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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Priceless!
This is the latest in a long line of excellent popular science books by William Poundstone. Its topic is "behavioural decision theory", the study of how individuals make systematically irrational decisions in choice situations, risky gambles (where the probabilities are known), and uncertain gambles (where probabilities are unknown).

A lot of this field has...
Published on 5 Feb 2011 by DigiTAL

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Too many anecdotes and much biographical information, not enough ideas
As with many of these types of book, the whole thing could have been condensed into 20 pages or so, but has been expanded to over 200. Far too much anecdotal and biographical detail about various economists and psychologists and too little in the way of useful or interesting concepts.
Published 11 days ago by The Philosopher


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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Priceless!, 5 Feb 2011
This is the latest in a long line of excellent popular science books by William Poundstone. Its topic is "behavioural decision theory", the study of how individuals make systematically irrational decisions in choice situations, risky gambles (where the probabilities are known), and uncertain gambles (where probabilities are unknown).

A lot of this field has focused on the latter two segments: decision making under risk and uncertainty. This was in some ways due to a methodological quirk, as these two scenarios were much easier to test with experiments, questionnaires, and real-life data.

Poundstone covers both these areas, but he also looks at how some companies are beginning to exploit consumers' common irrationalities. For instance, a fundamental axiom of rational choice theory is the "independence of irrelevant alternatives". Say you are choosing between good A and good B. Adding a third good to the choice menu -- good C -- shouldn't affect your original choice between good A and good B. Say you initially chose good A from the set {A,B}; then, the independence of irrelevant alternatives states that you shouldn't then choose good B from the set {A,B,C} (although you could choose C).

This axiom frequently gets violated in the real world, and clever marketers are wising up to this. Say you are choosing from two vacuum cleaners: a very cheap cleaner (A), and a more expensive model (B). In this case many people would choose A. However, the company can alter your choice by adding a third vacuum cleaner: an incredibly expensive state of the art model costing thousands of pounds (C). Even if you will never buy this new vacuum cleaner (it is an irrelevant alternative), it can still alter your choice: by comparison it will make model B seem much less expensive than before, and will make A seem like a shoddy bargain basement model. The mere presence of C has shifted consumers into spending much more money on vacuum cleaners than they did before, even if nobody buys C.

This book is a lot of fun and well worth the read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The price of this book is, well, priceless...!, 7 Nov 2010
If you run a business you need this book. Simple as that. It is, as the title says, priceless. The reason is not that the book tells you how to calculate your prices. Rather it challenges your very thinking about pricing and the strategies and models you might use. Far too many businesses either use guesswork or fancy calculations on pricing that merely dress up that guesswork. This book unravels that methodology and with the help of some fascinating studies shows you what people really are prepared to pay for - and how much. The book goes beyond pricing, as such, and looks at the whole notion of value.

In addition to the great content of this book - all backed up with solid research and references - it is also immensely readable. Indeed, it is broken down into 55 short chapters, so you can read it in bit-sized chunks.

Priceless does not provide you with practical pricing advice, but it certainly makes you think and will definitely help you re-think your pricing models so you can gain more profit. That alone is priceless advice - yet you only have to pay £12.99 for it...!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The construction of value, 22 Jan 2010
As someone who works in pricing, a book on what constitutes 'fair' value got my immediate attention. The main message is that there is no such thing in absolute terms. What is considered fair will depend on the context, and this context can be manipulated to increase the perception of fairness. While the book does contain some ideas you could implement, it is not a pricing handbook.

The book gives an overview of the field of behavioural economics in so far as it relates to pricing/valuation. If you've read a bit on the work of Kahneman, Tversky, Ariely, Thaler, ... you'll already be familiar with most of its contents. The book's merit lies in the selection it makes within this broad area of knowledge and the author's own observations.

It is set up as a series of short chapters that deal with a specific concept (priming, anchoring, ...), a specific application (99 cent pricing, Free!, ...) or an exploration of influencing factors (intelligence, race, gender, ...).

It's written in an entertaining anecdotal style that doesn't require any previous knowledge on the part of the reader. Anyone interested in understanding how humans can be influenced to find certain prices more attractive will benefit from reading this book. Once you've read this book you'll never look at a restaurant menu in the same way again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book, 24 Feb 2010
By 
"'Menus,' he said, 'are supposed to be the classic example of free choice, but menu designers have found that there're many ways of getting you to order what the restaurant wants you to order' -- the most profitable dishes, presumably. The techniques he laid out are fascinating: a box drawn around certain items, for instance, always draws the eyes -- and attention -- there. This might mean these dishes best highlight the kitchen's skills, or, more likely, they make the restaurant the most money: The ingredient cost is low, or maybe they take the least staff time to prepare. But, more subtly, the box might not simply be encouraging you to order whatever's in it. 'There are places where there's a $150 hamburger,' Poundstone said. "The first thing everyone does is shake their head. But then you go down the menu, suddenly the $50 steak doesn't seem so outrageous." Our sense of value is always relative, and a technique like this, which gets you over your sticker shock early, can skew that sense just enough for you to find yourself saying, 'I'll have the steak medium rare, please.'"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy one get one free, 18 April 2012
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This review is from: Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value (Paperback)
Two themes in this book are picked up in this book which together make it really most readable.
There is a bit of pop psychology that explains how people respond & expect different prices & appreciate the value of things depending on context. I used some of the ideas the following week in pay negotiations at work thefollowing week. It didn't get me any more money because the decisions had already been taken but it could have so maybe next year....

There was a fascinating short chapter in menu
design & layout but Unfortunatly I didn't make a good impression on my dining companion when I started explaining how the menu at the fancy restaurant we were in knew how to extract the highest prices! The book tells this in a much more engaging way than I did.

The 'get one free' part of the book goes beyond the quantified tests that back up these ideas & looks at the frankly loopy (sorry, i mean driven) characters who have developed these ideas mostly in universities & good fun it is

I suspect some people moght struggle with a whole book on either theme but putting the 2 together made it a highly palatable read & I certainly learnt some valuable (not sure priceless) lessons. A strong contender as a different business book that is not another rerun of what part of the brain is creative & what part is rational
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Priceless!, 9 Feb 2012
This review is from: Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value (Paperback)
This book has really changed how I view mundane transactions such as ordering off a menu, house pricing, jury decisions and negotiating job offers. I found it a very good mix of theory and practical info, with anecdotes which are memorable and I've passed on to others. I would highly recommend the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read - though provoking, 28 Jan 2012
This review is from: Priceless (Kindle Edition)
Very interesting and though provoking book. A bit repetitive in parts but full of fascinating research on the psychology of how we view values, risk and make choices. Not a practical guide to sales or marketing but a study of the underlying unconcious processes we go though and how they can be used to manipulate our buying choices. Well worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book which is easy to read and full of real life examples, 28 Sep 2014
By 
Mr. Leslie O. Green (Oxford (UK)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value (Paperback)
This is an excellent book which is easy to read and full of real life examples. If you have read about the work of Kahneman and Tversky, and have a passing familiarity with Prospect Theory and Behavioural Finance then you will perhaps have covered some of this material before. Nevertheless I can’t down-rate the book just because you are widely read!

The physical book is well constructed with clear typeface on matt paper, but the drawings are disappointingly bad (blurry and close to unreadable in places). The book says it is printed and bound in Finland at the front, but near the back it says it is printed in Great Britain by Amazon!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 15 Nov 2011
By 
Matthew Leitch (Epsom, Surrey, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value (Paperback)
The great value of a book like this is in sparing us the chore of obtaining and reading a huge pile of academic journal papers, many of which are useless, in order to filter out the real nuggets. That's what the author has done and brilliantly. I even quite liked the little bits of personal information about some of the better known researchers.

This is one of those rare books that I read all the way through, and took notes from.

Some of the material can be, and has been, exploited by marketing and sales people to screw more profit from customers by taking advantage of our weaknesses. However, that and other material in the book can also be used to help us defend against such exploitation. I particularly appreciated the occasional nugget directed specifically at how to overcome our weaknesses.
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5.0 out of 5 stars simply fab, 23 May 2014
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This review is from: Priceless (Kindle Edition)
This was an excellent read! Couldn't put it down. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in behavioural economics.
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Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value
Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value by William Poundstone (Paperback - 2 Jun 2011)
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