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Customer Review

119 of 125 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be put off by the words "business" or "economics", 24 Feb. 2008
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This review is from: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions (Hardcover)
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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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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Mar 2008 09:21:27 GMT
JWS says:
Hey Stephen, do you know that Ariely is going to give a lecture in the LSE on Behavioural Economics: Common Mistakes in Daily Decisions. I think you can go there and ask him questions. Good luck!

Date: Monday 17 March 2008
Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building
Speaker: Professor Dan Ariely
Chair: Professor Lawrence Phillips

Why do smart people make irrational decisions every day? Why do we repeatedly make the same mistakes when we make our selections? How do our expectations influence our actual opinions and decisions? The answers, as revealed by behavioural economist Professor Dan Ariely of MIT, will surprise you. This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Mar 2008 13:53:14 GMT
SAP says:
That's tomorrow! There are probably people camping outside the building already...

Posted on 9 Jan 2009 01:13:21 GMT
S. Middleton says:
I don't think that detailed descriptions of experimental procedures would really be justified in a popular psychology book, although of course from an academic point of view they would be helpful. Most people don't care about those kinds of things and are happy to trust the author. Academic papers can often be hard to read due to the level of detail and precision in the language, which would be out of place in a book aimed at the general public (most of whom wouldn't understand the difference between "a statistically significant majority" & "most" in drawing conclusions). If the studies he cites are from reputable journals, then the chances are the methodology was OK, as the strict peer review procedures of most journals weed out the really dodgy research, although of course that doesn't mean all such published results should be taken as gospel! Good scientists deal in hypotheses & probabilities, a level of subtlety that the non-scientist often doesn't grasp, so it's easier to make general statements based on simple explanations in books for the general public.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Mar 2009 00:36:53 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2009 21:17:05 BDT
Mr. T. White says:
I mostly agree with S. Middleton, only insofar as it would be inappropriate to put detailed sources into the main body of the text in a book aimed at general readers. However, I disagree inasmuch as more detailed footnotes, descriptions and references could have been added and/or put into the book's end-pages. Just witness how excellently Haidt did same in his Happiness Hypothesis. Yet said book is by no means weighed down by its many quoted sources and explanations: they are there, nonetheless, if one so chooses to look for them. That being said, by no means is this book uninteresting and I am currently enjoying reading it very much. I hope to give it a 5 star review when I've finished.
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