From Publishers Weekly
Poundstone (Gaming the Vote
) dives into the latest psychological findings to investigate how and why prices are allocated. Beginning with the controversial lawsuit in which a jury awarded $2.9 million in damages to a woman who had spilled a scalding cup of McDonald's coffee on herself, the author presents a readable history of how we are subtly manipulated into paying more (or less) for goods and services—and the research that attempts to explain our baffling and irrational susceptibility to pricing. The idea of anchoring and adjustment—setting an arbitrary number to subconsciously drive higher or lower estimates—is just one of many research areas explained at length. While Poundstone's case studies are vivid, the abundance of theories and experiments might prove overwhelming for the casual reader. Nevertheless, the scope of the analysis—its attention to economic abstractions as well as real-world consequences—braids together theory and practice to leave an indelible impression on the reader. Grocery shopping will never seem so simple again when one realizes how much work goes into assigning a price to a box of cereal. (Jan.)
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Poundstone, author and columnist, reviews innovative work in psychology called behavioral decision theory, or the study of how people make decisions. We learn how people estimate numbers, the process of making wild guesses, jotting down offers and counteroffers, and rating anything on a scale of 1 to 10. Extensive research on pricing strategies has been conducted, and marketers have learned what people will pay is changeable and consumers can be manipulated. The book cites numerous experiments, including how juries award damages in court; reserve price research, or the maximum a buyer will pay; the way smart people are influenced by mere words and by the way choices are framed; sale prices are more powerful motivators than charm prices (those slightly below a round number); and money and chocolate are the most popular motivators in behavioral decision experiments. This collection of experiments and related findings is essentially an academic work for a variety of students. --Mary Whaley