- Hardcover: 294 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (February 19, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 006135323X
- ISBN-13: 978-0061353239
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,099 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Irrational behavior is a part of human nature, but as MIT professor Ariely has discovered in 20 years of researching behavioral economics, people tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion. Drawing on psychology and economics, behavioral economics can show us why cautious people make poor decisions about sex when aroused, why patients get greater relief from a more expensive drug over its cheaper counterpart and why honest people may steal office supplies or communal food, but not money. According to Ariely, our understanding of economics, now based on the assumption of a rational subject, should, in fact, be based on our systematic, unsurprising irrationality. Ariely argues that greater understanding of previously ignored or misunderstood forces (emotions, relativity and social norms) that influence our economic behavior brings a variety of opportunities for reexamining individual motivation and consumer choice, as well as economic and educational policy. Ariely's intelligent, exuberant style and thought-provoking arguments make for a fascinating, eye-opening read. (Feb.)
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"Surprisingly entertaining. . . . Easy to read. . . . Ariely's book makes economics and the strange happenings of the human mind fun." (USA Today)
"A marvelous book that is both thought provoking and highly entertaining, ranging from the power of placebos to the pleasures of Pepsi. Ariely unmasks the subtle but powerful tricks that our minds play on us, and shows us how we can prevent being fooled." (Jerome Groopman, New York Times bestselling author of How Doctors Think)
"PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL is a charmer-filled with clever experiments, engaging ideas, and delightful anecdotes. Dan Ariely is a wise and amusing guide to the foibles, errors, and bloopers of everyday decision-making." (Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University and author of Stumbling on Happiness)
"Dan Ariely's ingenious experiments explore deeply how our economic behavior is influenced by irrational forces and social norms. In a charmingly informal style that makes it accessible to a wide audience, PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL provides a standing criticism to the explanatory power of rational egotistic choice." (Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Prize in Economics 1972, Professor of Economics Stanford University)
"Inventive. . . . An accessible account. . . . Ariely is a more than capable storyteller . . . If only more researchers could write like this, the world would be a better place." (Financial Times)
"In creative ways, author Dan Ariely puts rationality to the test. . . . New experiments and optimistic ideas tumble out of him, like water from a fountain." (Boston Globe)
"Dan Ariely is a genius at understanding human behavior: no economist does a better job of uncovering and explaining the hidden reasons for the weird ways we act, in the marketplace and out. PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL will reshape the way you see the world, and yourself, for good." (James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds)
"PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL is a scientific but imminently readable and decidedly insightful look into why we do what we do every day...and why, even though we 'know better,' we may never change." (Wenda Harris Millard, President, Media, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia)
"A fascinating romp through the science of decision-making that unmasks the ways that emotions, social norms, expectations, and context lead us astray." (Time magazine)
"This is a wonderful, eye-opening book. Deep, readable, and providing refreshing evidence that there are domains and situations in which material incentives work in unexpected ways. We humans are humans, with qualities that can be destroyed by the introduction of economic gains. A must read!" (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable)
"After reading this book, you will understand the decisions you make in an entirely new way." (Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Lab and founder and chairman of the One Laptop per Child non-profit association)
"Ariely's intelligent, exuberant style and thought-provoking arguments make for a fascinating, eye-opening read." (Publishers Weekly)
"The most difficult part of investing is managing your emotions. Dan explains why that is so challenging for all of us, and how recognizing your built-in biases can help you avoid common mistakes." (Charles Schwab, Chairman and CEO, The Charles Schwab Corporation)
"Predictably Irrational is an important book. Full of valuable and entertaining insights that will make an impact on your business, professional, and personal life." (Jack M Greenberg, Chairman, Western Union Company, Retired Chairman and CEO, McDonald's Corporation)
"Predictably Irrational is clever, playful,humorous, hard hitting, insightful, and consistently fun and exciting to read." (Paul Slovic, Founder and President, Decision Research)
"Freakonomics held that people respond to incentives, perhaps in undesirable ways, but always rationally. Dan Ariely shows you how people are deeply irrational, and predictably so." (Chip Heath, Co-Author, Made to Stick, Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business)
"Sly and lucid. . . . Predictably Irrational is a far more revolutionary book than its unthreatening manner lets on." (New York Times Book Review)
"Ariely's book addresses some weighty issues . . . with an unexpected dash of humor." (Entertainment Weekly)
"A delightfully brilliant guide to our irrationality-and how to overcome it-in the marketplace and everyplace." (Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and Dealing with Darwin)
"A taxonomy of financial folly." (The New Yorker)
"PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL is wildly original. It shows why-much more often than we usually care to admit-humans make foolish, and sometimes disastrous, mistakes. Ariely not only gives us a great read; he also makes us much wiser." (George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2001 Koshland Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley)
"An entertaining tour of the many ways people act against their best interests, drawing on Ariely's own ingeniously designed experiments. . . . Personal and accessible." (BusinessWeek)
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Top Customer Reviews
The book has many strengths, the main one being that it convincingly presents many ways people are wired and/or conditioned to be irrational, usually without even being aware of it. This eye-opening revelation can be a bit disheartening, but the good news is that we can fix at least some of this irrationality by being aware of how it can arise and then making a steady effort to override it or compensate for it. That's not an easy task, but it can be done. As a simple example, I've programmed a realistic exercise schedule into my PDA, and I've been very consistent with my exercise because of that. The PDA imposes a discipline on me which I couldn't otherwise impose on myself (as I know from experience).
The book is also well written, and I would even say enjoyable to read. The many experiments described in the book are presented in a lively way which elicits interest, and Ariely goes into just the right amount of detail -- enough to convey the basic experimental designs, results, and plausible interpretations, without boring the reader by getting into esoteric points which are more appropriate for journal papers.
The one criticism I have of the book, which applies to most of Western pscyhology, is that most of the described experiments used US college students as subjects. That raises a serious question regarding the extent to which the results can be generalized to people of the same age who aren't college students, people of other ages, and people outside the US. Study of cultural psychology reveals that differences due to these factors can be profound, and Ariely himself notes a Korean study where such differences were observed, but he doesn't really elaborate on the point.
Despite this one criticism, I think this is an excellent and authoritative book, and among the better ones in the "why smart people do dumb things" genre, so I highly recommend it. The insights revealed are both fascinating and practical, if you can muster the discipline to apply them.
From my 2nd Career as a Business Development person (MBA), I began to have to deal with people's tendency to not entirely think things through.
Here in this book, we have a professor who runs socioeconomic tests on his MBA students. These students are smart enough, worldly enough, experienced enough, and educated enough to approximate the standard economic assumptions and produce reasonably rational behavior.
Guess what. Even among broad experiments conducted on multiple MBA classes over time, one can predictably pre-bias the outcome of a particular run of a socioeconomic experiment by what seeds you plant in the class members' minds before the experiment. For example, in one experiment in estimating prices, the author requires his students to write the last two digits of their social security numbers on the top of the paper. Simply the act of writing a high number (e.g., 88) versus a low number (e.g., 08) produced statistically significant correlatable influences on the students' later price estimates. Those compelled to write "88" at the top of their papers would reliably estimate higher prices than those compelled to write "08" at the top of their papers, to a statistically significant degree.
Extrapolating to "real life." Watching Fox News will tend to make you more conservative without you knowing it. Watching MSNBC news will tend to make you more liberal without you knowing it.
If you want to understand "real truth," you are just going to have to do a little more than self-select your news feeds. You are going to have to seriously consider a diversity of viewpoints.
Moreover, if you have Social Darwinist beliefs as I once did, you may need to re-think the concept of the Poverty Trap. Early pre-conditioning really does make a difference.
Here is the way I think of it as an Engineer. Classical Economic Theory is analogous to Classical Newtonian Physics. There is nothing badly wrong with it, and it is a good approximation for most real world problems at the middle of the distribution.
However, General Relativity is indeed more correct that Classical Newtonian Physics, and the additional knowledge makes a real difference in certain special cases. And, those special cases are sometimes the really important ones. Likewise, Behavioral Economics is adding something very valuable to our knowledge of Classical Economics.
Read this only if you are brave enough to contemplate that the world might be a little more complex than we wish it were.
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