Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review: "Predictably Irrational" (Dan Ariely)

Many of the decisions we make in life are not, in fact, based on rational thought. Ever heard of the placebo effect, whereby a more expensive aspirin solves a headache seemingly more quickly than store-brand aspirin?

How many more of our choices are based on qualities or criteria that we assume to be accurate or true when, in fact, the opposite may be the case?

Enter Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, and his groundbreaking book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.

After suffering a horrific, debilitating injury as a young man, Ariely found himself with a lot of questions about the psychology of pain and choices, and a great deal of time (as he recovered) to think through his suppositions. The results of that time, plus extensive research, resulted in Predictably Irrational.

He discusses the placebo effect, aforementioned, and goes into in-depth analysis of other, lesser-known choices people make based on irrational assumptions.

For instance, people are very likely to buy an extra box of cereal if they have a coupon for a "buy one, get one" deal ... even if they only go through one box of cereal a month, and by the time they open the second box of cereal that's been in the pantry for a month or more, it could be full of moths or chewy instead of crunchy. But something about the availability of that coupon, and the allure of "saving money!" entices shoppers time and again to make those kinds of purchases.

That's the premise of the chapter on "The Cost of Zero Cost: Why We Often Pay Too Much When We Pay Nothing."

Or what about self-control and procrastination? Agree with yourself that you will start your diet today, no more excuses ... and then forego your resolve when the server hands you a dessert menu that evening. Maybe you'll start tomorrow instead.

That's the premise of the chapter "The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control: Why We Can't Make Ourselves Do What We Want to Do."

Did you know that people who are asked to write down as many of the Ten Commandments as they can remember right before they take a test are far more likely to be honest and far less likely to cheat than people who are not asked to do the Ten Commandments exercise? Why on earth is that?

Find out in the book.

Well-written, engaging, and packed with fascinating accounts of experiments and real-life examples, Predictably Irrational is an intriguing look into the field of behavioral psychology, and why we are not as rational as we'd like to think we are when we make decisions.

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Author: Dan Ariely
Title: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
ISBN: 978-0-06-135323-9
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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