The second book I finished this year as part of my personal "book a week" challenge was "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely. I'm also happy to report that our new initiative seems to have seriously motivated my 12-year-old son, who finished a 400-page book in two days. :)
Despite the fact that we have many hundreds of books in our home, I still find myself unable to enter a book store without making at least one purchase. This was the case when I was recently meeting a client at Barnes and Noble, and I had a few minutes to browse before he arrived. I was in the business/marketing section, then the best sellers caught my eye. There was a book called "The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home", which is the type of thing that I actually like to read for entertainment.
On the cover, it mentioned an older book by Ariely, which is the one I decided to buy and read first. Now that I've finished, I can't wait to buy his latest one.
In a nutshell, "Irrational" covers the way that people make decisions in all areas of life - medical care, social situations, college exams, and many more. It also addresses faulty logic and mistakes we make when we are deciding things. Many times, even though we know that there is no difference in two products or services, we will irrationally demonstrate more pleasure from the more expensive one. This seems illogical, but we are pretty much powerless against it, based on the data in this book.
I especially liked the fact that Ariely used a major medical issue that he himself endured (badly burned over 70% of his body) to illustrate some of the lessons throughout the book. This personal touch made it more memorable and "real" to me.
Some of his experiments are fascinating, including one in which free beer samples are given to entire tables at a pub, and the customers must choose from among four options. Surprisingly, most people are heavily influenced by what their friends order, and they will almost always try to be unique with their decision, rather than copying what their friends have. After tallying the satisfaction data, only the very first person to order at each table was truly happy with his/her decision.
The applications to real world problems are worth considering. One quick example: Ariely discusses the fact that placebos often provide as much relief to patients as surgical intervention, which raises the question of how many medical procedures are conducted without proper testing and how many are fully unnecessary. Also, most people are happiest with their medical care when they have paid more for it. Why is that?
As a longtime psychologist hobbyist, I found the studies engrossing and informational. I love learning about why people do things, and how we are influenced by our surroundings.
It's a fast, thought-provoking read, and I would recommend picking up a copy on Amazon or at your local bookstore.
Thanks for reading!