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4.5 out of 5 stars19
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2010
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. On a similar point, sometimes you do have to query some of the extrapolations made from from fairly specific findings (though I don't share the previous reviewer's scepticism about the research into bonuses - there is a lot more research in this area that points in a similar direction).

Those are minor quibbles though. This is an enjoyable, easy read backed up by interesting research and underpinned by a very personal approach. Given that Ariely's aim is to encourage more human-shaped policy, I'd say his book exemplifies the spirit of his research.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 25 August 2010
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2011
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. With so much to say, a physical limit is perhaps the only way he can condense the material so well.

He has the absolute joyful curiosity of a child as obviously does many of his colleagues/friends. Some of the conversations we get a glimpse of in the book that resulted in experiments most have been truly hilarious. He is more of a Natural philosopher than a scientist,from an era before the pursuit of knowledge became a chore. We need more like him. In a world with nothing but wild problems and deadly predicaments we need people to go back to basics and what is more basic than understanding how we make decisions.

If nothing else, his recipe at the end is worth getting the book for. Looking forward to the full recipe book if it ever breaks free.
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on 20 July 2014
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2012
Not one of the better popular books about irrationality, I'm afraid. The personal anecdotes (N=1 does not equal data) don't work for me. The research outcomes are described very sketchily (no numbers, just "the outcome confirmed hypothesis X"). Having just finished the book I can't recall any outstanding observation or result or insight. I would recommend "Irrationality" by Stuart Sutherland or "59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot" by Richard Wiseman instead.
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on 3 May 2013
This type of book is sometimes written in a very convoluted style that make them hard to read (especially if englidh is not your mother tongue). This one while being based on research and describing very interesting topics is written in a very enjoyable way: it alternates anecdotes and research description and teaches so much about why people act one way or another and how this can be influenced.
Definitely one of the best read I had in a long time.
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on 16 February 2014
I mostly came to this book craving more after "Thinking fast and slow" and that's exactly what I got, the writing style isn't as objective or fluid but this is a much more personal book where the author describes his experiences.

I would recommend this book as a follow up to those who read "thinking fast and slow" or to those who prefer a more narrative approach and a shorter book.
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on 9 December 2013
This book is just fascinating, and totally made me start thinking about things in another way. Although he does approach things from a "behavioural economics" angle, his language and manner are so engaging, even for those of us who would never claim to be an economist in a million years! Who would have thought that lego and Ikea could help explain our behaviour so well?!
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on 22 February 2015
This is a great book written in a very humble and down to earth way. We are shown how biases influence our behaviour and way of thinking. The author has been severely injured in his youth this is very regrettable but he has learnt so much by it and we learn with him. He looks at us and himself in an uncompromising way with humour and great empathy.
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24 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2010
The book starts off with a questionable link between high bonuses and poor performance. There are so many issues with this chapter alone, so many holes which can be poked in this research (incomparable timeframes for starters), that I nearly stopped reading.

It then follows with mostly obvious observations, such as why internet dating websites have low success rates, why people are naturally biased towards their own ideas and productions, revenge, empathy, labour, and our adaptability - issues essentially discussed in plenty of other books.

Marketing wise, this book has been positioned as an integration of popular psychology and economics, and whilst some credence can be laid to this claim (it partially attempts to de-construct the efficient market hypothesis), it is a shallow integration at best.

If you're new to popular psychology, it serves as a decent introduction. But for anyone else, I wouldn't recommend it.
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