I could give easily give this book one star. However, it's very well written, which kept me reading. I wanted more from the characters and plot. Both...moreI could give easily give this book one star. However, it's very well written, which kept me reading. I wanted more from the characters and plot. Both felt underdeveloped.
There’s a generalization that people make that really gets me. It’s the idea that people naturally prefer or practice competition over collaboration o...moreThere’s a generalization that people make that really gets me. It’s the idea that people naturally prefer or practice competition over collaboration or cooperation. Usually this is said as a way to dismiss any attempt to address inequalities in America and to explain why capitalism is the only choice. And socialism or any hybrid economic system is doomed. Doomed! There are several reasons the acceptance of individual competition over striving for the group’s overall well-being seems to be a social norm rather than an innate human trait. And even if it was an innate human trait, I believe we can rise above it. While working together is a shared value in my family, living in Japan showed me it could be a bigger social norm. There are other reasons I question the all-out assumption that competition trumps collaboration, but let’s go with those two.
When I picked up Predictably Irrational, I was worried that the book was going to give me absolute arguments similar to the one I outlined above. It’s the way it is because people practice it that way. Instead, I believe if I brought this observation to Ariely he would say something like: Why do you think that is? How are the innate human traits reinforced by society to make something more commonly practiced?
Ariely describes his interest in understanding individuals and their behavior in groups based on a fire accident. Ariely suffered third degree burns from an explosion. The recovery period isolated Ariely. And that isolation brought him a new perception of people. I believe that it can also happen when you live in another country. Living in Japan, I frequently felt separate from those around me. And while my feelings of isolation were not as deep as Ariely, there many occasions where I felt like I was observing people around me with new eyes. In other words, I take Ariely to be the kind of person who could acknowledge that people are both competitive and collaborative. And he would be equally interested in what social norms brought out one behavior more so than the other.
That said – his tests (usually of MIT, Harvard or Stanford students) often left me with more questions. For example when given three choices – with one being a decoy choice – 75% of students took the bait and chose the one researchers wanted them to choose. And I would think – what’s happening with that other 25%. Because in my mind – 25% is still a lot of people. What were they thinking?
Another section discusses how people see themselves as mostly honest. When given the opportunity to cheat, they mostly self-regulate even with intentional leeway to cheat more and not get caught. However the further people are from money the more likely they are to cheat. For example, if you take an expense account and have a procedure of receipts and involve another person (an assistant who submits them), these buffers (from the actual cash) lead to a situation where people are more likely to cheat on their expense accounts. In July 2010, my house was flooded. I experienced five feet of water in my basement. FEMA and then later the SBA visited me. And there was a procedure much like Ariely describes. If anything, I underestimated the cost of the damages. This may be because I was warned that if I was found to be lying, I would have to return the money. But at several times I was encouraged to really be sure that I was certain of my reporting because the estimate could go down, but it could never go up. And I should include things that could later be taken out. Perhaps those conversations were a bit like signing an honesty code. However, I do the same thing – underreport my expenses – with my expense account at work. Perhaps that's just me being part of the (figurative) 25%.
What I appreciate about Ariely’s presentation of research is that he doesn't box himself into saying this is the way humans behave. Rather – if you consider these conditions – asking people to sign an honor code – you encourage this kind of behavior – greater rates of honesty. (less)
I'm not sure how to review this book in a way that really does justice to the book. I picked it up at the library and then checked the reviews, which...moreI'm not sure how to review this book in a way that really does justice to the book. I picked it up at the library and then checked the reviews, which seem awfully hard on the book. This is a book driven by characters' reflections. Some really touching moments about the disconnection between people who really love each other. Every character is flawed, but trying to make their way in the world.
Much of the book is characters' memories. But it works. I think because the memories mostly focus on pivotal events. Reflections are done through reflection of stories and films. (less)
Mystery books have specific beats they need to hit to satisfy readers. This book is strange. It starts with two characters that have nothing to do wit...moreMystery books have specific beats they need to hit to satisfy readers. This book is strange. It starts with two characters that have nothing to do with anything. They are murdered and we never think of them again; which isn't bad, because they weren't that interesting to begin with. However, as a reader it prepped me for a different story and delayed me getting into the story of Glen Garber's death of his wife, Shelia.
Once into the story, it had twists. Perhaps too many twists.
I was not bothered by the changes in first person/third person narrative. I did find Glen's daughter, Kelly, unrealistic. (less)
What I enjoy most about this book is the concept that the mind can change the brain. That thought and experiences can change the actual make up of the...moreWhat I enjoy most about this book is the concept that the mind can change the brain. That thought and experiences can change the actual make up of the brain. Western thought emphasizes the idea of an immutable brain. I love that even as we get older, we can change the hard wiring.
I listened to this book on tape. I'm not sure, but I think this helped my apprecation. I'm not sure that I would have finished the book if I 'actually read' it. (less)
This book is the small details in life. Two sisters - of a mercantile family - lead very different lives. One stays in Bursley her whole life. And the...moreThis book is the small details in life. Two sisters - of a mercantile family - lead very different lives. One stays in Bursley her whole life. And the other one scandalously elopes with a less than honorable traveling salesman. Late in life the two sisters reunite. Sophia reflects on her leaving and returning to Bursley Square:
Her return was accepted with indifference. Her escapade of thirty years ago entirely lost its dramatic quality. Many people indeed never heard that she had run away from to marry a commercial traveler; and to those who remembered, or had been told, it seemed a sufficiently banal exploit--after thirty years! Her fear, and Constance's that the town would be murmurous gossip was ludicrously unfounded. The effect of time was such that even Mr Critchlow (the local doctor) appeared to have forgotten even that she had been indirectly responsible for her father's death. She had nearly forgotten it herself; when she happened to think about it she felt no shame, no remorse, seeing the death as purely accidental, and not altogether unfortunate.
This passage represents much of how I think about this book. It focus on details. Even the big scandalous events are made into simple choices that with the passage of time doesn't mean that much.
This book seems to walk a fine line of describing what's happening and bordering on telling you what is happening.
Another great example of details and then an insight into the character:
Constance's eyes suddenly filled with tears. 'Ye'd had Spot a long time, hadn't ye?' he said sympathetically. She nodded. 'When I was married,' said she, 'the first thing my husband did was to buy a fox-terrier, and ever since we've always had a fox-terrier in the house.' This was not true, but Constance was firmly convinced of its truth.