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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
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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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Thought-Provoking and Entertaining (Really 4.5 Stars)
    I'd really give it 4.5 Stars, but definitely recommend it, so that's why I marked it as 5 Stars. If the author provided more practical information, I would have given this book the full 5 stars.

    The author really delves into how we behave irrationally, even though we believe that we're rational. I really like the chapter about the cost of ownership and how we value items more highly when we own them. This reflects the state of how people over-value real estate when they own it or why people find it easy to buy a stock that's rising, but difficult to sell a stock when it's falling. That's the practical parallel that I drew from it, anyway.

    It also helps readers to understand risk more and really increased my risk-taking (ironically, but admitting how irrational I can sometimes behave and think).

    Best part: I enjoyed the fun examples and could relate personally to these. These cases can easily apply to professional and personal contexts....more info
  • Factual yet Entertaining
    This is such a great book that explains how predictable our mind works and despite so we often are irrational in making decision.
    I really enjoy reading the book and I am sure you definitely will as somehow those irrationalities mentioned in this book were hardwired into our DNA....more info
  • Predictably monotone
    The premise is interesting, but the writing style didn't capture my interest. A lot of repetition. Yielded some useful insight. Overall, worth reading, even in a cursory manner....more info
  • Excellent, scientifically-backed look at human behavior
    First, a bit of technical "stuff". I chose the CD version because I have so much hard book reading to do that I must depend on my ears to soak up much of the knowledge that I require in my life. I was pleased with the sound of the CD and the reader did a great job. He has a nice, clear British accent, which is a joy to listen to.

    I prefer books that are backed by science rather than pop psychology based on theories and opinions of modern-day gurus. This is such a book.

    As someone who needs to understand human behavior (I'm an advertising copywriter) and someone who is just naturally intrigued by such things, I found this book extremely useful.

    We learn from the studies of the author that people think they behave rationally and ethically. The reality, however, is that they do not. People behave irrationally and more often than not, unethically. Of course, the conditions under which a person finds himself will dictate his behavior.

    I was especially interested in the section about marketing. How people respond to prices and marketing is valuable information to anyone who is in advertising or, for that matter, any business.

    Many reviews have been written about this book so I'll not try and give an in-depth review. I do, however, recommend the book to you.

    - Susanna K. Hutcheson...more info
  • Excellent, quick read
    This book was informative and engaging for an armchair psychologist and professional salesman such as myself. Ariely describes his experiments and observations on human behaviour with a facility and ease that makes the book a pleasure to read. His background and credentials are impressive too. It's an enjoyable and quick read. I highly recommend it....more info
  • Very interesting if you can separate wheat from chaff.
    It is hard to design experiments that reveal something that hasn't been explored before, and to do it in the field that interests almost everybody. It is even harder to know your limitations, and to stay within your field of competence. Especially if your name is Dan Ariely.

    The book describes a good number of experiments which demonstrate irrational behaviour of humans in a variety of situations. Not all are eye-opening, especially if you know SOME behavioural psychology, but overwhelming majority are curious at the very least. If nothing else, you will chuckle at students who prefer the "MIT brew" (beer + balsamic vinegar) over beer by a wide margin UNLESS they are told the ingredients, and patients who are cured by a placebo, provided they are told it is EXPENSIVE.

    Unfortunately, the author is not satisfied with simply summarising his experiments and letting the reader draw the conclusions. He offers his own, and they range from slightly overreaching to wildly speculative. It is somewhat forgivable that Mr. Ariely thinks that even the most limited of his experiments reveal something profoundly deep about human nature. But it gets outright silly when he offers his opinion, in the authoritative tone of an expert, in the matters of economics and public policy, as he reveals his total ignorance in both subjects.

    I still recommend this book to almost anyone with an interest in popular psychology. At the end of the day, there is a lot of all of remarkable information to digest, and the author's hubris will be just a small annoyance to a smart reader....more info
  • Important book but full of inexact/misinformed thinking
    This book covers an important topic -- humans seem to make systematic and therefore predictable errors and Dan Ariely attempts to flesh out some of these types of errors. Most of this will be things you know intuitively but it's all VERY interesting -- I promise.

    The book loses stars for the authors exceptionally poor understanding of economics. Ariely claims economics assumes all actors are perfectly rational -- simply not true. One chapter discusses problems of will power and saving money. Ariely proceeds with the notion that saving money is in fact the most rational thing to do. He fails to account for the pervasive monetary inflation in the United States which makes the most rational course of action to trade your declining-in-value assets (dollars) for hard goods which (hopefully) will not decline in value (like real estate). People do not sit down and make rational decisions about inflation -- but they *DO* understand intuitively that a dollar today is worth 90c in a few years, and 50cents in 20 years. Spending every penny you can get your hands on *IN FACT* is the most rational thing to do in an inflationary economy.

    I also found this book to be lacking in scientific rigor, but do not let me dissuade you, its a good read and well worth the price....more info
  • Better than Freakonomics
    I saw Dan Ariely speak at Seattle town hall and went out to get his book the next day. His research is convincing, his stories are entertaining, and he has written a science book I couldn't put down.

    My dad is an old-school economist, very much in the "everyone behaves rationally all the time" camp, and this book gave me some great fodder for holiday discussions. It's a must-read....more info
  • why we do what we do - amazing
    A well written and engaging look at some "irrational" behaviors that turn out to be - who knew?!?! - a whole lot less randon than we thought. I may never look at a sale flyer, or even a resturant menu the same way again....more info
  • Better than Freakonomics
    My review title insinuates that these two books are of the same premise--which is certainly not the case. However, in that they both look to prove economic and social hypothesis with controlled studies, they are similar.
    Predictably Irrational is a great read and drives miles to illustrate just how easily we allow ourselves to be steered and mislead in life. For example, we really do drink 4 dollar coffee just because of the fancy packaging! That's completely irrational. However, there are hundreds more examples that lead us to predict we will fall prey to that irrationality again and again...and again!
    The author chooses his language carefully to maximize understanding for the audience. Anyone who picks up this book can easily comprehend the arguments, experiments and outcomes--but still leaves room for the busy brain to extrapolate the results further.
    I have been recommending this book to everyone I see in the past couple weeks. It's one of the few books that will become "required reading" for my employees....more info
  • Great book to read, nothing mind blowing but highly recommendable!
    I was watching an episode of one of my favorite podcasts and they were speaking of this book. The host recommended it and I thought it would be an interesting read. So I picked up a copy and loved it! I would recommend this book to anyone. Tho not perfect and nothing mind blowing, it was nice to understand why stuff actually happens. Im sure anyone reading this book understands that these things do happen but we dont necessarily know WHY these things happen. Dan does a great job of explaining things well with good examples; examples you could happen to you. I lent my copy of the book to two friends so far and I have a couple of people waiting to read it. so go on, read the book! i wanted to read more and this books like this are so interesting that it makes me want to keep reading. good job Dan and hope there is more books coming out from you....more info
  • Very good book
    I enjoyed the book. Very well written, with a lot of knew knowledge. Easy to understand. Well documented, from the scientific point of view. I recomend this book. ...more info
  • Sort of conceited . . .
    It's an interesting book, but it seemed far too self-promotional to me. Every study was done by the author, it seems, and I know there are a fair number of other behavioral economists out there. I realize that telling stories is supposed to help people remember things, but it seemed over the top in this book....more info
  • Be careful what you wish for...
    A commercial phobic's nightmare. We think we know what we want, and don't appreciate being hustled. Unfortunately we are very limited by our perceptions, and our willingness and ability to quantify. One man's rational choice, is the end result of the limits of his rationality, and the skill of the hustler.

    Gare Henderson ...more info
  • Great read: Scientific, insightful, enlightening
    This book offers a well written account of Ariely's experiments into human behavior. I really enjoyed how he lays out his experimental evidence and the subsequent analysis of the data. This book is thought provoking and explains some of the phenomena that we have all observed, like people cheat! I highly recommend this book!...more info
  • Predictably Irrational
    Ths book was excellent! It clearly shows and explains, by example, how we often make irrational decisions despite our knowing they are not in our actual best interest. I highly recommend this book to business and non business people alike. If you think you know what makes you tick, you better read this book!...more info
  • Revealing expos¨¦ of decision making
    This is surely one of the decade's best books on decision making, economics, psychology and behavior - because it touches all of those topics. Author Dan Ariely is a distinguished academician, but his style is so clear, accessible and straightforward that he does not seem to belong to academia at all. Although he recounts numerous experimental procedures and discoveries, he never bogs the reader down in technical minutiae or jargon. Moreover, he provides a clear connection to the reader's life with every account. The book is eminently practical and stretches beyond the boundaries even of the several sciences in his research. At times, themes from spiritual and philosophical literature resonate in the text. getAbstract believes reading this book can help anyone make more conscious decisions - no matter what those decisions are about, from setting a corporate strategy to finding a date to just choosing what brand of soda to buy. ...more info
  • Very interesting book
    This book is for intelligent readers in finance or marketing fields. I belong to both groups and find it very useful for marketing ideas as well as my own financial decision making flaws. Human behaviour is an important component of economics which is often not given as much exposure as it deserves.
    I highly recommend this book....more info
  • A must-read: No doubt about it!!!
    Predictably Irrational is one book that satisfies so many audiences that it is simply amazing, and it does an awesome job at that. Without delving into the research that Dan Ariely and his group of eminent researchers/friends have carried out - that would take away the fun of discovering some of the insights presented in the book - I must say that the book had great appeal for me as a business-person, as a family man & parent and as a person living in society at large. It has some very important implications for people working in government who are responsible for policy-making and for individuals who wish to avoid making mistakes they could've been making repeatedly. In all honesty, my behaviour has changed in some measure after reading this book and I think the results that I can monitor in the short-term, are positive. A really, really good book!!!...more info
  • To err is human to human error next to impossible
    Don Ariely is a guy who had a lot of time to think.

    Severly burned in an accident, Ariely spent months pondering the various oddities of human economic behavior.

    And thankfully his pondering has left us with a very thought provoking book which shows that rather being "reasonable" market participants humans are for the most part "emotional" market participants.

    They'll spend time debating between a several cent difference on products then fritter thousands of times more than that difference on frivolous purchases. They'll follow supposed leaders when a little bit of independent intiative could've put them much further ahead.

    And they'll readily impute their irrationality to others.

    In general this is one of a spate of recent highly readable neuroeconomics books which seriously discusses the emotional side of human economic behavior. For those who have their interest picqued by this book I would suggest also the most recent economics book by Michael Shermer as well as Sway...both of which I've reviewed and also found to be excellent books....more info
  • Amazing read
    This book is awesome. Basically distills a number of fields and ideas that most will already have had exposure with via living, school, etc - but does so with wit and great craftsmanship. Points out our shared irrationality in a novel, entertaining and education fashion. ...more info
  • Engaging, Well Written, and Great Food for Thought
    My friend recommended this book to me and it turned out to be an absolutely great read. The basic premise of this book is that people do not act rationally and certainly not as the rational agents that one assumes in classical economics. Instead, we act in ways that would be considered "irrational" but are often quite consistent (hence the title).

    Mr. Ariely is a professor in Behavioral Economics in MIT so his case studies are tested through experiments conducted on various college campuses. For example, one of his case studies examined the appeal of "FREE!". In the experiment, they put up a concession stand selling chocolates - Hershey's Kisses at 1ˇé and Lindt Truffles at 15ˇé a piece (you could only buy one). 73% chose the Truffle over the Hershey's Kiss, even when they raised the prices a penny. They then took the prices and dropped them a penny. With the Hershey's Kiss as "FREE!", only 31% of the folks chose the Truffle. According to rational economics, this total reversal in behavior makes no rational sense (the price difference between Kiss and Truffle remained the same), and yet it does make "common sense".

    The book is filled with other such studies of "common sense" behavior tested empirically through different experiments. He closes each chapter with takeaway concepts which could be applicable in more substantial situations (i.e. if you want people to get preventative health care, it would be much more effective to make it FREE! instead of "really cheap").

    Well written and very readable, it is well worth picking up -- not necessarily a classic tome that I must have on my bookshelf (I got my copy at the library) but is definitely worth the time to pick up and read....more info
  • Good read
    This book is fairly interesting. At first I found it much better than Freakanomics. I thought the author pompous for saying on the first page of the book that the book will change your life. However, he made some really good points that may in fact make people consider their relationship with money, prices and spending habits differently. However, we all know if self help books (which this is not) helped people improve their lives so very much that book segment would dry up. Mostly they help us understand why we do the things we do and understand some of them are silly or counterproductive. If we are lucky this might be helpful, but mostly it is interesting and informative....more info
  • Falls way short.
    Not very entertaining. Not very educational. A lot of the material wasn't new to me. Once or twice I wasn't sure what his point was. ...more info
  • Fascinating and based on thorough research
    I like the wealth of insight that is provided by the author and the fact that all his theses are backed with controlled experiments. ...more info
  • Ineresting insight into your own decision making process
    While I'd like to think I make my decisions as a rational and informed individual, I know I do not. I pay too much for designer sneakers, procrastinate on long term goals, and find it extremely hard to let go of options. It is with the help of this book that I gain more insights into my own decision making process. I can certainly use all the help I can get to overcome making irrational decisions. I would recommend this book for an interesting read....more info
  • Review for "Predictably Irrational"
    I would highly suggest this book for anyone interested in behavioral economics, neuroeconomics, or just how certain instances trigger the same 'irrationality' gene that runs through us all. Though it deals with economic principals, it's very basic and well explained, so anyone can follow. Plus, it's pretty funny at times, so at the danger of sounding like an afterschool special - it's entertaining as well as educational! But it really is. ...more info
  • Review and comparison to "Nudge"
    I've already written a review of both "Nudge" and "Predictably Irrational" so my energy to reproduce anything of the sort on here is less than inspired. In case you're interested though....

    [...]...more info
  • You, yes you are irrational
    I could not decide if I wanted to buy this book at first. I have always wanted to know what drives people to make decisions and where they come from. This excellent book helps describe where some of people decisions come from. The first couple of chapters will help sales people learn how to use pricing strategies or what kind of person to take with you to a party if you are looking to meet people. There is so much information in here you will be amazed.

    You will see that not all of your decisions make sense no matter how conscious you think you are....more info
  • fun writing, fascinating experiments, lots of learning; not enough introspection
    Dan Ariely was a victim of serious burns as a youth which left his body covered with serious burns. After surviving the burns and the consequent treatments, he designed some experiments to see how to make treatments less painful, then went back to his hospital and shared the findings with the staff.

    In this book, Ariely shares a host of experiments that he has carried out in behavioral economics (the branch of economics that looks at how people deviate from the standard economic assumption of people being logical, calculating, and rational). The experiments are fun, fascinating, and insightful. He shows us our irrational obsession with free things using experiments with Hershey kisses and truffles; he shows the oft unnoticed power of "anchoring" prices in an experiment with random numbers and an auction. He and his colleagues do experiments in bars, malls, and classrooms. This is a great introduction to behavioral economics.

    One minor weakness is that - like most popular empirical economics books - Ariely is trapped by the work that he himself has done, with minor supplements by others, and so the book jumps around a bit. That said, he has done enough interesting stuff that this isn't a major flaw.

    My main gripe was the lack of introspection as to how much these experiments apply to non-experimental settings. In the introduction, he tells us, "I would like you to think about experiments as an illustration of a general principle, providing insight...not only in the context of a particular experiment but, by extrapolation, in many contexts of life" (p. xxi). Why? Should we just take Dan's word for it? Beyond the question of extrapolation from the experimental setting, the vast majority of experiments are on undergraduate or graduate students, with little meditation on whether results might vary for different demographics.

    That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Read it, enjoy it, share stories with your friends, and take a few minutes to think through the questions that Ariely didn't.

    And would someone - please - design a better-looking cover for the second edition?!...more info
  • Engrossing
    In my opinion, this book is not for academics--it's for average people who are interested in why humans act the way they do. If you're looking for something more highbrow, there are probably other books for you.

    I was fascinated by the studies that demonstrate our irrationality. The author not only offers his explanation of why we act irrationally, but he also suggests ways to deal with our odd impulses (procrastination, grabbing anything labeled "free," etc.). I loved the book and plan to read it again....more info
  • Truely spacial book
    Almost done. Great book. I'm learning a lot about the way people think in making decisions. Best part is hearing the ton of studies and data that Mr Ariely provides.

    Its not his opinion as much as the data that will make you love this book....more info
  • mind shattering
    From the fisrt page to the last one, Predictably Irrational hits on all cylinders. It causes the reader to look at life...people...and adverstising in a completely different light. Ariely is brilliant in getting the message across to the commoner without the academic garble. Thoroughly entertaining.

    Ray Minnick...more info
  • Social science dumbed down
    Dan Ariely holds a named professorship at MIT; there is no higher rank in American academia. I am willing to accept these credentials as showing that he is a very important scholar. His field seems to be experimental social psychology, and/or marketing

    So far so good. But the book, to this reader, says nothing whatever.

    First, it is chatty, but not in an agreeable way. Three quarters of its verbiage, roughly, could have been omitted without loss to content. Don't tell me about how much you like your friends, man, get on with the point. And please, do you really have to repeat a point over and over, and then once more, for good measure ?

    I am sure that many of the experiments that Professor Ariely reports have substance and seriousness. But in the Professor's telling of them in this book, they come across as so much belaboring the obvious. A whole painful chapter is spent on how apparently serious social scientists discovered that young men are affected by sexual passion while they masturbate. Come on, you didn't know that, seriously ?

    Perhaps the author thought that reporting social science to non-specialists requires dumbing down, and then more dumbing. But he is mistaken in that. There is a long history of excellent, serious popular writing by scholars. The volume at hand, by contrast, is an insult to the reader....more info
  • Flawed research, good reading
    This book helps explain some things that marketers need to know. I've never understood why anyone would be enticed by an offer of "free shipping," as there is no such thing. Those pesky UPS drivers just insist on being paid for spending all day delivering packages.

    The book provides insights, most of which are based on simple experiments. Each experiment had a control group and was conducted under what appears to be a modicum of rigor. But the experiments may as well have not been conducted. The reason is the test subjects were people under the age of 25 and the testing was for the characteristic of rationality. The subjects are not, therefore, suitable to what they were being tested for.

    You can't rent a car if you are under 25. Do you know why? Because humans do not fully develop their judgment centers until that age. The human brain takes a long time to mature, and 25 is the rationality barrier. Thus, the experiments were on subjects who, due to their physical immaturity, are irrational. Testing people in this age group for irrationality is like testing window panes to see if they are transparent.

    The experiments are therefore invalid.

    That Ariely would even use these experiments in this text is a negative. But he compounds his error by extrapolating the results onto people who have crossed the rationality barrier. This barrier is a physical thing, and there's no getting around that. Quite simply, his test subjects have very different brains from the people upon whom he extrapolates the test results.

    That's clearly a foul.

    Thus, we have to accept Ariely's conclusions without the support of his experiments. In fact we have to accept them in spite of his experiments.

    Fortunately, he draws on other examples and he presents logical arguments. Generally, I agree with his conclusions--or, rather, his conclusions tend to agree with how I already view things. That doesn't mean his conclusions are correct, and he provides precious little to back them up.

    Given what I just said, the book has value. The value lies in the questions the author raises and discusses. Ariely takes an open-minded approach and pursues each topic in a style that is engaging, conversational, curious, and mildly entertaining.

    I enjoyed reading the book. I liked thinking on the questions Ariely raised. I liked thinking about his answers to those questions, and I liked the fact his answers were often "food for thought" rather than trying to take on a false tone of "absolute truth." He raises some serious social questions, yet doesn't abuse the book as a chance to preach a particular political agenda. He does correctly hint at the irrationality of some failed public policies, such as the disastrously expensive and totally ineffective Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but not in a way that posits that either wing of the Demopublican Party is better than the other.

    This is the kind of book that can provide a starting point for people who like to talk about things other than the normal trivia that, irrationally enough, passes for conversation. For example, it would be interesting to take off from his ideas on the "self control" credit card to discuss the actual underlying problem of weak personal discipline. Why is that problem there? What can you do about it? Why do even well-disciplined people have bouts of ill-disciplined behavior? Ariely provides a dozen or so such topics that can make for serious social conversation among friends.

    This book consists of 13 chapters and 244 pages of text. It has a long introduction, a short set of backnotes, a fairly robust bibliography, and a decent index.

    Chapter 1, The Truth about Relativity, is the most important chapter for marketers. It talks about how people are swayed by one price relative to another.

    Chapter 2, The Fallacy of Supply and Demand, talks about how price anchors affect market prices much more than supply v. demand does.

    Chapter 3, The Cost of Zero Cost, explores the brain-deadening allure of "free" and provides many examples of how people will spend more to get something for free.

    You'll find similarly intriguing topics in the next 10 chapters. Any one of these topics could be expanded to the size of the entire book. But that would make for reading that is just too heavy for most people. This book isn't hard science. It's popular reading. But it's popular reading with some oomph to it. Read the book, ignoring the irrelevant research, and you'll probably find yourself enriched....more info
  • Very Insightful!
    Learn about yourself and how to overcome your own irrational decision-making habits. Awesome book--backed up by research...more info
  • Why Science is Fun
    Refreshing and irreverent, Ariely actually performs experiments that evaluate questions I've had for a long time, like, why do people prefer name brands, why free is not always free, the cost of social norms (why you don't pay your mother-in-law for cooking your dinner, the effect of cultural preference for uniformity vs. individuality, this book will interest you. Ariely's experiments are clever and simple, and quite fascinating. He has an interesting story to tell about his own life, as well. When I finished this book, I mourned my loss. I very much missed my fascinating companion and all of his goofy experiments. I wanted to go out and do some experiments, too. It just seemed like a tremendous amount of fun.

    Narrated by Simon Jones, whose British accent made me think that Ariely must be British. Well, he's not, so go figure. Ariely is American, born in New York, but raised in Israel. He returned to the states to get his two Ph.D.s (cognitive psychology from Chapel Hill; business from Duke), and currently lives in the states. Simon Jones was just great, though. He did a lively and authoritative interpretation of what could have been a little dry with a lesser reader. Some British accents annoy me just about to death, they seem more interested in making sure everyone knows that they are of a higher social class than anyone but God. Not Simon Jones, though he sounds quite aristocratic, it's in the old money way, a voice that makes a person comfortable. He offers a friendly intelligence that made the reading really sparkle.

    I review only audiobooks. Check out my other reviews, then download, plug in, and never be bored again....more info