Ariely - Book Reviews

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Predictably Irrational
Dan Ariely
HarperCollins
Nonfiction, Human Psychology
****

DESCRIPTION: Human beings, despite what the poets say, are imperfect and irrational beings. We jump at the word “Free!” even when a simple pause for calculation reveals the hidden costs. We waste time, effort, emotion, and money keeping options open in our lives that no longer serve us. We respond to placebos exactly as we respond to actual medication or treatment. We do things in the heat of the moment which, with a cool head, we’d never imagine ourselves capable of. We justify and rationalize and deliberately turn a blind eye to our own behavior, even when it harms others and ourselves. But why?
The author, a professor at MIT, has spent years studying how well-intentioned and intelligent people can repeatedly and consistently make poor choices… and how a little awareness can help dramatically.

REVIEW: This is one of those books explaining something most of us know intuitively, but never took seriously. “Of course,” you say,”we all do stupid things, but does it matter?” Yes, Ariely argues, it most certainly does, especially when so many institutions are based upon unrealistic models of human behavior. While many assume that, given the choice, people always take the most cost-effective and beneficial choice despite temporary irrational impulses, this book demonstrates that such assumptions are not only unrealistic but potentially harmful. He isn’t justifying outlandish or crudely deviant behavior, but pointing out – through studies clearly explained and outlined – how even “everyday” irrationality is both commonplace and costly. Despite the very real damages and dangers, demonstrated time and again in study after study, surprisingly few people take this well-known aspect of human behavior into consideration when making policies or laws, or even designing education courses. It makes for interesting reading.

You might also enjoy:
Unbound (Richard L Currier, Nonfiction - Explore eight pivotal technologies, from "digging sticks" to the digital revolution, that have transformed our species and our planet)
Hey Idiot!: Chronicles of Human Stupidity (Leland Gregory, Nonfiction - Stupid human behavior and dumb laws)
The Motivation Myth (Mattison Grey and Jonathan Manske, Nonfiction - The real secret to motivating employees, co-workers, friends, and relatives)
Hocus Pocus, You're Focused! (Arthur Laud, Nonfiction - How to rein in and redirect the chronically wandering mind)
You Are Not So Smart (David McRaney, Nonfiction - 48 ways the human brain deceives itself)
The Darwin Awards (Wendy Northcut, Nonfiction/Fiction - Real and urban legend illustrations of irrational behavior)
Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (Bill Nye, Nonfiction - The popular scientist explains what evolution is, and why it's important)
Animal Farm (George Orwell, Fiction - Dreaming of a free republic, animals on an English farm revolt)
Create Your Own Conspiracy Theory (Charles Senescall, Fiction - How to start a profitable conspiracy theory in your spare time)
Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift, Fiction - An 18th-century Englishman relates voyages to strange lands with stranger inhabitants and customs, in a sharp satire of human irrationality)
Last Ape Standing (Chip Walter, Nonfiction - A look at the evolution of homonins, and the physical and mental innovations that led to modern humans)

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