Nancy'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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May 31, 11

Read in May, 2011

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 every day toys to test his theories on the value of work. Using Legos, he has his candidates build a toy with the understanding the toys will be dismantled. One group watched the toys being dismantled then used the same pieces for the same project. The other group watched the assembled project placed out of eyesight while they continued their building. One group (guess which one) gave up much sooner than the other.

The first half of the book covers the world of work. The second half covers the workings of assortative mating, adaptation, online "dating" and determines success rate, and the overall use of questioning our "gut" reactions and feelings. This also clarified why I chose my husband rather than another person I was dating. Assortative mating is a skill we use to whittle down prospective mates. So interesting!

Reading this book was kind of like sitting in a social psychology class, drinking in all of the information without having to show up for class. The author includes his own dose of humor and is brave enough to disclose how some of his discoveries put his own injuries into perspective. Ariely was badly burned as a teenager and spent 3 years hospitalized and in intense therapy. He believes this is the reason he chose the scholarly route.

I love social psychology. In another life, I'd love to BE a social psychologist. I just don't want to do a dissertation.
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