David's Reviews > The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
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Mar 29, 11

bookshelves: psychology
Read in March, 2011

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 author clearly describes the motivations behind his experiments. Sometimes the experiments gave unanticipated results--and this was interesting, too! Ariely does not try to hide the results that contradict his hypotheses; instead, he uses these results as a stepping stone to additional experiments and research.

Ariely covers a wide range of topics, and each topic is intensely interesting. He explores how small pay bonuses can motivate someone to do a job a little better--but large bonuses can fail to produce proportionately better results. Ariely shows how ironic it is, that scientific research into the efficacy of drugs is held in high regard, but research into the efficacy of business practices (like awarding bonuses) is disregarded simply because of the anti-intuitive findings. I found the chapter on revenge to be especially interesting; why do people find revenge so necessary when they feel slighted? And why does a simple apology for a small slight work so well at mitigating revenge? Ariely's clever experiments shed a lot of light on these issues.

I did not give the book five stars, because I felt that the book devotes too much space to the author's traumas during his lengthy recovery from his injuries. Some additional editing would have been helpful.
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