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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions Hardcover – Feb 7 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st Edition edition (Feb. 7 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006135323X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061353239
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 3.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Lev Virine on 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 By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Sept. 16 2008
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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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on April 22 2008
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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