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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions Paperback – 13 May 2009
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'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
‘A marvelous book that is both thought provoking and highly entertaining, ranging from the power of placebos to the pleasures of Pepsi. Ariely unmasks the subtle but powerful tricks that our minds play on us, and shows us how we can prevent being fooled.’ Jerome Groopman, New York Times bestselling author of How Doctors Think
‘PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL is wildly original. It shows why―much more often than we usually care to admit―humans make foolish, and sometimes disastrous, mistakes. Ariely not only gives us a great read; he also makes us much wiser.’ George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2001 Koshland Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley
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Original material - not a conglomeration of material cobbled together from a range of other people's books as what seems to be somewhat commonplace at the moment.
Useful information for marketers and what's more, it is well written. I enjoyed this book's intelligent approach to the subject matter, the range of topics that the author covered, the explanations and the way the considerations are given by the author to the research results.
Top international reviews
GET THIS BOOK. That's it.
A BRILLIANT read. Irrespective of what you do, you must read this textbook of human behaviour & how amazingly complex our minds are decisions are.
A sample of what's inside:
Consider an experiment on 100 students based on an old subscription model of The Economist magazine, offering:
Option 1 - a web subscription for $59
Option 2 - a print subscription for $125
Option 3 - a web & print subscription for $125
16 students chose Option 1
0 students chose Option 2 (obvious!!)
84 students chose Option 3.
Revenue earned = $11,444.
The author then removed Option 2 (Print sub for $125) Results:
68 students chose Option 1
32 students went for Option 3Revenue earned = $8,012
What could have possibly changed their minds? It was the mere presence of THE DECOY (2nd option) that made them buy MORE expensive options in the 1st experiment & less in the 2nd experiment.
The book is replete with such experiments. Also, real-life examples of human behaviour when it comes to product pricing (including 'anchoring'), buying houses, cheating, Starbucks Upsells, what Ford learned from Toyota about Car servicing and too many brilliant quotes.
Although people aren’t rational, they aren’t randomly irrational, either. Instead, they are predictably irrational, in a way that can be studied and measured, and be built into a more realistic economic theory: behavioural economics.
Dan Ariely, psychologist and behavioural economist, engagingly describes a range of experiments he and his colleagues has performed (mostly on undergraduate students, in the time-honoured experimental psychology manner) to unpick a wide range patterns of irrationality. He looks at the over-strong lure of free items, how we overvalue our possessions, how keeping options open can be a mistake, why shops will often display an expensive option they don’t expect to sell, why we are happy to do things for free we wouldn’t do if paid for, how more expensive items are more effective than identical cheaper ones, how dishonesty varies when cash is involved, how some people choose second best, and more.
I found the chapter on free work versus paid work interesting, the difference being between social norms and market norms. The world is moving us towards the latter, seemingly to the detriment of enjoyment. Similarly the chapter on honesty highlights how people are more honest when cash is involved: while taking a pencil from work is barely noticed, taking the equivalent value in cash would be beyond the pale. Yet we are moving towards a cashless world, maybe to the detriment of honesty?
This is a good read, with the experiments clearly described, and the context and consequences well explained. I am not entirely convinced that the experimental situations, with their small values and low consequences, can be safely extrapolated to larger scale cases, but they are very illuminating. Several of the examples will be useful to help avoid faulty reasoning in certain cases. (Although I already order what I want from the menu, whether or not someone else in the party has previously ordered the same.)
In one of the amazing studies in the book he shows for instance that the way we ‘frame’ something (p. 41) often determines how others are going to take it (remember Tom Sawyer and how he got his friends to paint that wall? For classroom management purposes, this is crucial; if we introduce activities saying ‘Now, this may hurt a little...’ chances are students are going to feel the pain!)
This leads to the hugely important subject – expectations: quick Q: would you like a beer with a drop of balsamic vinegar in it? (p. 159) A: It depends on whether you know it in advance or not! If you do, chances are you are going to dislike it. Expectations colour perceptions. How many times has this prejudiced us against certain students?
Ariely’s interests range from beverages to education. Here is another Q for you: which students have better results: those who are free to choose their own deadlines, or those where the professor ‘democratically’ decides for everyone? Incredibly, it is the latter! (p. 115) This finding may go against our cherished beliefs, but in fact it ties in very smoothly with notions of ‘ego depletion’ (Baumeister). The very process of deciding exhausts us, with the result that we are both more stressed and produce poorer-quality work.
Ariely writes in the simple, effortless and straightforward style that you find among people with a real command of their subject. Rather than bombarding the reader with studies and facts, he goes through each experiment in detail, ensuring that the reader manages to grasp the key concept in all its fine details. He then goes on to consider the possible applications of the findings in various fields of life – not just work. Yet what I like best about this book is that he also uses examples from his own life – sometimes funny, sometimes poignant.
OK – now here is one last idea from the book: a little ‘conjuring trick’ for shamelessly manipulating students (pp 9 – 10): You give them a choice for homework: they can read a long article or they can write a short essay. But you really want them to write that essay. Piece of cake – you give them a third option; writing an even longer text! Now, nobody is going to choose that, right? Yes, but because the short essay is better than the long one, students also assume it’s preferable to the article too! Brilliant!! :-)
NOTE: Please do not remove your head and look inside for comparative purposes.
In all seriousness, this book blew me away, by demonstrating aspects of human behaviour which is hard-wired into us. You will be shocked - I was - by just how easy we can be manipulated, and you'll be nodding along as you recognise all the times when you've fallen foul of these precise conditions. Even wondered why it takes you an hour to decide between brands of painkillers, when one is cheaper but the other is on special...? If you have, then man up and stick a plaster on it. But also, read this book, because it will tell you exactly why you find it so damn difficult to make that choice. It won't help you the next time you've got a pounding headache and Nurofen is half-off but still twice the price of ADSA's own bran paracetamol, but at least then you'll understand. And if your head explodes, and covers passers-by in pinky, drippy bits, try and have a look before you expire - I reckon it'll look just like this cover.
"Thinking fast and slow" by Daniel kahneman, is the best, but "Predictably Irrational" is still worth a 5 star rating.
I really enjoyed the book as it was an easy read but still interesting - taking a complicated subject and simplifying it. Some of the criticism between Kahneman's thinking fast and slow and predictable irrational is the over simplification but this worked for me due to limited time to sit, read and understand the ideas put forward, sure I will read Kahneman's for a deeper understanding in the future.
Prior to this I really enjoyed Blink (Gladwell) and I’m currently reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Cialdini) in a similar way.
Genuinely insightful and a must read for those who want to know how we can improve our daily decision making
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Behaviour science and economics. Must read book.
Overall an interesting book to read.