Ariely, Dan | Predictably Irrational Review

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by REMFQuestions, Jun 16, 2010.

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  1. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions
    Dan Ariely
    Recommended : Yes
    Mushrooms: 4

    Like most people, I have to commute to work every morning (approximately 30 minutes each way). I often thought that there might be better ways to spend 5 hours per week than blithely tuning in to the radio or listening to the same songs over and over.

    I had considered learning another language but instead I decided on educational audio books or lectures. I was struck by the mission statement of The Teaching Company that offer a massive range of academic material via DVD, CD, MP3 etc -

    This sentiment was also echoed recently in the blog of Jack Cheng, writer and designer. He elaborates on the Pimsluer method of learning versus 'cramming' with this short and eloquent post. It seems 30 minutes per day is all the rage!


    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 -

    The audio book was narrated by Simon Jones, a famous English actor and his soothing tone constantly keeps the scientific sections of the book engaging.

    So what exactly is it about? Ariely’s trade is behavioral economics, which is the study, by experiments, of what people actually do when they buy, sell, change jobs, marry and make other real-life decisions. The author reminds us that although we might feel in charge of our decisions, in reality we are just a pawn and many of our decisions have already been made for us.

    By allowing Ariely to guide you on this journey of self-discovery you can see exactly where you can take back control of your life or identify the behaviour in others. The author answers such questions as why does a £5 box of aspirin relieve more pain than 50p aspirin? Why do we struggle to act rationally when aroused? Why can human beings never refuse anything that is 'free'? Why do we automatically refuse money for doing someone a favour?

    The Chapters are labelled quite simply

    1 Break the Cycle of Relativity
    2 The Fallacy of Supply and Demand
    3 The Cost of FREE!
    4 Being Paid vs. A Friendly Favor
    5 Emotion in Decision Making
    6 The Problem of Procrastination and Self-control
    7 The High Price of Ownership
    8 The Effect of Expectations

    with conclusions (and some informal advice) at the end. Despite being labelled as popular science, Ariely never comes across a preachy or condescending - no doubt due to his years as an MIT Professor and his work is sprinkled liberally with funny anecdotes to illustrate his more serious experiments.


    Often he descends into self-effacing humour and questions his own behaviour even though he knows he is being irrational. Topics range from marriages, large purchases, food, drink, career choices and consumer credit. The most useful Chapter I found was something that I suffer from continously - procrastination.

    The only possible drawback that I could find is the constant use of American colloquialisms. Ariely continually uses metaphors to explain the sociology behind his work, mainly sports similes, and if you are unfamiliar with Basketball or American Football it can throw you a little. However, that is an exceptionally minor point in what is overall an excellent and accessible piece of work. Some reviewers have commented on the lack of validation to his experiments but we should keep in mind that this not a peer-reviewed academic submission. Too much emphasis on explaining bias and statistics would ruin the flow of the narrative.

    As it stands the short volume (280 pages) is engaging, funny and there is no doubt that readers will nod along and proclaim "oh yeh - I do that too!!" - which really is the whole point after all.

    My only battle now is trying to convince my wife to read it. Maybe the review of George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics might convince her. He said that

    I couldn't say it better myself. Two thumbs up and one audio book convert right here.
  2. So I'm guessing you don't review your posts after clicking Submit then?
  3. Not sure why the HTML loaded instead of the text? A glitch maybe?

    Ah well - fixed now.
  4. This a rogue review and has not come through the official channels. However, I am a forgiving soul and so if you PM auld_Yin and sort some email correspondence and send it to him he will put it with the official reviews and you will be authenticated :D

    We love book reviews so if you want to do some get in touch and talk to us we'll make sure that they are properly administered.

    We welcome all book suggestions and reviews.
  5. Sorry PR - I had no idea that book reviews were official. I will PM him now.