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A Taste of Irrationality: Sample chapters from Predictably Irrational and Upside of Irrationality

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Sample chapters from Predictably Irrational and Upside of Irrationality.

Predictably Irrational

Why do our headaches persist after we take a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a fifty-cent aspirin?

Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup?

When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we're making smart, rational choices. But are we?

In this newly revised and expanded edition of the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They're systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.

Upside of Irrationality

The provocative follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational

Why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive? How can confusing directions actually help us? Why is revenge so important to us? Why is there such a big difference between what we think will make us happy and what really makes us happy?

In his groundbreaking book Predictably Irrational, social scientist Dan Ariely revealed the multiple biases that lead us into making unwise decisions. Now, in The Upside of Irrationality, he exposes the surprising negative and positive effects irrationality can have on our lives. Focusing on our behaviors at work and in relationships, he offers new insights and eye-opening truths about what really motivates us on the job, how one unwise action can become a long-term habit, how we learn to love the ones we're with, and more.

Drawing on the same experimental methods that made Predictably Irrational one of the most talked-about bestsellers of the past few years, Ariely uses data from his own original and entertaining experiments to draw arresting conclusions about how—and why—we behave the way we do. From our office attitudes, to our romantic relationships, to our search for purpose in life, Ariely explains how to break through our negative patterns of thought and behavior to make better decisions. The Upside of Irrationality will change the way we see ourselves at work and at home—and cast our irrational behaviors in a more nuanced light.

71 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 26, 2010

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About the author

Dan Ariely

36 books3,534 followers
From Wikipedia:

Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He also holds an appointment at the MIT Media Lab where he is the head of the eRationality research group. He was formerly the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT Sloan School of Management.

Dan Ariely grew up in Israel after birth in New York. He served in the Israeli army and when 18 suffered third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body from an accidental magnesium flare explosion during training.

Ariely recovered and went on to graduate from Tel Aviv University and received a Ph.D. and M.A. in cognitive psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in business from Duke University. His research focuses on discovering and measuring how people make decisions. He models the human decision making process and in particular the irrational decisions that we all make every day.

Ariely is the author of the book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, which was published on February 19, 2008 by HarperCollins. When asked whether reading Predictably Irrational and understanding one's irrational behaviors could make a person's life worse (such as by defeating the benefits of a placebo), Ariely responded that there could be a short term cost, but that there would also likely be longterm benefits, and that reading his book would not make a person worse off.

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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Daniel.
172 reviews36 followers
January 30, 2023
A Taste of Irrationality: Sample chapters from Predictably Irrational and Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely draws from (as the title says):
* Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
* The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

Ariely is a celebrity academic with videos available on YouTube such as What makes us feel good about our work? (with content covered in the book). He's a major figure in the field of behavioral economics as well as a widely-read popularizer of science.

The sample chapters report on some of Ariely's psychological experiments that often run counter to traditional economic theories about human motivation and behavior. Traditional economics idealizes humans as coldly rational selfish maximizers, whereas in reality people also respond to social pressures that lead some to sacrifice benefits to self in favor of some greater good. To a traditional economist, for example, it makes no sense that people would vote in elections, given that almost no election hinges on any individual's vote, and the act of voting carries some cost to the voter in terms of time and inconvenience. Since many people vote anyway, and therefore democracy is possible, the traditional economic view of people as selfish maximizers cannot be the full story. While this book doesn't treat the voting paradox example, it considers other situations in which people choose not to maximize their personal gains at a cost to other people.

Ariely's writing style is remarkably readable for an academic, as if he either trained as a journalist or figured it out on his own. (For tips on how to avoid writing in the more common turgid academic style, see the books on my plain language shelf.)

Among other things, Ariely puts in a plug for Timberland Shoes, due to the environmental responsibility of its CEO. I think I'll join him in purchasing a pair.

I enjoyed reading the sample chapters and look forward to reading Ariely's longer books. However, I noticed some problems that Ariely doesn't mention in this book:

1. Potential sample bias. The psychology experiments Ariely describes typically use MIT students as subjects. MIT is an elite school, with students having an average SAT score of 1535. This gives the average MIT student a percentile ranking of 98 to 99.

Individuals in this highly select group differ markedly from the average person. For details, see:

* Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction (newer 2020 edition)
* Intelligence: All That Matters
* In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths about Human Intelligence
* The Neuroscience of Intelligence

For example, Ariely describes an experiment which involved handing out free candy, resulting in less candy being doled out than when they charged a small amount of money for the candy. Well, I tried an experiment of sorts like that once, when I left a bowl of candy unattended on my porch during Halloween trick-or-treating. As you might expect, when I came back out in a few minutes the bowl was empty. Presumably some child saw the opportunity to take all the candy and took it. So whatever factor causes MIT students not to over-indulge in an offer of free candy doesn't seem to inhibit trick-or-treaters who believe they are unobserved.

Ariely does draw a contrast between his reasonably well-behaved MIT students vs. the women who participated in the (now-defunct) Running of the Brides. Ariely doesn't seem to notice that one obvious difference between those two groups would be the elite intelligence level of the MIT students vs. the brides who probably represent the general population.

I couldn't help but wonder what results Ariely might get if he repeated his experiments on different population groups who don't score in the 98th percentile on the SAT, such as prison inmates, welfare recipients, or residents of affordable housing projects.

2. The replication crisis. Numerous findings in social psychology and other fields have failed to replicate. Therefore we should be cautious about drawing conclusions from single studies. We should also be cautious about generalizing from study conditions to other conditions which were not specifically tested. For more on this potential can of worms, see:

* Science Fictions: The Epidemic of Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science (2020)

That book is a somewhat depressing read, but we can't shy away from problems in our quest for truth.

3. Ariely seemingly ignores diversity, at least in this book, focusing only on majority behaviors. For example, he found that under certain conditions, a large majority of his MIT students were demotivated to work hard. But what about the minority who worked hard anyway? What motivated them? Ariely doesn't even seem to consider that. That is, he seems to ignore differential psychology, the psychology of human differences, and the related field of behavioral genetics. For example, with the emergence of GWAS, scientists find that when individuals measurably vary in some trait or behavior, these phenotypic variations usually correspond to genomic variations. For more about that, see:

* Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are

Given that we are all genomically different (except for pairs of identical twins who share the same genomes), we should beware of "one size fits all" findings. Generalizing from a study might produce a good strategy for motivating the majority of employees, but it might badly miss the mark for persons not in that majority. Perhaps someday the field of psychology will properly take account of genetics to produce personalized results, much as is starting to happen with personalized medicine.
Profile Image for hissi.
437 reviews13 followers
October 31, 2011
This isnt really a book, it's a sample of chapters from another book by the same author called the upside of irrationality.
It talks of really interesting facts regarding our society and it's most important factors and what roles they play in our lives and how severely they shape them.. Social and economical norms.
It's very fascinating. When he talked about money and selfishness. We think that by paying for something we own it and everything else related to it so we seldom think of other people's need or wants because it's our right.
But having something given to u for free. U start to think of others and put them into account.
One really good study conducted in a campus where they offered fruit gums for free and other times for a cent that 75 people bought around 3 to 4 pieces of fruit gums.
When the fruit gums were offered for free there were around 200+ people. Tripe the amount of people and if u think that the second law of demand would apply here then Ur wrong. The lower the prices didn't increase the demand. As each one of them had only ONE fruit gums. Meaning? Being less selfish. Thinking more of others and their need of having the fruit gums. Makes you think doesn't it?
This is only one example and there are many other. Just as fascinating and marvelous as this one. And they would definitely get Ur mind ticking.
Profile Image for Ed Barton.
1,298 reviews
December 31, 2018
Good Intro to a Good Book

These sample chapters are a great read and a good teaser for the author’s full length book. Understanding motivation and decision dynamics are part and parcel of the research covered in the book. A great try before you buy.
Profile Image for Dalia.
Author 1 book446 followers
October 7, 2017
The book is a sample chapters from two other books by the same author. I will read more about behavioral economics!
505 reviews15 followers
March 24, 2012
Some people may be familiar with Dan Ariely's academic work, as it was famously cited in the bestseller "Drive" by Daniel Pink. in this book, Ariely explores the counter-intuitive behaviors of human beings in a wide variety of situations. The experiment referred to in "Drive", where people were tested to see what the impact of tying large bonuses to their work is fascinating since it clearly shows that the pay practices of CEO's and Wall Street are fundamentally counter-productive. This type of analysis could be very boring, but Ariely works in many details of his own compelling life story, weaving together experiments with his interests and challenges. This was one of the most entertaining books of this genre that i have ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in managing or developing people.
Profile Image for Mark Gowan.
Author 5 books9 followers
February 3, 2011
Ariely's book is a collection of experiments that he and his peers conducted at Harvard and MIT. While these experiments do show that irrationality is predictable, it does so in a somewhat uninteresting way. Given the title, I was expecting more dialogue and conceptual thinking. Ariely does make prescriptions as to what we could do (as a society) to battle the plague of predictable irrationality that is so ubiquitous in most societies, but these prescriptions take second-seat to the descriptive jaunts concerning the experiments that were conducted to come to that conclusion. It is interesting, and the experiments are fun. This is not a philosophical approach to irrationality, but rather a sociological one.
Profile Image for Mindo'ermatter.
444 reviews9 followers
November 2, 2019
Fast Read, But Still Too Long!

This is a short book, perhaps drawn out beyond the length it should be. There are some interesting and thought-provoking ideas here worth considering, some of which might change your perspectives on life, people, and yourself.

Many of the concepts discussed are counterintuitive and nontraditional, something for which we should be skeptical. Still, the author shares a compelling series of arguments that might make you more suspicious those motives behind good and poor performance, especially among senior executives. Found much here to identify why senior managers can be so unmotivated and unproductive.

Expected more but still found something useful.
65 reviews1 follower
September 23, 2010
I reserve my 5 star ratings for books that I think everyone should read. Books that I enjoyed and with useful information that I have not (yet) found elsewhere.

Much of human behavior that you read about in the book is familiar to all of us. Ariely goes into a little of the why of it - and a lot of how we are exploited by it or could make use of the knowledge. Basically, not everything we do makes sense, and this book identifies a number of the common strange decisions we make. Great stuff.
Profile Image for Mohammed Algarawi.
495 reviews201 followers
November 4, 2011
I was bored and I downloaded this book from iTunes' free section, and it was worth the shot.

It's a book about modern economy, discussing principles such as the supply/demand concept throughout experiments and presents the outcomes of the experiments in an interesting way.

It also discusses motivation at work, the role social and economical norms take when taking purchasing decisions. An interesting book, indeed.
June 12, 2012
While looking for a book that will help me improve myself I found "A TASTE OF IRRAIONALITY", tis book shows us all of the irrational, logical, human things that happen in our society and that sometimes we dont even notice them unless we really stop and think "what are we doing?". It is an interesting book that will not only help you understand a little more of what we do as a society but will also help you understand irrationalities that are not always necessary.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,061 reviews13 followers
April 27, 2020
Really I would recommend anyone at all interested in human behaviour and behavioural economics to read Dan Ariely's longer works, but this taster book presents self standing extracts from the bigger works and should serve to entice new readers. Dan Ariely writes well and on incredibly interesting original research. If anyone is tempted to think that humans are rational actors, then try this taster at least - and then think again.
Profile Image for Ichetuckneee.
6 reviews2 followers
Want to read
January 22, 2014
Read 3 of his books so far, so I know what is in this one, but it should be on my bookshelf anyway. Watch him on TED videos and then read his books. You'll have a much better understanding, I promise.
Profile Image for Lory Marshall .
63 reviews
February 8, 2016
Through his books and Ted Talks, Dan Ariely single-handedly fueled my interest in economics. His experiments are about subject matter that I actually care about and want to know the outcome of. He is a genius and I can't wait to learn more from him!
18 reviews2 followers
August 20, 2010
I thought it might change the way I think, but it didn't. It was fun though, and I learned a lot -- especially that the author likes to conduct psychological experiments!
Profile Image for Tanya.
2,581 reviews20 followers
July 13, 2016
This free ebook is a bundling of sample chapters from Dan Ariely's books about behavioral economics. I was fascinated by what I read and plan to check out the full volumes.
Profile Image for Clay Teller.
68 reviews
December 27, 2013
A lot like Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion which is also full of fascinating research on human behavior
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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