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The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  11,929 ratings  ·  535 reviews
The provocative follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational

Why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive?
How can confusing directions actually help us?
Why is revenge so important to us?
Why is there such a big difference between what we think will make us happy and what really makes us happy?

In his groundbreaking book Predictably Irrational, social...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Harper (first published January 1st 2010)
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David
I had a sufficiently positive impression of Dan Ariely from his first book, Predictably Irrational, to be willing to give this one a try. My residual impression from the earlier book was of a smart, likable guy, with a knack for designing clever experiments to capture the irrational side of human behavior, particularly when making decisions with economic consequences. This area of investigation has risen to prominence over the past 5 to 10 years, there is now a flood of titles on the market, whi...more
Trevor
It is possible that I give far too many books five stars. Oh well.

There is a lovely bit in Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined Americawhere Barbara is at a conference of those who would have us wear badges with smiley-faces stuck in our lapels were they discussed if 'Positive Thinking' might not be a brand that has a bit of a smell about it. Time to rebrand, perhaps? Re-branding is, after all, the solution to all of the worlds ills (why they haven't cha...more
Poonam
Since long I have wanted to add a gist of review of this book, chapter-wise so that I could look up later.

Part 1 - Work-related Irrationalities

1. Big Bonuses don't work. (Which means CEO high salaries aren't quite logical.) Oh, but this is no way a bad news for your rewards and recognition program. Bonuses and reward should be just right, not too less that people do not care and not too much that enormity of reward at stake scares your people into failure.

2. Even though all of us work for a sala...more
Paul
Another good read from Dr. Ariely; however, I very much more enjoyed his first book (Predictably Irrational) over this one. Maybe I was in a more "critical" frame of mind when reading this, but a couple of the early chapters left me with some questions.

In Chapter 2, he discusses the concept of “contrafreeloading” and uses the example of the rat who, at the sign of a light signal, leaves a “free” bowl of food in favor of the lever that he must push to produce food, as well as his pet parrot, Jean...more
Lester
I have read the three books by Dan Ariely, Preidctably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. After reading all the three books, I have this feeling that the examples used, the experiments mentioned and some of the themes are starting to repeat in different places. Maybe there is a limit to what an author can write or give in terms of contents. After all we are all humans.

I give a four star rating for Predictably Irrational and the Honest Truth About Disho...more
Miguel
This is definitely not "The Myth of Sisyphus" nor does it pretend to be. The main attraction of Ariely's books is Ariely himself. He is sort of a cuddly pop Montaigne who writes his persona constantly into the text. The author-persona --a self-deprecating, humorous Israeli-American academic who suffered a terrible accident in his youth-- weaves himself into the the different chapters about topics as diverse as the effectiveness of large bonuses to achieve better performance, revenge as a motivat...more
Jill
Ariely writes about behavioral economics: "We don't assume that people are perfectly sensible, calculating machines. Instead, we observe how people actually behave, and quite often our observations lead us to the conclusion that human beings are irrational."

No one ever admits to being irrational, yet we frequently witness irrational behavior in others. After reading the book, I'll have to begrudgingly admit that I'm not perfectly rational either !

Throughout the 11 chapters of the book, various p...more
Jamie
Dan Ariely's previous book on behavioral economics, Predictably Irrational was fantastic. It explored the way that economics work on a personal level when you stop assuming that people are completely irrational and provided a great overview of the many kinks in the human brain that lead us to make weird, suboptimal decisions. His new book, The Upside of Irrationality, flips that coin onto its other side and looks at hour our penchant for irrational decision-making can actually benefit us and mak...more
Nancy
My take: Dan Ariely has the coolest job EVER. Best as I can tell, he's a social psychologist. He studies social behavior and creates questionnaires to determine why a person does what s/he does. So he teaches his classes at Duke University, probably wearing his tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, has an idea, presents it to whoever pays for it, writes his hypotheses, makes up a questionnaire, then lures unsuspecting citizens into his lair for experimentation.

I absolutely loved how he used e...more
Loy Machedo
Loy Machedo's Book Review - The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely

There have a couple of books on Behavioral Economics that I have read over the last 2 years. A few of my favorites being:
1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman,
2. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner,
3. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephe...more
David
I thoroughly enjoyed Ariely's previous book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, and this book is excellent as well. There are many "pop-psychology" books on the market these days, but one thing sets this book off from the rest. Rather than simply reporting on the research of others, the author himself conducted the many psychology experiments described in his book. This gives the book an aura of authenticity, because it describes research in the first person. The...more
Julie
Dan Ariely is one of my favorite non-fiction writers, so I was excited to find out that he'd come out with a new book, The Upside of Irrationality, and frustrated that I had to wait so long for it to be available at my library. But it finally came in, and I tore through it in two or three days.

Following on the heels of Ariely's first book, Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality charts ways in which we humans are not the rational, careful beings economists tell us we are. Ariely's go...more
Carol Moore
The Upside of Irrationality - Dan Ariely read, March 2012 ****

I enjoy reading Dan Ariely's books.
This is what I took away from his latest book:

Labor and Love
• The effort that we put into something does not just change the object. It changes us and the way we evaluate that object.
• Greater labor leads to greater love.
• Our overvaluation of the things we make runs so deep that we assume that others share our biased perspective.
• When we cannot complete something into which we have put great ef...more
Deb
* *

Once again, Dan Ariely (successfully and delightfully) takes on the school of rational economists who insist humans are "rational, selfish, maximizing agents." His research in the field of behavioral economics (as well as his keen insight developed from years of being human) has lead to his realization that: "If we place human beings on a spectrum between the hyperrational Mr. Spock and the fallible Homer Simpson, we are closer to Homer than we realize."
Each chapter in this irresistible book...more
Greg
A continuation of his previous book, except this time the focus is on how being irrational can be a good thing. Book consists of a number of examples, each illustrated by social psych experiments.

- performance vs compensation is a U-shaped curve. The optimal compensation is somewhere in the middle. Once you exceed that level of compensation, performance starts to go down. Hypothesized explanation is that people can’t effectively concentrate because they’re so worried about the money

- NBA clutch...more
Kressel Housman
This was just like its predecessor Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, but with a bit more personal information about Dan Ariely himself. Not just personal - downright intimate! Interspersed with the experiments and his conclusions are stories of how being a burn victim shaped his life, and the overall effect makes him highly believable in his descriptions of human behavior. I highly recommend this book and its predecessor. But read them in order; they make more s...more
Phil
A fantastic psychology book backed up by legitimate experiments!

Unlike some psychology writings,Tthe Upside of Irrationality uses the scientific method and carefully designed experiments to validate (or refute) the hypothesis of the author/psychologist/scientist. The experiments were all simply explained and then the data was correlated with the final findings. This book is a refreshing change from today's world of rhetoric and inane internet commenting backed up solely by people's biased opinio...more
Cat
I did NOT like this book. This is one of a long line of behavioral-economic-statistics books a la Tipping Point and Blink, but is not well written and comes late in the game. At times (many times) Dan Ariely uses "research" consisting of a handful of young people, collected from the not-so-diverse environment of his local Starbucks. He asks them to complete 5 min tasks and then makes widespread generalizations about human behavior. It seems as though the author is trying to cash in on American's...more
Stefanos
Dan Ariely,a great teacher,writer and,above all,a leading figure in the fields of social science and behavioral economics,proves once again to be da man(!) and Upside of irrationality to be a decent follow-up of Predictably Irrational.

The main target of the book is,of course,debunking rational-choice-models of standard economics which assumes that human beings always understand their needs and wants.That we are calculating machines,striving for maximizing economic utility,always following our be...more
Kanti Brahma
Dan Ariely has divided the books into two broad parts: Part 1- The unexpected way we defy logic at work and Part 2- The unexpected way we defy logic at home. Each part has five chapters covering five different areas where so called rational human being behaves irrationally.
Why and bonuses work in motivating employees? How much bonus should be paid to employees performing physical work and mental work? When do we derive joy from our work, how comes the sense of contribution? Do people satisfy the...more
Olga
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Muhammad Arrabi
WHAT I LOVED
Great ideas. Very well researched & cited academically. Brilliant experiments. I actually enjoyed the creativity of the experiments the most.

MISSING FROM THE BOOKS
Can I use advice from this book in real life?
Long-term practical results are missing. If you take all of these "findings" and apply them in real life, say with a group of employees or highschool students, for 4 or 5 years, would they work? or would people adapt quickly & neutralize the impact? This is what I still d...more
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely was chosen by Soundview Executive Book Summaries as one of the Top 30 Business Books of 2011.

THE SOUNDVIEW REVIEW:

Social scientist Dan Ariely delivered some of the most fascinating research in recent memory with his 2008 best-seller Predictably Irrational. The book examined the mysteries of human foibles and provided some pretty convincing evidence to support the claim that mankind can be pred...more
Ayame Sohma
Following up on his blockbuster hit Predictably Irrational, Ariely presents us with a whole slew of new arguments and experiments that rip apart "rational" economic assumptions. In actuality, rational economic assumptions only work on the basis of financial gain, and ignore half of the brain, the emotional half, that has a greater impact upon our decisions and actions (largely in part because it is a more primitive portion of our brains).

Chapter 1 is an entertaining look at how monetary incentiv...more
Marion
It's always enjoyable to read academics who have not fallen into the dry pit of hard data and motorway-length sentences. Ariely is a brilliant storyteller (and a brave one at that, given the field) and he certainly has a distinguishable voice, but the book ever so acutely lacks the intensity of its predecessor - the one of richness and scope. When reminders and short summaries should work as memory aids at the end of (longer) chapters or topics covered, they seem to have an opposite effect in he...more
Jessica
Behavioral economics has been a pet area of mine ever since I took Steven D. Levitt's "Economics of Crime" as an undergrad many moons ago - there's something about the approach to thinking more deeply about our biases that has always appealed to me. Economics likes to think of itself as a physics-like hard science, but at heart, it's a social science that can't fully escape the influence of its sister disciplines, particularly psychology.

This particular one works well for me because it's not jus...more
Kater Cheek
I've had a lucky book week, because this is the third enjoyable book in a row. It started out exceptional, talking about a lot of important psychological facts that can help everyone, like how to get the most enjoyment out of life, under what conditions a big reward motivates well (hint: not many), and how to suck the joy of living out of your employees.

Many of the studies I'd read from before, but Ariely is the primary source, and that counts for a lot in my opinion. So not only does he write a...more
Correen

How does your experience shortly before you make a decision affect your decision and other research questions. What is the difference in effectiveness of on-line dating as versus speed dating? The author conducted numerous experiments and shares his information. I found it an enjoyable read.
Jacob
If I had a finer rating I would give this 4.5 out of 5 stars. The author is trying to show that our tendency to behave and think irrationally has many positive aspects, but along the way he overreaches what his experiments can really tell him (and us). However, the attempt is quite well-intentioned and easy to read, with pleasant humor and genuine insight.

This book is a little more focused than its predecessor, _Predictably Irrational_. Half the book is about work and business, and half is about...more
Mark
A more personal book about behaviorial economics from the author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions... and in some ways, a better book for that personal touch. Mr. Ariely writes about both work & personal issues with clarity, humor & insight - and challenges our assumptions with experimental data.

There are some particularly important chapters for those of us in ministry - particularly those chapters dealing with the meaning of labor (applying this to vo...more
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From Wikipedia:

Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He also holds an appointment at the MIT Media Lab where he is the head of the eRationality research group. He was formerly the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT Sloan School of Management.

Dan Ariely grew up in Israel after birth in New York. He served in the Israeli army and...more
More about Dan Ariely...
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2012 A Taste of Irrationality: Sample chapters from Predictably Irrational and Upside of Irrationality The Irrational Bundle

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“To summarize, using money to motivate people can be a double-edged sword. For tasks that require cognitive ability, low to moderate performance-based incentives can help. But when the incentive level is very high, it can command too much attention and thereby distract the person’s mind with thoughts about the reward. This can create stress and ultimately reduce the level of performance.” 26 likes
“...[D]ivision of labor, in my mind, is one of the dangers of work-based technology. Modern IT infrastructure allows us to break projects into very small, discrete parts and assign each person to do only one of the many parts. In so doing, companies run the risk of taking away employees' sense of the big picture, purpose, and sense of completion.” 10 likes
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