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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions [Hardcover]

Dan Ariely
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 7 2008 006135323X 978-0061353239 1st Edition
Why do smart people make irrational decisions every day? The answers will surprise you. Predictably Irrational is an intriguing, witty and utterly original look at why we all make illogical decisions. Why can a 50p aspirin do what a 5p aspirin can't? If an item is "free" it must be a bargain, right? Why is everything relative, even when it shouldn't be? How do our expectations influence our actual opinions and decisions? In this astounding book, behavioural economist Dan Ariely cuts to the heart of our strange behaviour, demonstrating how irrationality often supplants rational thought and that the reason for this is embedded in the very structure of our minds. Predicatably Irrational brilliantly blends everyday experiences with a series of illuminating and often surprising experiments, that will change your understanding of human behaviour. And, by recognising these patterns, Ariely shows that we can make better decisions in business, in matters of collective welfare, and in our everyday lives from drinking coffee to losing weight, buying a car to choosing a romantic partner.
--This text refers to the Paperback 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"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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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book - controversial, but well founded April 3 2008
Format:Hardcover
Predictable Irrational is probably one of the most remarkable books after Freakonomics. This is a book about the paradoxes of human judgment. All people, regardless who they are, country they live in, jobs they have, or language they speak, make standard mistakes because our brains work in certain ways. Predictable Irrational is not the first book about such phenomena. My other favorite books on this subject include The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz and Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious by Gerd Gigerenzer. Similar ideas are discussed in number of industry specific books, such as the project management book Project Decisions: The Art and Science.

What distinguishes Predictable Irrational from the rest is very interesting real life examples and descriptions of some psychological experiments. Dan Ariely does not have complex discussions about psychology, instead he uses amusing examples to clearly illustrate his points. My favorite chapter is related to the effect of relativity and anchoring. Why, for example, have salaries of CEOs increased dramatically after federal security regulators forced companies to disclose them? Or, why are people willing to pay ridiculous prices for luxury items, which does cost so little to produce?

We can train ourselves to be better decision-makes. In fact, decision-making is a key life skill. We may be able to overcome the illusions Dan Ariely talks about, by leaning about them. This is not easy as some illusions are quite hard to recognize. However, this does not mean that we should not try. It is like leaning to swim: at the beginning, people are afraid to swim. It is known psychological bias, but then people learn to overcome this bias by a series of drills using proven techniques. For example, I'm sure that when you start comparing prices in department stores, you will recall Dan Ariely's book and make better choices.

I highly recommend it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reality is absolutely relative. Sept. 16 2008
By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
At first glance, the title of Dan Ariely's book seems to be an oxymoron. (It certainly catches one's attention.) Can irrational thought and/or behavior be predicted? Perhaps if it is repetitive? (The judgment and behavior of at least some people can be repetitive and thus predictable.) So I began to read his book with curiosity but also, yes, with some skepticism. Here are a few of my reactions. First, he learned a number of "lessons" from what he calls "experiments" in his life, each of which struck him as being counterintuitive. For example, everything is relative...even when "it shouldn't be"...or in fact isn't. That is, our mind can "play tricks" on us and thus we tend to see what we expect to see, hear what we expect to hear, etc. Images and sounds are relative to their context or frame-of-reference within which we place it. Or consider the frequently expressed observation, "one man's trash is another man's treasure" or one or more of self-serving juxtapositions such as "He's a tightwad whereas I'm frugal...she's narrow-minded whereas I'm a specialist...They're stubborn whereas I stick to my convictions." Ariely's other lessons also, directly or indirectly, involve illusions and delusions of one kind or another. They explain why we can't make ourselves do what we want to do, why we overvalue what we have and especially what we purchase, and "why a 50-cent aspirin can do what a penny aspirin can't."

As I worked my way through the first few chapters, I was reminded of a joke I heard years ago. This fellow arrived just in time to tee off for another round of golf with three friends. They played every Saturday morning. "Hey, I've got great news! Just bought the best hearing aids that money can buy. They cost $8,000 each but they're worth every penny. It's a whole new life for me.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Only a professor of behavioral economics would conclude that when people respond to motives other than money they are being predictably irrational. If you want to see some clever experiments that demonstrate that people are interested in things other than money, read this book.

I would like to observe, however, that such experiments have to be taken with a grain of salt when people know that they are experiments or reflect unexpected questions rather than serious looks at on-going behavior in areas where people have a lot of experience. For instance, the book looks at whether and at what price Duke students will sell basketball tickets they have just put a lot of effort into getting. Clearly, there are factors other than profit that motivated the buying in the first place. Most students probably wanted to get lucky and go to the game. Selling a ticket under these circumstances denies the opportunity to go to the game. A ticket broker would make a rational decision about whether to hire students to try get a ticket this way, but a student who does this a few times wouldn't. Study the ticket broker and you'll get more economic behavior. Study the student who wants to go the game and you won't. So why should we be surprised?

I remember being a subject of a lot of these experiments as a student. If the experiment struck me as particularly stupid, I would often feel rebellious and do things to act in noneconomic ways just to prove I was a person. I didn't see that effects like those are being studied here.

If you want to learn about human behavior, I suggest you study all of the motives . . . not just try to understand the economic motives.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun read, how irrational we are and don't even know it!
I like the author's unique style of experimentation, and the story-telling of the results and what they tell us about how irrational we really are. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Marilyn Mclean
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to get a better idea of why you do what you do then this...
Amusing "read" with great insight into human behavior. The audio version is read clearly and adds great character to the book!
Published 8 months ago by Mohamed Mansour
5.0 out of 5 stars Adored it
I cannot wait to read the rest of Ariely's publications. I highly recommend this book along with all of Ariely's TEDtalks.
Published 17 months ago by Kayla
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book and Provider
This book is really interesting if you're looking for a unique perspective on market research that doesn't rely on consumer recall.
Published 20 months ago by Amelia
4.0 out of 5 stars What an amazing way to look at the world
This book has caused to look at myself, and others, in a totally different way which, at the same time, seems quite familiar. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Kathy Finch
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Highly Readable
'Predictably Irrational' is a fantastic book! Dan Ariely engages his readers with his highly readable writing style but still manages to cover a very wide array of concepts and... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun introduction to behavioral economics
Many decisions that we make in our daily lives seem quite irrational when analyzed dispassionately and coolly in terms of whether those decisions make any economic sense or are... Read more
Published on June 7 2011 by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
3.0 out of 5 stars My 1st Dan Ariely book.
I didn't finish the book, because I found it boring and irrelevant to what I expect. Okay la. Found a more interesting book from Daniel Kahneman.
Published on May 28 2011 by gioanniso
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this if you enjoyed Dan's TED talk. A tremendously easy-going...
Very, very easy to read, which is refreshing for a non-fiction book by an academic. Ariely outlines tremendously simple concepts conveyed in a straight-forward, generous and kind... Read more
Published on April 5 2011 by Jeff Nijsse
4.0 out of 5 stars Not only for marketers
This is a good book, not only for marketers, but for anybody that wants to understand how the psychology of the people work when it comes to make a purchase decision. Read more
Published on June 8 2010 by Don Grebson
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