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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions Paperback – 5 Mar 2009

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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 (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,664 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


'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.

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Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 79 people found the following review helpful By A. Schaffer on 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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118 of 124 people found the following review helpful By SAP VINE VOICE on 24 Feb. 2008
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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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By tomsk77 on 30 Mar. 2008
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dez Futak on 14 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Although Dan Ariely is a professor of Behavioural Economics and Psychology, his writing style makes Predictably Irrational a pleasure to read, and the book covers a wide range of human behaviours seen through the lens of an experimentalist and his research team's results.

And the results are indeed startling in some cases; I particularly liked his analysis of how price has a real and measurable effect on the placebo effect (until we know the truth about the placebo we've taken!), and his openness to include a reflective discussion into the merits associated with placebo treatments.

Prof. Ariely isn't afraid of tackling the ethical and moral implications of his findings however, and I found myself nodding in agreement, and sometime frowning with stormy thoughts as I tried to grapple with the knock-on effect of what he has so eruditely explained in the book.

He covers a wide range of topics and findings, and I'm already re-reading parts of the book more carefully having gone through once at speed.

This is a great introduction to behavioural psychology, and it fits nicely alongside Chialdini's "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion".
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