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The Upside of Irrationality Hardcover – 27 May 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (27 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007354762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007354764
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,544 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.

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Review

Praise for Predictably Irrational:

'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

About the Author

Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University and the New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational. Over the years, he has won numerous scientific awards and his work has been featured in leading scholarly journals in psychology, economics, neuroscience, medicine and business and in a variety of popular media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the Boston Globe, Scientific American and Science. He has appeared on CNN and CNBC and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio. He currently lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife and two children.


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By tomsk77 on 12 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
I quite enjoyed Predictably Irrational, though it wasn't quite what I was expecting. This is a better book, though again in part for unexpected reasons.

First up, it's actually quite a personal book. Part of Ariely's pitch is to remember our humanity, particularly in the face of policymakers who assume we are rational, self-interested maximisers. He draws a bit on his own experiences, in particular the very nasty accident that he suffered as a teenager, to point out where biases kick in and how they affect us. The result is a popular book about behavioural science that has a very human feel to it, and that makes it a nice read.

Secondly, as with Predictably Irrational, Ariely has some genuinely interesting and innovative experiments to talk about. The two most interesting bits of research for me were those about 'pointless' work (for example, how your motivation to build Lego models for pay is affected by seeing them being disassembled while you work) and those about how emotions affect short-term decisions which in turn affect long-term behaviour. In the first case I would say there is something quite useful to learn about motivation, even in respect of basic tasks. In the latter it might just make you think twice about decisions you make.

As always, the drawback in this area is how applicable the experimental evidence is in the real world. Though I don't share the view that actually little from behavioural economics experiments holds true elsewhere, we should be alert to the problem.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By DigiTAL on 12 Feb 2011
Format: Hardcover
Dan Ariely is a top rate economist -- one who tests the bedrock assumptions of the field!

The first chapter examines whether incentive-based pay really does lead to higher performance. Many people take this assumption for granted, but is it true?

Obviously this is a complex issue, but Ariely details some results of an experiment he ran in rural India. Participants were paid per their performance in some simple problem solving tasks. Due to the lower living standards there, Ariely was able to offer some participants the chance of winning up to three months' wages at a time.

As it happened, high rewards actually led to lower performance than low- or middle-rewards. Ariely hypothesises that thoughts of the high pay crowd out participants' attention to the problem at hand.

This finding is at best fragmentary, but it does interestingly run counter to conventional wisdom. More research could be used to show whether bankers' and executives' claims that high pay is absolutely mandatory to attract and motivate top talent are justified. (A similar book is Daniel Pink - Drive.)

Each chapter tackles a similar issue; my favourite is probably the chapter on hedonic adaptation (how we quickly adapt to new things).

I'm not sure how some of the issues really showcase the "upside" of irrationality (such as the pay-for-performance chapter). Seems like a marketing/branding decision, although it didn't make me enjoy the book any less.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Leitch VINE VOICE on 25 Aug 2010
Format: Paperback
I've given this book 5 stars because I read it from cover to cover and learned some useful things. The great benefit of Dan's writing is that he describes his studies clearly, taking a great deal of trouble to make sure you understand them and can imagine what it would have been like to be a subject. He explains the reasons for the studies and discusses what he thinks they mean.

Having read many, many articles in psychology journals describing experiments like this I can say with confidence that Dan's achievement is considerable. Typically, these journal articles are dull, confusing, and without any sense of humanity or humour.

The fact that I disagreed with, or was unconvinced by, most of Dan's conclusions is not important! I was able to make my own analyses without the usual slog of decoding a pile of baffling journals.
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Format: Paperback
I have given this book 4 stars, because I found it uneven. Some material was very interesting, some less so.
In particular, the relationship between management performance and bonus deserves a book, given its importance in the corporate world.
There were too many pages dedicated to dating on-line, on the other end.
I was also put off by the extensive mention of his rehabilitation program.
Overall, Dan Ariely is a gifted psychologist, but I preferred “Predictably Irrational”, his previous book, and I hope this one shall be revised in the near future.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Layden on 19 Oct 2011
Format: Paperback
One of the most disturbing aspects of the modern world is how bright and inquisitive children seem to end up losing their innate curiosity as they move through the educational system. I've met many people in their 70s, 80s and 90s who have kept this amazing curiosity but there seems to be a huge gap somewhere between 10 and 60 where knowledge has become an incredible drag. Knowledge seems to be split between being boring but utilitarian or titillating entertainment.

The shear fun of learning is strangely absent in so many books. This book however shows a joyful mind which hunts for the elusive rare beast, an original idea (or even a herd of original ideas)

You learn why you should walk quickly by any notice on a college notice board offering money for some simple tests. The experiments discussed in the book are a delightful mixture of seeing if you're revengeful,motivated by money, have high pain tolerance, trustful etc. At the very least you might end up losing your love for lego. But if your a poor Indian peasant you might end up crying yourself to sleep every night lamenting why you couldn't keep your hand steady and win the big pay off.

Often when I meet people who have kept their childhood curiosity, they have had a difficult path in life. This has forced them to sort the dross, from what is truly important. Perhaps this is why Mr Ariely writes so well. He has faced his own mortality and crawled painfully back from the abyss. He is generous to share his experiences of this time.

But the shear exuberance of his stories, his fondness for his colleagues and his insatiable curiosity bursts forth everywhere in the book. He says he is limited to typing about a page a day, before pain sets in, it is probably this filter that makes his writing so good.
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