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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions [Paperback]

Dan Ariely
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Mar 2009

Why do smart people make irrational decisions every day? The answers will surprise you. Predictably Irrational is an intriguing, witty and utterly original look at why we all make illogical decisions.

Why can a 50p aspirin do what a 5p aspirin can't? If an item is "free" it must be a bargain, right? Why is everything relative, even when it shouldn't be? How do our expectations influence our actual opinions and decisions?

In this astounding book, behavioural economist Dan Ariely cuts to the heart of our strange behaviour, demonstrating how irrationality often supplants rational thought and that the reason for this is embedded in the very structure of our minds.

Predicatably Irrational brilliantly blends everyday experiences with a series of illuminating and often surprising experiments, that will change your understanding of human behaviour. And, by recognising these patterns, Ariely shows that we can make better decisions in business, in matters of collective welfare, and in our everyday lives from drinking coffee to losing weight, buying a car to choosing a romantic partner.


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  • The True Value of "Free!" Why do we hoard "free!" items we'll never use and forget our diets at all-you-can-eat buffets? Dan Ariely has the answer in this special excerpt from his book Predictably Irrational. [pdf].


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Product details

  • Paperback: 353 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (5 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007256531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007256532
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Ariely is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT. His work has been featured in leading scholarly journals as well as a variety of popular media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Business 2.0, Scientific American, and Science. He has also been featured on CNN and National Public Radio. Dan publishes widely in the leading scholarly journals in economics, psychology, and business. His work has been featured in a variety of media including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Business 2.0, Scientific American, Science and CNN. He splits his time between Princeton, NJ, and Cambridge, MA.

Product Description

Review

'For anyone interested in marketing - either as a practioner or victim - this is unmissable reading. If only more researchers could write like this, the world would be a better place.' Financial Times

‘A marvelous book that is both thought provoking and highly entertaining, ranging from the power of placebos to the pleasures of Pepsi. Ariely unmasks the subtle but powerful tricks that our minds play on us, and shows us how we can prevent being fooled.’ Jerome Groopman, New York Times bestselling author of How Doctors Think

‘PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL is wildly original. It shows why—much more often than we usually care to admit—humans make foolish, and sometimes disastrous, mistakes. Ariely not only gives us a great read; he also makes us much wiser.’ George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2001 Koshland Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley

From the Inside Flap

If the behaviours that skew our judgements were random or senseless, we'd be hard put to sort them out and make better decisions. But as the research described in this book shows, our irrationalities are, in fact, systematic. People will make the same types of mistakes over and over, in a predictive manner, because the causes of these behaviours are embedded in the very structure of our minds. This is why recognizing these mistakes and understanding them offers us a way to do better.

And that's the aim of this book: to leave the reader with new knowledge of human nature derived from a wide range of scientific experiments and findings, knowledge that will help all of us make better decisions in our personal life, our business life, and in the choices we all need to make about our collective welfare. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The pop version of "Thinking, Fast and Slow" 25 April 2012
Format:Paperback
This book is a very enjoyable and interesting read - but I have now read Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow.

Here's the quick comparison:

- Ariely's book is pure pop science. Short, entertaining, 1st person, occasionally irritating anecdotal style, but you quickly get the message. However, if you're reading it now (2012), you may have already heard the same thing elsewhere.
Personal view: I found it too anecdotal, and too lightweight.

- Kahneman's book is the real deal. This is the bible of behavioural economics. Everything you need to know, written with clarity and detail, but also enough stories, short exercises and counterintuitive conclusions to keep you turning the pages.
Personal view: Long and challenging, but very rich and rewarding.
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114 of 120 people found the following review helpful
By SAP VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is really a popular psychology book about how we behave and how, as the subtitle puts it, hidden forces influence our everyday decisions. So don't be put off by quotes from businessmen and economists in the blurb. I almost was. But I'm glad I wasn't. This is a neat little book with plenty of nuggets of information and insights that you can put to use immediately. You learn things about yourself and other people that seem so obvious you wonder how you'd never noticed them before and you learn why hunches you've had in the past really are right. Each chapter of this book consists of some simple experiments that are designed to probe a different aspect of our decision-making process e.g. how our expectations affect how we experience things and why too many choices can be unhelpful, to mention just two. The experiments are simple and elegant.

They usually consist of asking two or more differently informed groups of students questions about something. Actually, sometimes the author is a bit vague about the exact experimental conditions, how bias was eliminated from the experiment (particularly with respect to how questions were framed [what language was used] and how the participants were chosen [a few samples were decidedly small]) and how the many variables were isolated and controlled. So in that sense we must take Ariely's word for it. Also, he often vaguely summarises the results of these experiments with words such as "more than" and "most" instead of giving figures. If he were giving a lecture I would have asked him to clarify quite a few points. But all in all I think that this was an interesting book albeit a short one. It is a slim volume and the typeface is quite large. I'm a slow reader and I read it comfortably over two days.
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful route into behavioural economics 30 Mar 2008
By tomsk77
Format:Hardcover
I bought this having seen Dan Ariely speak at LSE recently. He was an engaging speaker and his research sounded interesting.

Having read the book I was left a bit underwhelmed, because I found that I was already familar with both some of the research and a number of the concepts, and was tempted to give it 3 stars. However on reflection that's probably a bit unfair. This is actually a good book for people interested in learning about the field of behavioural economics. It's nicely written with a chatty style, and some of Ariely's research is very interesting.

Just a few snapshots to give you an idea of what this book covers. He looked at subscription packages for The Economist and found that and obviously bad deal led people to choose an option that was like it but obviously better (because it gave them a way to measure the options). In contrast when there were two options that were different but hard to compare they tended to just go for the cheap option.

In a maths test where subjects were given a cash reward based on the number of problems solved and were given an opportunity to cheat, he found that asking them to recall the Ten Commandments ahead of the test appeared to make them less likely to be dishonest.

And in taste tests people prefer Pepsi to Coke when tasting blind, but prefer Coke to Pepsi when they know in advance when they know what they are going to drink. This suggests that we prime ourselves to enjoy something we expect to enjoy.

If this all sounds 'obvious' to you, to some extent you are right (although there are many examples in this field that are counterintuitive).
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123 of 133 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but narrow in scope 1 Mar 2008
By Ray Blake VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The field of behavioural economics is a fascinating one, which has already brought us the wonderful 'Freakonomics'. By comparison to that book this one suffers somewhat, because:

(1) There is an unremitting US-centricity here. All the examples and experiments are about typically US topics, all the conclusions are spelled out in a US context.

(2) The findings are often used as a launching point for some thoroughly unscientific moralising about how society ought to act differently.

(3) The experiments all seem rather narrow in scope. None is repeated and all seem to run on a rather small scale. It seems that as soon as one experiment throws light on a curious behaviour, it is time to move on to the next. I suspect the writers of 'Freakonomics' might have found more data to explore more fully aspects of the behaviour each time.

I was also annoyed by several chapters containing an appendix which appears right after the chapter, rather than all residing at the end.

On the plus side, Ariely writes engagingly and describes the experiments with a fair amount of humour. I paricularly enjoyed his descriptions of the experiment testing the effect of arousal on judgment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Although more of a series of notes than a traditional book (the author does not shy away from that), this book is well researched and put together. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Louis
2.0 out of 5 stars poor
really struggled to get into this book, a lot of common sense information with little or no profound insights added
Published 4 days ago by Matt
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
This is an interesting book written from the standpoint of a college lecturer who has conducted psychological and sociological experiments to try to ascertain how far our decisions... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Aletheuon
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent insight into why and how we think and what ...
excellent insight into why and how we think and what things we don't realise we are letting contribute to our decisions. Read more
Published 1 month ago by S. Ball
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fascinating stuff
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Super Freakanomics, Sway
If you have already ploughed your way through Freakanomics, Super Freakanomics, Sway, or any of the many pop-psyc books out there this will have you drifting off to sleep in no... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. A. Parker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thank you
Published 2 months ago by Lana Germanova
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book
This book was really brilliant bringing to life the topic of behavioural economics in an engaging and insightful way.

Highly recommended
Published 3 months ago by Duncan Brodie
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Brilliant...
Just Brilliant... Love it!
Published 3 months ago by PG
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and easy to read
A Beautifully written and elegant text. That is easy to understand. This is an excellent book. I highly recommend it.
Published 5 months ago by Sarah Lovatt
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