man about a man's world for men. The "Our' in the title does not include half the world.

    The misogny, the putting down of fat women, ugly ones, old ones in this often otherwise insightful and percipient book is making me groan. The author is trying to prove something we all know, that we (he uses 'we' and 'our' to sound inclusive, but he only means men really) do not make good decisions when sexually aroused. To that end he sets up an experiment where the men, MIT students, will have to answer a set of questions 'sober' and while they are wanking to pictures of buxom young women flashed on their computers.

    The questions include, Would you want to have sex with a really fat woman? An ugly one? A woman over 50? All the undesirable women.

    All these women are put down as sexual objects these really clever guys wouldn't want to have sex with unless they were so aroused by any stimuli they didn't care. That their general powers of discernment and decision-making ie. we don't screw fat,ugly or old women, would go by the board because at that stage they'd screw

    . Also, that in such an aroused state, those clever MIT men, future leaders of technology and business, perhaps even footballers) those men might deliberately get a woman drunk and/or persist in pushy or downright aggressive sexual advances even after she had said 'no' and they wouldn't give a monkeys about using a condom either.

    (Part of me wonders how those men felt who had girlfriends who didn't look like supermodels).

    Personally I think he wrote up the experiment so as he could begin with describing the visual of a cling-film (saran wrap to Americans) wrapped computer (to protect it from splashes of semen) flashing porn and questions and a man 'furiously wanking with his left hand' while propped up on the bed.

    Ok, so I'm predictably irrational about books that slag off my half the human race. You know that I will pick up the misogyny and be compelled to write about it.

  • Mary

    This book was somewhat entertaining, but I can't really recommend it. The author does experiments with college students and beer, and extrapolates this into a world view. Most of his applications are anecdotal.

    Here's an example on p. 215: "Iran is another example of a nation stricken by distrust. An Iranian student at MIT told me that business there lacks a platform of trust. Because of this, no one pays in advance, no one offers credit, and no one is willing to take risks. People must hire with

    This book was somewhat entertaining, but I can't really recommend it. The author does experiments with college students and beer, and extrapolates this into a world view. Most of his applications are anecdotal.

    Here's an example on p. 215: "Iran is another example of a nation stricken by distrust. An Iranian student at MIT told me that business there lacks a platform of trust. Because of this, no one pays in advance, no one offers credit, and no one is willing to take risks. People must hire within their families, where some level of trust exists. Would you like to live in such a world?" Excuse me, but I prefer to base my world view on more than just the impressions of 1 college student, but this is an example of how he doesn't use logic to come to his conclusions. Here's another tidbit on p. 218 "...drug companies cheat by sending doctors and their wives off on posh vacations." Using Ariely's logic, this means that all doctors are male, or the women doctors are all lesbians with wives. His experiments on cheating have flaws. Since the "cheating" group scored more than the "non-cheating" group, the cheating group MUST have cheated; but they were allowed to destroy their answer sheets. There is no proof that this group cheated; they could have just come from a higher level class, or had more coffee.

    Did you notice how he leads you to the conclusions he wants you to reach? Would an objective researcher characterize one of his subjects as "a clever master's student with a charming Indian accent?" Wouldn't you be more likely to agree with the conclusion than if the participant was a "clever hunchback with an aversion to bathing?" He ascribes all kinds of emotions to his subjects throughout the book. It's not that it isn't worth a read - just realize he's working on your predictability to lead you to his conclusions.

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