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Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist
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Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,394 ratings  ·  165 reviews
In Discover Your Inner Economist one of America’s most respected economists presents a quirky, incisive romp through everyday life that reveals how you can turn economic reasoning to your advantage—often when you least expect it to be relevant.

Like no other economist, Tyler Cowen shows how economic notions--such as incentives, signals, and markets--apply far more widely
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 2nd 2007 by Dutton (first published 2007)
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 ·  1,394 ratings  ·  165 reviews

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Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book immensely! The title is very misleading--it is not about economics from a sociology perspective, but about applying rational, logical thinking to everyday (and not so-everyday) situations. In this book, Tyler Cowen describes how one might better enjoy going to an art gallery. In each room in the gallery, pretend to be an art thief--choose the single art object that you would prefer to own yourself, above all others. Think critically about why you would prefer it.

Cowen descri
Feb 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Well, I thought this was going to tell me how to use incentives on _myself_ to get me to do the things I should be doing. And it was disappointing in that it did not tell me how to do that. I can't say it really did too much of what the subtitle said either. How to motivate your dentist? Compliment them on a job well done, and give them Christmas presents.

I think the author revealed far more about himself than he did about economics. He takes pride in seeing like 40 movies a year, and walking ou
Jan 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
What a thorough disappointment. I love books in this genre, so I was really surprised not to enjoy this one. The writing and subject matter was very ADD, jumping all over the place. The only chapter that really tied to economics was the penultimate on charitable giving. No real insights here.
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I’ve seen some reviewers lament that this book is a disorganized hodgepodge of random topics that reads more like a collection of blog posts than a book. I can’t really deny that. That said, I’d argue the following themes run throughout: (1) a response to economists who treat people like utility maximizing robots and try to infect every facet of human life with markets (2) an exploration of signaling and self-deception (3) self-help advice.

This book is, partially, a reaction to other pop economi
Jul 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is the closest thing to economics-as-organizing-life-philosophy that I've read. It was particularly validating to read a book written by somone who obviously thinks about the seemingly trivial (tipping, gift giving, consumption of culture, what to eat in restaurants vs what to make at home) as analytically as I feel I do. There are some bold ideas to be found in here to be sure and I'm going to keep this book at eye level on my bookshelf because I know I will want to reread a chapter at a t ...more
Sep 13, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I chose to read this book after reading a review of it in New York magazine. I was hoping for more, but I appreciated the book's overall premise and did learn a few new concepts. Most interesting was learning what truly gratifies people (it's not money), how to best enjoy culture, how to order from restuarants, the power of self-deception, and how to be a better altruist. The book meanders and seems to lack a solid structure. It wasn't hard to follow, but I found it annoying. In the end, my "inn ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-finished
Cowen seems more eager to show us just how awesome and worldly he is than to help us discover our inner economist (not to mention that the title is overly self-help-y).

Then I reached this paragraph:
"When should we finish a book we have started?...Is this book the best possible book I can be reading right now, of all the books in the world?...Whatever is that best possible book to be reading, I am willing to buy it or otherwise track it down. Most other books don't make the cut."

Sorry Mr. Cowen,
May 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't finish this book. Tyler Cowen is apparently attempting to emulate the success of books like "Blink" and "Freakonomics" but in my opinion, fails miserably. It's apparent that the author only wants to tell us about how wonderful he is using examples from his life whereever possible. When he boasted about only finishing-at most-one book of every ten he picks up, I took that as permission to stop wasting my time with this tiresome braggart and let ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
Objective Summary

Cowen discusses widely disparate topics using insights from economics. Here are some of his points:

• Incentives and scarcity drive economic analysis more than money.
• Money is an effective incentive when performance at a task is highly responsive to extra effort, such as clerical work. Money is effective when intrinsic motivation is weak.
• People prefer to feel in control of situations even if actually having control increases risk.
• The best food is found in places where there
Oct 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: econ

The subtitle of the book is quite misleading. There are maybe two sentences about motivating your dentist. The bulk of the book focused on self-improvement through culture: art, music, cuisine and literature. It did contain some pretty radical ideas worth thinking about, and I laughed most of the way through. Apparently the author only finishes about 10% of the books he starts, but he argues that this is okay because it means that at any given moment he feels like he’s reading the best possible
Catherine Gillespie
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: habits, work
Tyler Cowen’s book Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist didn’t teach me anything new about love, meetings, or manipulating my dentist, but it was an interesting manifesto of sorts. Since the book was written by an economist, his musings on various facets of life have a sort of econ feel, even if I didn’t really find it to be all that life-changing.

Cowen is interested in the various sorts of incentives we use and are m
Apr 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Eh... I think I've read too many books like this recently, so this one was just kind of meh. Given that I look at Marginal Revolution a few times a day, nothing that I read was especially novel. Also, since I am a completely different sort of person than Tyler Cowen, I had very little interest in a good chunk of the book. I have no interest in becoming a "cultural billionaire"-- while I am not proud of being a Philistine, I'm pretty comfortable with who i am, and I am the sort of person who has ...more
Only 80 pages in and I strongly disagreed with 5 assumptions, methods, and conclusions. Not as interesting as assumed it would be I when bought it. I wanted a book on how to think. Instead I got a random collection anecdotes on how to live which seemed severely flawed.
Aug 07, 2007 marked it as to-read
This book looks great, like "Freakonomics" only with a more How-To bent. Too bad I'm so cheap that I'll have to wait until it comes out in paperback. ...more
Hamish Seamus
Apr 17, 2020 marked it as to-read
Some notes from Tyler Cowen on EconTalk:
- A good strategy for appreciating museums and art galleries is to ask yourself "what item would I like to bring home with me?" I wonder how far you can take this. Certainly you could do it in other kinds of spaces to be more attentive (other people's homes, workplaces, etc), but can you also do it with people? (Who would I like to have as a flatmate? Have a talk over dinner with?) Perhaps you could even use it with life experience. (Which part of this per
Dec 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Cowen's desultory style of thinking, which makes him such a great blogger and interviewer, makes his books a little frustrating. They are often too disconnected, perhaps with the exception of Stubborn Attachments.

The best way to read this book, as Cowen would recommend, is to jump around and read a few pages here and there. I enjoyed the part on signalling theory, where he flirts with Robin Hanson's views. Although he doesn't completely endorse or refute it. I also liked his advice on how to ge
Y Robitaille
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
A very Tyler Cowen (polymath/economist/cultural observer/blogger) book! Enjoyed it a lot.

He describes a constellation of diverse facts orbiting around a central theme in his chapters. Then there is a thread holding it together hidden in the background. Tyler was kind enough to provide clues regarding that thread in his conclusion. I think this way of building the book makes it highly re-readable for new insights (just had that experience with a chapter of his "The Age of the Infovore"). I can al
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I didnt like it at the beggining, for i thought it was gonna be the same as the other pop books of economics. However, I discovered the author had a very charismatic approach. Nothing new here, but definitely a worthy reading to make me internalize by reading over and over again, from different perspectives the notions of behavioural economics. I liked about the author that he seems way intuitive, and usually explores themes that I REALLY like, departing from usual economics and more about motiv ...more
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoy books that offer me ideas I haven't heard before or that present new ways of thinking about the world, and this book does both.

I don't read economics books, so I don't know how this one compares to other books in that genre. I categorize the book (in my inexperienced opinion) as a cross between economics and psychology. (I read a lot in the area of psychology.)

I can say whom this book might appeal to, but if you can find it cheaply or in your local library, I'd say check it out, if noth
Tim Watts
Sep 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
“Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist”, Tyler Cowen
August 24th, 2009 · Economics, Non-Fiction

Synopsis: The greatest economics writer in the blogosphere switches medium to offer an extended treatise on the use of economic principles to improve the non-economic aspects of your life. Utility is maximised.

My Take: Tyler Cowen’s blog, Marginal Revolution, is hands down one of the best blogs on the ‘net. Not because he is t
Dec 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read if you like this sort of thing. Cowen uses basic economic principles to discuss cultural consumption, charitable giving, dating, and other areas of life. Many of the ideas as well as the unique voice will be familiar to readers of his blog, Marginal Revolution. Cowen has a thoughtful and provocative outlook, although whether it provokes enlightenment or annoyance probably depends on the reader.
John Breeden
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Cowen took what would've been a wonderful essay on the importance of incentives in economic decision making and daily rational thought, then attempted to transform it into an easy bestseller. The content was very repetitive and anecdotal. There are certainly some great ideas and perspective to be gained but it's covered in a myriad of unnecessary thought experiments. ...more
Jerry Smith
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
I love Tyler Cowen. His conversations are so entertaining and informative. Look up his podcast and his appearances on others, especially the couple he did w/ Ezra Klein.
The book was pretty good. Probably more of a 3.5 than a three. His talks are better because they cover a wider variety of topics in less time.
Xi Cheng
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is about discovering and understanding economic (and psychological) patterns under a lot of everyday activities, ranging from art to cooking & dining to meeting, etc. It's more insightful than a lot of popular books (mystery, 'get rich quick', and snake oil) and it's more approachable than a lot of technical books (e.g. textbooks on microeconomics and behavior science). ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really like Tyler Cowen's podcast, so I may be biased.

I listened to this book as a smattering of Tyler's thoughts. Similar to how he covers several subjects during his podcast interviews, he does the same in this book.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was great! Tyler Cowen is my new favorite economist if for no other reason than he recognizes that economics is AWESOME for a lot of things...but maybe when you're dealing with your family don't let the numbers turn you into a jerk. ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
My own Cowen-esque take: individuals on average should spend a little more time listening to their "inner economist" (i.e. using analytical approach to explore various aspects of their life), but people who enjoy Tyler Cowen (and I generally do, even if I disagree with him on a lot of things) should spend less. ...more
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
I did not enjoy the book and had to stop it after a few chapters. Since I am not a art gallery type person, the author spending so much time on how to enjoy and evaluate the art gallery experience from a rationalist view did not appeal to me.
Ashfaque Reza
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it
The title is very misleading. This book is more about social and marketing perspective.
Only few chapters are interesting but others are pretty boring and I had to skip those.
Jane Dugger
This was interesting and thoughtful but not as much I as I had hoped.
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Tyler Cowen (born January 21, 1962) occupies the Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics as a professor at George Mason University and is co-author, with Alex Tabarrok, of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution. He currently writes the "Economic Scene" column for the New York Times and writes for such magazines as The New Republic and The Wilson Quarterly.

Cowen's primary research interest is

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