Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisionsby Published 19 Feb 2008
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Why do our headaches persist after taking a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a 50-cent aspirin?
Why does recalling the Ten Commandments reduce our tendency to lie, even when we couldn't possibly be caught?
Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup?
Why do we go back for second helpings at the unlimited buffet, even when our stomachs are already full?
And how did we ever start spending $4.15 on a cup of coffee when, just a few years ago, we used to pay less than a dollar?
When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we're in control. We think we're making smart, rational choices. But are we?
In a series of illuminating, often surprising experiments, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. Blending everyday experience with groundbreaking research, Ariely explains how expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities.
Not only do we make astonishingly simple mistakes every day, but we make the same "types" of mistakes, Ariely discovers. We consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. We fail to understand the profound effects of our emotions on what we want, and we overvalue what we already own. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They're systematic and predictable--making us "predictably" irrational.
From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, Ariely explains how to break through these systematic patterns of thought to make better decisions. "Predictably Irrational" will change the way we interact with the world--one small decision at a time.
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions Reviews
Honestly all the business books that talk about psychological research or behavioral economics talk about the same things. I haven't even read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman but all these books literally rehash it again and again so I probably wouldn't even get anything out of reading it now. That said this one's much better written than most of the other books I've read and so if you haven't read anything else about behavioral economics or that way we make decisions this is a good choice. If you have read other books on those things though I'd skip this one because it doesn't add anything new.
Predictably irrational : The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions is a 2008 book by Dan Ariely, in which he challenges readers' assumptions about making decisions based on rational thought. Ariely explains, "My goal, by the end of this book, is to help you fundamentally rethink what makes you and the people around you tick. I hope to lead you there by presenting a wide range of scientific experiments, findings, and anecdotes that are in many cases quite amusing. Once you see how systematic certain mistakes are—how we repeat them again and again—I think you will begin to learn how to avoid some of them".
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه آوریل سال 2015 میلادی
عنوان: نابخردیهای پیش بینی پذیر: نیروهای پنهانی که به تصمیمات ما شکل میدهند؛ نویسنده: دن آرییلی؛ مترجم: رامین رامبد؛ تهران، مازیار، 1393؛ در 343 ص؛ شابک: 9786006043111؛ موضوع: جنبه های روانشناسی اقتصاد - اندیشه - رفتار مصرف کننده - سده 21 م
نقل از متن: «چرا سردرد ما پس از خوردن آسپرین یک سنتی باقی میماند، ولی بعد از خوردن آسپرین پنجاه سنتی از بین میرود؟ چرا وقتی معده مان دیگر جا ندارد، باز هم سراغ بوفه ی مجانی میرویم؟ چرا بابت یک فنجان قهوه 4.15 دلار میدهیم در حالی که تا همین چند سال پیش، بابت آن کمتر از یک دلار، میپرداختیم؟»؛ پایان نقل. ا. شربیانی
As a social psychologist, I have been trained to scoff at all "behavioral economists" because they often claim to have recently discovered that individuals do not always behave "rationally". Furthermore, they seem to brilliantly deduce that the only way to accurately predict how humans actually behave is to test behavior/decision making empirically. Of course, social psychologists have been doing this for over half a century without much public fanfare or guest spots on "MSNBC" or "CNN" every time people want to know how consumers make decisions.
With this clear bias of mine in mind, this isn't a bad book. Ariely at least gives full credit to Tversky and Kahneman's influence on his work (both psychologists), and he describes his experiments in clear, easy-to-understand language for the non-scientist reader. The big "however" with this book is Ariely's tendency to extrapolate beyond the results of his studies with recommendations concerning public policy and personal solutions for individuals. Not that his advice is necessarily wrong, but it should always be made clear where the data stop and the personal advice begins. I would recommend this book to my non-social psychologist friends.
My notes and quotes:
Ariely is a behavioral economist from Israel. Much of his work is closely related to Tversky and Kanneman’s work, although he has taken it in many new directions, but it is usually related to consumer behavior in some way.
*** He describes how money is often the most expensive way to motivate people. Instead, he suggests using social norms to do so. But he also warns the rules are different when you enter social norms into a relationship as opposed to market norms. The same rules that you use in relationships apply rather than the financial assessment of how much certain behaviors are worth. So if a business tries to develop social norms to increase productivity, they can’t all of a sudden introduce market norms without expecting a decrease in loyalty, etc.
*** He spends some time talking about the influence of arousal on decision making, or specifically how we believe we will make a particular decision when in cold, rational states than we end up making when we are highly aroused. His specific studies have examined sexual decision making and how people are more than twice as likely to rate their likelihood of engaging in various sexual behaviors as high when they are aroused vs. when they are not. This is highly relevant to things like abstinence training programs and even safe sex programs. The best prevention is to prevent the high level of arousal or the opportunity in the first place, but if arousal does occur to make sure people are trained to have what they need available “just in case”. The same principles apply for the faulty predictions of how we would behave under any emotional or motivational state, such as hunger. Another example is pregnant women not wanting to use pain medication during birth. They make the decision beforehand, but often change their mind once the pain begins because they cannot predict how they will feel during that state. One technique he offers to test this is to have a woman hold her hand into a bucket of ice for two minutes while practicing her breathing. If she is able to handle it without trouble she might be able to handle childbirth more reasonably.
*** His next section concerns procrastination and various methods of dealing with it. He divided his class into three sections, one where they got to pick their own deadlines, but once they were chosen they were firm; one where the deadlines were firmly established by the instructor; and one where there were no deadlines, they just had to submit their papers by the end of the quarter. The forced deadlines condition did best, the ones who chose their own deadlines did second, and the no deadlines condition performed the worst on the paper. He suggests the development of more external controls that we can select to prevent us from having to face temptation (to procrastinate, to spend, etc.) in the first place. By setting up our own deadlines/goals that are set in stone, we can head off our self regulation tendencies and just follow the designated structure.
*** His next section relates to when and why people cheat. He found that for many tasks where people are unsupervised, they fail to cheat as much as they possibly can, even when no one will find out, but they almost always cheat a little. This is because in small circumstances like that people don’t really consider what they are doing as wrong. In other words, small infractions don’t typically bring to mind codes of conduct we have available for moral decisions. Instead they just sweep the transgression under the rug without thinking about it. But if people were reminded of a moral code (like the 10 commandments) they wouldn’t cheat at all. The key is to make morality accessible so that the decision will be framed in moral terms. He also suggests oaths and guilds might make ethics in business more likely because people would frame their decisions more on the code of conduct of their organization/profession instead of not really thinking about it.
*** He continues on with his cheating work, but extends it to the difference between cash and non-cash currencies. When people are playing a game for cash they are much more likely to tell the truth about how much they earned (because the cash is a concrete reminder of how important the decision is) compared to when they play the game for tokens or credit of some kind. The problem is that people think there decisions are always made based on the same moral code regardless of the form of money they use. But in reality, the more concrete and meaningful a currency is, the more likely we are to frame our decisions in terms of market norms, and moral judgment. Some of the examples for non-monetary transactions are wardrobing or returning clothes after wearing them once; expense reports; taxes; insurance overestimations; or stealing anything that isn’t directly related to cash in general.
*** He ends his book with a website for his book (www.predictablyirrational.com), and mentions that you can sign up for one of his studies from the site.
It is important that you move this one up your list of books that you have to read. This is a particularly great book. My dear friend Graham recommended I read this book. He has recommended four books to me – and the only one I couldn’t finish was “My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist: A novel” by Mark Leyler – but he did recommend, “The Tetherballs of Bougainville” also by Leyler and that is still one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. I haven't written a review of that book, but where the hell would I start?
When I’m reading books I often think – you know, I would like to re-write this. I would cut out a lot of the fluff and perhaps change the voice a bit, add some cellos, perhaps even a bassoon (there is nothing that can’t be improved with some cellos and a bassoon). But not this book. I really, really liked this book.
This is a companion to Freakonomics – except I liked this one even more. Which reminds me that I must look how many stars I gave that one so that I can give this one more… If I am going to be irrational I might as well work at being consistently irrational.
Which is the point of this book. Economic Rationalism – otherwise known as the nonsense that got us into this mess – holds that the world is full of rational economic units and you are just one of those units. We always know what is good for us, we are free to choose what we need and we invariably make the choices that reflect our best interests. The absurdity of this view is being played out as I type with the world financial markets in meltdown and with the new Prime Minister of Japan saying today – “Honestly, this for us is beyond our imagination. We have huge fears going ahead," Which I believe is Japanese for, “The fundamentals are all in place. We have nothing to worry about.”
Like Freakonomics this presents a series of experiments to show how we behave under various circumstances in ways that are both less than rational and yet perfectly predictable. I’m going to have to spoil bits of this book, but just to show you how wonderful it is and why you need to run to your local purvayour of tantalising texts to obtain your copy of this fine book.
I guess one could group a lot of the experiments in this book under the general title of Placebo Effect. This makes two books in a row in which the Placebo Effect has been given a starring role and I’m, quite frankly, in seventh heaven. One of the questions this book seeks to answer is whether social stereotypes have an impact on a person’s performance. THIS IS THE SPOILER – SO LOOK AWAY IF YOU MUST.
What do we know? Well, we definitely know that all Asians are brilliant at mathematics. This is as true as the fact that anyone with an English accent is a mass murderer – or at least, that is definitely true in that strange world that is American movies and IRA propaganda. The other thing you know about mathematics is that all women are hopelessly, pathetically, mathematically inept. What is it about that Y chromosome?
You might have noticed that the particular Venn Diagram I am describing here has a rather interesting intersection – that is, woman who have a preference for thinking of themselves as Asian. Let’s see if we can’t mess around with the minds of this particular sub-set of humanity.
We are going to give them a bit of a maths test in a minute – but before we do, let’s ‘prime’ them. Let’s ask half of them some questions related to them being Asian (not too obvious, let’s just ask questions like how many languages do you speak, what is your migrant experience – you know, vague enough so we aren’t directly saying “THINK ASIAN, THINK ASIAN” at them, but actually, when you think about it a little bit, that is exactly what we are doing). The other half we will ask questions that make them think about themselves being female – when was the last time you bought Cosmo or ‘Are those really your nails?’
Anyway, then you give them the maths test. And guess what? The Asians who have been primed to think of themselves as women did worse on the test than the women who were primed to think of themselves as Asians.
When I hear things like that a shiver runs down my spine. I know I have learnt something incredibly important and something I’m going to have to think about for days and days and weeks. And this book is over-flowing with exactly that kind of idea. The sort of thing that makes you go – shit, who’d have thought?
I mean, which other book have you read lately that asks a MIT student if he would be willing to have sex with a sheep while he is masturbating to images of naked women displayed on a Mac laptop covered in Glad Wrap? Actually, don’t answer that.
The stuff in this book about stealing and its relationship to money is so interesting I can only just stop myself not telling you about it. We used to have a President of the Liberal Party (don’t be confused by the name, the Liberals here are as far right as the Republicans in the US) called John Elliot who basically stole – never tested in court (but then, he was rich and politically well connected) $66 million and was released on a technicality. Yet another of our Corporate Magnates, Richard Pratt, recently was able to steal $300 million from the Australian people and only had to repay $36 million. This time his crime was tested in court, but he is still seen as some sort of corporate hero here, rather than the thief that he is. How is this possible? Well, this book will help you understand and perhaps even help you see what we can do about these abominations.
I loved this book. It is a romp and the guy telling the stories is just the nicest person to be around while he chats away to you. Okay, sometimes I got a little annoyed with the “You’ll never guess what happened” – style – but this was such a minor criticism I feel petty bringing it up.
A large part of what I do in life involves negotiating stuff – actually, that is also true of you too, it is just that the negotiations I’m involved in are more up front than the ones you probably do day by day. As much as I don’t like to admit this, this book taught me things about negotiating that I ought to have known before. Not since Getting to Yes have I read a book quite as worthwhile or one that made me re-think stuff I do in quite the same way. I hope to be able to say in six months time that I’m still considering the implications of some of the ideas in this book – if I’m not, then more is the pity for me.
You’ve been told. What the hell are you waiting for?
Oh, except you Tina – you are the only person in the world I wouldn’t recommend buy this book. When was your birthday again?
Written in the tried-and-tested and bestselling tradition of the Malcolm Gladwell books and the Frekonomics clones, Dan Ariely's book too is an entertaining and counter-intuitive look at the world around us.
While I am getting more and more inured to this way of analysis of behavioral economics and physchology, these kinds of books are still hard to resist - that is because they do, no matter if they have now become an industry doling out similiar books by the dozens, still stretch our perspectives about the things we normally take for granted or think unworthy of a second thought. In that sense then, this book was "unputdownable" and "highly instructive".
One of my favorite passages from the book is as follows -
"I suspect that one answer lies in the realm of social norms. As we learned in our experiments, cash will take you only so far—social norms are the forces that can make a difference in the long run. Instead of focusing the attention of the teachers, parents, and kids on test scores, salaries, and competitions, it might be better to instill in all of us a sense of purpose, mission, and pride in education. To do this we certainly can't take the path of market norms. The Beatles proclaimed some time ago that you "Can't Buy Me Love" and this also applies to the love of learning—you can't buy it; and if you try, you might chase it away.
So how can we improve the educational system? We should probably first rethink school curricula, and link them in more obvious ways to social goals (elimination of poverty and crime, elevation of human rights, etc.), technological goals (boosting energy conservation, space exploration, nanotechnology, etc.), and medical goals (cures for cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.) that we care about as a society. This way the students, teachers, and parents might see the larger point in education and become more enthusiastic and motivated about it.
We should also work hard on making education a goal in itself, and stop confusing the number of hours students spend in school with the quality of the education they get. Kids can get excited about many things (baseball, for example), and it is our challenge as a society to make them want to know as much about Nobel laureates as they now know about baseball players. I am not suggesting that igniting a social passion for education is simple; but if we succeed in doing so, the value could be immense."
This is in the same wavelength as some of my thoughts on education -
The point is not to have a vocation oriented educational system, but rather to have a Goal-Oriented one...
I think that the abstractness in what the students want to achieve is a problem arising directly from an abstract education.
A system which promotes and encourages students to fix goals in life early and then helps them in moving towards it and rewards them for moving towards it is my vision of Utopia in Education :) -
There will not be specific courses and subjects being taught in schools and universities but there will be Goal-oriented teams formed with advisors for them and they work together to learn, understand and develop themselves in any field or knowledge that is required to fulfill their stated goals...
I am hoping to convert this idea on education into a short story or incorporate it into my ongoing novel. So the book helped me crystallize that thought.
Sorry for the tangent. Getting back to the book, one more caveat - the author loses the plot a bit in the middle chapters. The beginning chapters about relativity and the power of zero were amusing and fun and the last two chapters on honesty is amazing, but the chapters in between was a bit of a drag.
Despite my mocking tone and slightly negative review, I will hurry to say that it is a very good purchase for anyone who enjoyed Gladwell's books or others of that genre, and also for marketeers and businessmen and maybe even for policy makers.
Despite sugar coating the book with the requirements of this genre/industry, Dan does raise some poignant questions about human nature and consumer behavior that is worth pondering over. In the final analysis then, I enjoyed the book and will read it again, and hence, four stars.