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Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home Paperback – 1 Jun 2011
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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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‘We overvalue our work’ (p. 83). People who were taught origami and shown how to construct paper cranes or frogs, judged their creations as a lot more valuable than other people did. The implications for teachers are huge: project work of all kinds is a lot better than getting students to do endless exercises – the latter are not something they can take pride in, as they feel their contribution is too small (see also: YouTube: Psychology and ELT – The IKEA Effect).
‘Having created something, we want people to see it’ (p. 53). In a fantastic experiment, people told to construct Lego robots lost interest a lot faster when the robots were dismantled as soon as they had completed them than when they were told they would be disassembled later. The moral: although students may get all the linguistic benefits from having their essay/story marked and returned, in terms of motivation it makes a huge difference for us to display it in class (see also: YouTube: Psychology and ELT – The Pursuit of Meaning).
‘We prefer our own ideas to those of others’ (p. 107). In an amazing study, subjects favoured the ideas they had generated themselves, even when it was in fact the researchers who had given them these ideas in sentences a little while earlier! The moral for us is clear: rather than assigning H/W for instance, why not ask the students themselves what they would think it would be best for the class to do? (see also: YouTube: Psychology and ELT – The NIH Bias).
‘Short-term emotions can have long-term effects’ (p. 257). Here is how it works: we may be angry with our partner one day; we go to class; we snap at the students and we are unusually strict with them; the lesson is a failure. Later we reflect on the experience. Are we honest with ourselves? Of course not! Instead we try to justify our behaviour telling ourselves that we displayed the necessary firmness. But this ‘narrative’ actually impacts on our future behaviour; next time we are far more likely to be strict again! (A clear warning to all of us there... - see also: YouTube: Psychology and ELT – Emotions).
OK – here is my favourite, discovery: ‘habituation: we get used to things’ (p. 157). And now for the amazing, counter-intuitive implication for maximising satisfaction: ‘Pleasant activities – break them up; unpleasant ones – just get them over with’! So tell your partner, it makes sense to stop that massage every 2 min or so and then start all over again! :-)
From that perspective this book is an excellent read for those that want to understand cheating and lying, importantly even lying to ourselves. The author arguments wery well how the traditional economists' model of looking for self interest does not work for lying or cheating. He shows very convincingly that we all cheat by a little bit, while trying to keep a good self-image of ourselves. More interestingtly, he explores, through experimentation, what factors influence cheating, some reducing it, others increasing it. In short, if you have not read any book from Dan Ariely yet and you are interested in the subject of cheating and lying, this is a very nice book.
Now, I have read Dan Ariely's two previous books and I was slightly disappointed for a couple of reasons. First there is a significant amount of material that was already covered in previous books. Second, compared to the other two, this book feels rather "light". Knowing the other two books I expected more content.
I would give it 3.5 stars, but because I had to choose between 3 and 4, I give it 4, thinking especially about those who have not yet read any book from this author.
The author describes the results of thousands of experiments that he has conducted to show in what situations we are likely to cheat or lie and by how much. For example are we more or less likely to lie about how we did in a test if we know we cannot be caught? Or if there is monetary reward on offer? Or if we work in a group with complete strangers? The experiments are clearly explained and easy to follow. The results do seem predictable, but perhaps that is only in hindsight having read the explanation.
They raise some very interesting questions and real life applications, and the author seems to enjoy relating these to business situations. It really does make you consider your real life interactions and the behaviour of yourself and others, for example when your dentist tells you that you need an expensive filling, in what situation would he be exaggerating about the benefits it would bring to you? If you were seeing him for the first time, or if you had a long standing relationship?
I have to admit that I do have my reservations about social science experiments. I feel they can be set up in a way to fit whatever the person conducting the experiment wants to show. (Is this being dishonest!??) My other criticism of the book is that it does become a little repetitive and most of my enjoyment came from reading those first 30 pages in the book shop.
All in all an interesting read and I may well pick up Dan Ariely's earlier books that seem to have very favourable reviews.