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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions Cover

ISBN13: 9780061353239
ISBN10: 006135323x
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

  • 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.

Book News Annotation:

Ariely (behavioral economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) describes the effects of factors such as expectations, emotions, and social norms on human reasoning--such as how a more expensive medicine can seem more effective--and the resulting irrational decisions the mind makes. He explains how to break the pattern and therefore make better decisions. Each chapter is based on an experiment he conducted with colleagues, on topics such as supply and demand, the power of something that is free, the effect of sexual arousal, and procrastination. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

In the tradition of "Freakonomics" and "Blink," a behavioral economist argues that human behavior is often anything but rational--that thoughts are not random, but instead are systematic and predictable.

Synopsis:

Best-selling author Ulrich Boser explores how we and the institutions we rely on have much to gain from emphasizing and rebuilding trust.

Synopsis:

Trust is central to almost every human interaction—and even small attempts to improve our faith in others can have a big payoff. People who trust more are happier, live longer, and even have more sex.

To examine how and why we trust, Ulrich Boser visits a radio soap opera in Rwanda that aims to restore a nations broken faith and talks to the man who brought honesty back to one of the most corrupt cities in Latin America. He tests out oxytocin, the “trust hormone,” and has scientists evaluate his brain as he competes in a cooperation game. He even jumps out of an airplane to better understand his trust in others. The result is a surprising narrative that will appeal to a wide audience, including readers who enjoy books like Nudge, Willpower, and Moonwalking with Einstein.

The Leap uses science and psychology to illustrate how trust contributes to personal longevity and a sense of fulfillment, and how we can take active steps to restore trust in our lives and in our culture.

Synopsis:

Intelligent, lively, humorous, and thoroughly engaging, "The Predictably Irrational" explains why people often make bad decisions--and what can be done about it.

Video

About the Author

Dan Ariely is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT, where he holds a joint appointment between MIT's Media Laboratory and the Sloan School of Management. He is also a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and a visiting professor at Duke University. Ariely wrote this book while he was a fellow at the Institute for Advance Study at Princeton. His work has been featured in leading scholarly journals and a variety of popular media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Scientific American, and Science. Ariely has appeared on CNN and National Public Radio. He divides his time between Durham, North Carolina, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the rest of the world.

Table of Contents

         Authors Note ix

         Introduction xi

Part I: Why We Trust

   1. The Social Instinct 3

   2. The Chemical of Trust: Love, Sex, and Hormones 18

   3. Reciprocity, Indirect Reciprocity, and What We

Can Learn from Hector Ramirez 29

   4. How We Trust: The Lessons of Clark Rockefeller 51

   5. Whats Fair Is Fair: The Art of Equity 66

   6. Trusting Too Much: Risk, Reason, and Diversity 77

   7. Can We Trust Again?: Learning from Rwanda 90

Part II: How We Can Improve Trust

   8. Teams: “Go on Faith and Knowledge” 107

   9. Markets: Why Trade Builds Trust 116

   10. Government: Trusting the Tax Man 126

   11. Democracy: “Encouraging You to Be Nasty” 139

   12. Technology: Communication, Community,

         and Couchsurfing 152

   13. Path Forward: Sometimes We Need to Leap 164

         Acknowledgments 175

         Trust by State 179

         Toolkit for Policymakers 181

         Notes 183

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

pammik246, February 6, 2009 (view all comments by pammik246)
If you liked Malcom Gladwell's books you'll love this one. Ariely presents in an enjoyable read well grounded in research. I read psychology all the time and found the economic psycholoy presented here fun and fascinating and very useable when talking to friends and clients about how we make decisions. pammik
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Jaffer, March 10, 2008 (view all comments by Jaffer)
I enjoyed reading the book but now that I think about the examples and experiments discussed, I find most of them flawed. So, I wondered why I did not catch the flaws when reading the book. It was I think because Dan (the author) either cleverly manipulates the readers or is a natural at it and does not realize he is manipulating them. I'll reserve personal judgement, whether his style is purposely or inadvertently manipulative. Perhaps publishing the book is yet another experiment that he is conducting to see how people respond to the examples and experiments he has reported in the book.

Without further ado, let me begin.

His very first discussion is about his personal experience with a tragic severe skin burn, which led him to question how people perceive situations and how they rationalize or explain their own behavior and that of others. In writing about his own experience he drew my sympathy and admiration for overcoming his tragedy and delivering interesting research to the mass audience. Very clever, Dan! You got me.

Throughout the book he mentions MIT, Harvard, Berkeley as the places where he conducts research and that he had an offer to be at Stanford - he cleverly drops names of prestigious institutions, all in an attempt to create an impression that his work is rigorous. Sub-consciously I guess I gave him a pass while reading the book, but now I feel I was duped.

Here are some flaws with the examples and/or experiments he discusses:

1) The experiment where some students who won football tickets in a lottery, offered to sell their ticket, and the students, who did not win a ticket, offered to buy one from the scalpers (brokers) is flawed and shows that Dan does not understand basic economics. He finds it irrational that those who won the tickets changed their perspective and wanted on average $2400 to sell their tickets, whereas those who did not win a ticket in the lottery were willing to offer only $170 to buy a ticket to the game.

I think the reason why the ticket winners wanted $2,400, on average, for their tickets was probably because that was the "going" price in the secondary (scalpers) market, just before the game. And, the reason the students who did not win the tickets in the lottery were willing to pay at most $170 or $175 (Dan reports two different numbers) is because that's all they could afford. Students don't have the wealth to offer the "going" price in the broad market comprising mostly of alums who can afford $2400, given they are in town and want to be at the game. It is not irrational for students (or people in general) to have different reservation prices when they are selling an item versus when they are bidding to buy one.

The amount people bid for an item depends on their BUDGET (endowment) but what they ask for an item, in order to sell it, is not constrained by their budget but mostly depends on the "going" price that they can get from the highest bidders.

2) Dan makes a big deal about people taking items which are for free but unwilling to pay 1 cent for the same items if that were the price posted by the seller. This behavior, he claims, is irrational. The obvious reason that people are attracted to free items is simple: they don't have to look for change (1 cent or 2 cents) and spend the time to transact. Dan ignores (does not recognize) simple factors like transaction costs to explain much of the behavior of individuals. There's no deep psychological reason for choosing free items as Dan seems to suggest.

3) He suggests that perhaps our ethical compass is coarse - i.e., for most people the compass does not respond to petty theft they commit but it does respond to large scale theft they might contemplate. He gives the example that many people don't (and wouldn't) steal a carton of red pencils from work but they do (or would) steal one pencil from the stationery room at the office. He does not recognize that most people don't (and wouldn't) steal a pencil from a store but they do (or would) take a pencil from the workplace. Clearly the issue is not about the number of pencils but rather the context where the pencil is to be had.

I believe we take a pencil (or two) from work, for our personal use, without paying for it, in cash, but we don't take from a shop because we have a "working" and "cordial" relationship with our employer -- i.e., there's an implicit understanding that we can take certain items from the workplace. Also, if we wish, we can compensate the employer by working a little longer. In taking small-price items from the workplace avoids the transaction cost and the hassle of purchasing a 10 cent pencil at a store or compensating our employer 10 cents in cash for the cost of the pencil.

In my opinion, the social welfare is greater by taking the pencil from the employer instead of forcing a transaction cost on the employer and on oneself and paying the 10 cents. Even leaving 10 cents with the secretary entails a significant transaction cost for the firm. Therefore, it is better to just take the pencil.

Moreover, the reason people don't steal an entire box of pencils is because they don't need so many pencils -- they need only one.

Since most people would take a pencil from work even when the secretary or the boss is looking, means there is no ethical ambiguity to the act. I don't think Dan has seriously thought about such issues and his research is what a high school student at a mediocre school would do.

4) The experiment about leaving coke in a fridge in a common area versus leaving $$ bills in a common area is a flawed comparison. Dan reports that people are able to rationalize stealing coke but not stealing money (or even a single $ bill from a stack of bills.) He does not recognize the possibility that many people don't mind sharing a 6 pack of coke or beer with others in a dorm suite (when they leave it in a fridge) whereas the money left in a common area is not for sharing -- we all understand that -- but is there most likely because someone accidentally left it there.

If the experiment of leaving coke and money is conducted near a fridge, as reported in the book, then of course people will take the coke, and not the money, because they probably came to the fridge for a drink. But if the coke and money were left at a different place, perhaps where people are required to pay a fare or a fee, like paying for parking at a meter, and if no one is watching, then some people would probably pick a $ from the stack of bills to pay the parking fee, instead of picking a can of coke to drink.

The reason why people take a coke from a common area in the dorm suite, but not the money is because coke quenches their thirst immediately for which there may not exist another substitute whereas taking a $ would not satisfy one's immediate thirst. Most people have some money in their pocket and taking a few bucks from a stack would not increase their utility as much as the cold can of coke would for a thirsty person, who does not carry cold coke around, as one does cash.

5) His example of unethical behavior of returning clothes, after using them, is also flawed.

As long as merchants know that customers could be using clothes (and books and other items) and then returning them, the contract between the sellers and the buyers, which includes a return policy, is an arrangement that is acceptable and even preferred by the merchants. Indeed, return policy is set by merchants when they have the alternative to insist that all sales are final - as some merchants do. The returns policy has evolved over time, with cool business-minded thinking! There's nothing unethical about returning clothes or books, even if used, because the merchant allows it.

It seems there's an optimum for the sellers to have a return policy arrangement than without one. Some items in stores are marked as "final sale." Some stores specialize in selling items at a discount and they do not allow returns. A non-returns policy might lead to lower sales and profits and that's possibly why firms allow returns, even for expensive clothes.

Bookstores, for example, encourage patrons to browse the books and magazines, while eating and drinking in their coffee lounges. The lounge environment soils their books, damages the covers, and causes bookstores to hire additional workers to pick up the books and reshelf them. Yet, they choose to offer such environments. From Dan's perspective, those who buy itemsn, use them and then return the items, are cheating the merchants and violating a social ethic. But, clearly, the bookstore personnel can observe the cutomers who read but don't pay for the items and yet they don't complain or post rules in the lounge area reminding patrons to pay for the items they take to the coffee lounge.

Moreover, merchants can institute a policy whereby returned items are charged, say, a 15% re-stocking fee - i.e., the customer would not receive the full refund - and yet most merchants choose not to institute this policy. Some tried doing so but then decided to reverse it. Circuit City comes to mind.

6) The chapter on students procrastinating by submitting their papers at the end of the term, which ends up earning them poorer grades, is also flawed because Dan does not control for the mindset and biases of the graders.

For example, graders may grade harshly when all the papers by several students are submitted at the end of the term, which have to be graded quickly and the course grades submitted to the department secretaries, at a time when the graders (usually grad students) are exhausted. However, when the papers are submitted periodically, over the term, graders have more time and not as many papers to grade in a short period of time and so they could be more lenient and willing to award higher grades. Also when papers are handed earlier during the semester, students have learned less in the course and are not expected to know as much. Thus, graders could be lenient in grading papers submitted periodically, during the semester, versus when all are submitted at the end of the term.

I could go on pointing flaws, but I think Dan does a disservice to MIT and to customers who buy his book because his experiments and explanations are not well thought out.

Oh well, if you wish to read the book then by all means do so. And if you don't like it, there would be nothing unethical in returning the book, in my opinion, and then writing a review.
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Karen O., February 19, 2008 (view all comments by Karen O.)
Absolutely on the money! I can see myself in many of the situations & am thoroughly amused by Dan's insight into human falibility.
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(14 of 24 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061353239
Subtitle:
The Science of Trust and Why It Matters
Author:
Ariely, Dan
Author:
by Dan Ariely
Author:
Boser, Ulrich
Publisher:
New Harvest
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Business & Economics
Subject:
Economics - General
Subject:
Social Psychology
Subject:
Economics
Subject:
Consumer behavior
Subject:
Decision-making
Subject:
Interest
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Cloth
Publication Date:
20140916
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1 lb

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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions Used Hardcover
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Product details 256 pages Harper - English 9780061353239 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In the tradition of "Freakonomics" and "Blink," a behavioral economist argues that human behavior is often anything but rational--that thoughts are not random, but instead are systematic and predictable.
"Synopsis" by , Best-selling author Ulrich Boser explores how we and the institutions we rely on have much to gain from emphasizing and rebuilding trust.
"Synopsis" by ,
Trust is central to almost every human interaction—and even small attempts to improve our faith in others can have a big payoff. People who trust more are happier, live longer, and even have more sex.

To examine how and why we trust, Ulrich Boser visits a radio soap opera in Rwanda that aims to restore a nations broken faith and talks to the man who brought honesty back to one of the most corrupt cities in Latin America. He tests out oxytocin, the “trust hormone,” and has scientists evaluate his brain as he competes in a cooperation game. He even jumps out of an airplane to better understand his trust in others. The result is a surprising narrative that will appeal to a wide audience, including readers who enjoy books like Nudge, Willpower, and Moonwalking with Einstein.

The Leap uses science and psychology to illustrate how trust contributes to personal longevity and a sense of fulfillment, and how we can take active steps to restore trust in our lives and in our culture.

"Synopsis" by , Intelligent, lively, humorous, and thoroughly engaging, "The Predictably Irrational" explains why people often make bad decisions--and what can be done about it.
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