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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 ·  1,356 ratings  ·  156 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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Average rating 3.40  · 
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 ·  1,356 ratings  ·  156 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.

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
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
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 ...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 ...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
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.
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 ...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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jane Dugger
This was interesting and thoughtful but not as much I as I had hoped.
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.
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This should be required for high schoolers.
Justin Tapp
Jan 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
This is one of the few non-ebooks that I have left, which is sad because I would have liked to have had notes and highlights from this book saved in the Cloud for all posterity.

Here is a recent profile on Tyler Cowen in BusinessWeek, which tells you what you need to know about him and this book. Cowen has what my family calls a "mature palate." He has been to over 70 countries and has sampled more food, books, art, and ideas than just about anyone alive. A "cultural billionaire," as he says. (I
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Devyn Duffy
Feb 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Devyn by: saw it at the library and mistakenly thought it might be good
Wow, this book is a dog. It was published in 2007, and maybe it wasn't as far behind its time back then, but it's in the same vein as Freakonomics and others of that genre, minus the economics.

Surprisingly for a book written by an economics professor, there is almost zero economics in this book. It promises to show the reader how to apply economic principles to everyday life, but instead it mostly consists of random musings of a guy whose relative wealth has placed him out of touch with society.
Sep 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Not a review, but a few gems from the book:

Quoting economist Robert Hall as saying "If you haven't ever missed a plane, you spend too much time waiting around in airports."

"[W]riters need to invest in a self-image as people who get something done every day, and self-deception helps us achieve that."

"Brainstorming sessions are a counterproductive way of spending time."

"Encouraging innovation [in medicine] -- a long-term source of immense health gains -- does not give us that same feeling of
Deborah Flores
Jan 15, 2013 rated it liked it
All in all, it's a fun and fast read. The book jumps around various topics, mostly ones that interest the author. I apparently have somewhat similar tastes, so I enjoyed it, but it might be less engaging for someone with different interests. I liked the section about food stalls and dining and how quirky food options tend to get pushed to the margins due to high rents and other factors - I bet the author is tickled by the gourmet food truck revolution since the book was published. :) I found the ...more
Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, economics
This isn't a horrible book, but I don't find it particularly actionable or informative, and it definitely reads like a bunch of fleshed out blog posts stitched together.

2.5 stars
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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
“Few people read coffee-table photo books, and indeed they are not intended to be read. I find the text in these books is often surprisingly good, perhaps because the author--or more importantly, the editor--feels no need to pander.” 2 likes
“Markets are not just about the steam engine, iron foundries, or today’s silicon-chip factories. Markets also supported Shakespeare, Haydn, and the modern book superstore. The rise of oil painting, classical music, and print culture were all part of the same broad social and economic developments, namely the rise of capitalism, modern technology, rule of law, and consumer society.” 1 likes
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