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Predictably Irrational

The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
Narrated by: Simon Jones
Length: 7 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (564 ratings)

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Summary

Why do our headaches persist after taking a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a 50-cent aspirin? Why does recalling the 10 Commandments reduce our tendency to lie, even when we couldn't possibly be caught? Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save 25 cents on a can of soup? Why do we go back for second helpings at the unlimited buffet, even when our stomachs are already full? And how did we ever start spending $4.15 on a cup of coffee when, just a few years ago, we used to pay less than a dollar?

When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we're in control. We think we're making smart, rational choices. But are we? In a series of illuminating, often surprising experiments, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. Blending everyday experience with groundbreaking research, Ariely explains how expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities.

Not only do we make astonishingly simple mistakes every day, but we make the same types of mistakes, Ariely discovers. We consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. We fail to understand the profound effects of our emotions on what we want, and we overvalue what we already own. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They're systematic and predictable - making us predictably irrational.

From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, Ariely explains how to break through these systematic patterns of thought to make better decisions. Predictably Irrational will change the way we interact with the world - one small decision at a time.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2008 Dan Ariely (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

enjoyed each time I listened

Book chosen at relative random but loved it regardless. Could relate to some of the findings from this I have changed my buying and decision making processes.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An interesting and documented perspective.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. It has many resonant and interesting angles on the truth behind decision making. A brave attempt at using 'scientific' methods. Quote marks indicate a hint of scepticism over how conclusive small scale complex experiments can be. Much evidence is subjective and too much is anecdotal padding which must be disregarded. Sad to see Ariely quoted recently in defence of Facebook's secret experiments given the level of consent and transparency his own academic research has required. I don't think he would be best pleased.

What did you like best about this story?

It evidences the way so many important decisions are made by people - namely badly.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Inappropriate question.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Stupid human.

Any additional comments?

One of the best non fiction books currently on audible.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it

I love how humans are irrational but think they are rational generally.

Good if you like to quote facts to your friends,spouses and colleagues :)

Sort of thing you might like if you liked freakonomics.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Well worth a read

I found this book highly insightful, and well worth a read. There are a few chapters where he presents some findings but doesn't really come to any conclusions, but mostly it's a very interesting take on how our irrational behaviour works in specific instances.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb

Although I was already aware of much of the information presented - because I have an interest in the subject - and there is a great deal of info on this subject - this is a superbly well written book and beautifully read

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Science Factual

This book is excellently constructed, and what an inspired choice of reader in Simon Jones, Arthur Dent from the BBC original Hitch-Hicker's Guide to the Galaxy on Radio 4. Although this is a serious text in its message, it is charming to have a humorous edge given by a a good actor. Ariely's message is enhanced by this presentation, a great pleasure to listen to.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting

This is an excellent book. It uses the author's research to point out why we act in such Irrational ways. There are some very interesting ideas which should prove useful to most people at some point in their lives. The reader is easy to listen to as well.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Thought provoking,

Fantastic book really makes you think about the world around you.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Sheer pleasure!

Not read a book recently that gave me a lot to think about and pleasure. Would highly recommend it to anyone.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book. One of the best I've read recently

This is really an exceptionally insightful book with many practical examples of how to improve our lives and those of other people by being more rational in our everyday life. A must read to all intelligent creatures on this planet!

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephen
  • 18-03-08

Well researched, well written, & well read

"Behavioral economics" - what this book is about - is the missing link between economic theory and how real consumers behave. More than a fascinating glimpse into our irrational decision-making processes, marketers and entrepreneurs will learn a lot about their customers.

Bonus points go to the author for actually conducting most of the research in the book (along with his MIT colleagues). Readers win because, in addition to well documented findings, we are treated to insightful and often funny stories about the studies themselves. By adding context to the research, the findings are much more memorable than dry statistics and analysis.

The narrator is thoroughly engaging and does a fabulous job telling the numerous stories and preserving the author's wit. My mind didn't wander as much, so I remembered more and rewound less.

Finally, BRAVO to the publisher and Audible for including a downloadable supplement that includes the graphs and illustrations from the print edition. THIS PRACTICE SHOULD BE STANDARD. I've listened to many non-fiction books, only to later see the print edition and discover how much visual content I missed. THANK YOU for truly delivering on the promise of audio non-fiction: spoken word text that preserves the unspoken, visual content of the author's work.

176 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Dubi
  • 20-06-16

Information Deficit

Psychologist Dan Ariely challenges the conventional economic theory of Rational Choice. Relying on experiments conducted mostly on college students, Ariely uncovers seemingly irrational behavior like procrastination, dishonesty, the lure of the free, emotional decision making, expectations, triggers, choice manipulation, et.al.

Many of his findings ring true, but I see two serious errors that undermine his thesis. First, as the Freakonomics guys always caution, he conflates causation with correlation -- if two things appear to be correlated, that does not necessarily one causes the other, certainly not to the point where irrationality trumps rational choice.

So just because shipping is free if I buy a second book when I only logged in to buy one, that doesn't mean I'll spend an extra $12 to buy something I don't want to save $4 in shipping. I'll do it because I will eventually buy that second book anyway. That Amazon experiences a jump in sales is only temporary -- in the long run, I will buy the same number of books.

A bigger mistake is making incorrect assumptions, ascribing the violation of one assumption as the cause of the violation of another assumption, more specifically, ascribing the lack of full information as irrational behavior, and in addition failing to adequately quantify how we calculate value. Ariely says:

"Standard economics assumes we are rational -- that we know all the pertinent information about our decisions, that we can calculate the value of the different options we face, and that we are cognitively unhindered in weighing the ramifications of each potential choice... But, as the results in this book show, we are all far less rational in our decision making."

I beg to differ. In many experiments, results are often caused by lack of pertinent information than by failure to process available information rationally. The evil twin of this notion is when people are deliberately misled, manipulated into seemingly irrational choices -- poor choices based on lies or distortions (incomplete information) are not therefore irrationality.

Ariely fails to quantify the basic economic concept of utility. Why do I help my neighbor move furniture for free but bristle if he asks for free professional advice? It's purely rational if you quantify the self-gratification I get from doing a favor and knowing I can expect the same in return. Ariely dismisses lack of information and understates the value of utility, concluding instead that we act irrationally.

Failing to appreciate his thesis and his methods (in economics, experimentation on a non-representative set of subjects is no substitute for econometric evaluation of reams of readily available real-world data), I could not enjoy this book. When I listen to a comic novel, I laugh out loud as I walk down the street -- listening to this, I could be heard shouting "No!" and "Wrong!" as I walked down the street.

Nice having Simon Jones (bka Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker's Guide) narrate, but it threw me off a bit -- one line started out as "Life..." and I half expected it to continue as "the universe and everything".

20 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sara
  • 29-10-14

An Examination of Our Irrational Decisions

What a fascinating book about our choices and the reasons we make the decisions we do. If you have ever wondered why you buy things you hadn't intended on-- this is a book for you. I am hoping that just being aware of the things I do that I can see are irrational will stop because I now have more insight. We will see.

An interesting and entertaining listen.

48 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • William Stanger
  • 24-02-09

Good lessons, mediocre science?

The book contains interesting insights and valuable points that could help anyone better understand their behavior and the behavior of those around them. That said, the author cooses to attack psychological phenomenon with economic theory - an approach that completely ignored information and game theory and causes, in my opinion, fatal incompleteness to nearly every study presented in the book. For example, the author talks about giving away free $10 Amzon gift certificates in the mall, versus allowing people to purchase $20 gift certificates at a discount of more than $10. A large majority of participants opted to get te free gift certificate, even though it was worth less money. According to the author, and his economic theory, this makes no sense and the participants failed to act rationally. The author did not even briefly consider the information assymetry and its potential effect: HE knows its a real gift certificate, but as far as the participants know its a fake gift certificate, or it doesn't work right, or something is wrong with the study, they simply don't want to take their wallet out in public, or they don't want to wait for change. Trust, game, and information theory are not considered, and so many rational behaviors are hand-waved away as irrational. The author consistently fails to consider trust and information availability and the necessary impact on behaviorsin a frustrating manner.

236 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • James
  • 22-09-08

Extremely good book

This book deserves the 4-5 stars that many, many, people have given.

I almost did not purchase this title solely because another reviewer said "I read this book already, it was called Blink . . . . " This statement is false. I read Blink just prior to this title. Approximately 10 minutes, out of 7 hours and 27 minutes, is the same as Blink.

Predictably Irrational is highly recommended.

83 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Legally Bored
  • 03-09-09

Fascinating book, great narration!

It's not too often that a person can laugh out loud at a book about economic decision-making. However, this happened to me several times when I listened to this. I wish I could go back to college and study behavioral economics instead of sleeping through my psych classes.
The narrator is very fun to listen to and adds to Dan Areily's cheeky writing style. If you liked Freakonomics, you will love this book.

45 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Neale Blackwood
  • 04-05-08

Great listen

This is a great audio book. It explains a lot of human's irrational behaviour. The reading is great. It is humorous and enlightening and offers some great conversation starters eg the power of "Free". Buying this audio book was a great rational and irrational decision. Definitely worth a credit.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Elizabeth
  • 19-09-08

One of my favorite books this year

I loved almost every page of this book and can't wait to listen to it again slower, so I can remember more of the nifty experiments the author used to study psychology, economics, and the fundamentals of how we think (irrationally!). Ever bought something "on sale" that you don't need? Ever taken home something from a conference or a fair just because it's free? Need a deadline to finish projects? This book helps you understand these questions and helps to answer them.

This is the best book I've read in this genre since Freakonomics.

32 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephen
  • 07-05-09

I am predictably irrational

This is one of the best books I have read about things that influence our decision making. Why will we go out of our way to $7 on an item that costs $20 but not go out of our way to save that $7 on something that costs $200? How are influenced into choosing one of two choices by the introduction of a choice that we will not make? These observations and others are fascinating observations and psychological experiments that demonstrate how we think and act. Factors that influence our morality, cheating and decision making are presented in a way that hits home - I found my own behavior presented in almost every chapter. The author is a social psychologist that presents his concepts very clearly and in situations you will recognize. He follows ups his concepts by describing cleverly designed 'experiments' on students (typically from MIT). The experiments clearly demonstrate why choices are made in certain situations. This book is good not only for your own personal understanding of how decisions are made but should also be read by anyone who wishes to infuence how others make decisions. Great concepts for people in sales, marketing and business. If you like this genre, this is one of the best.

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ted
  • 29-11-11

Oh... yeah... interesting idea, but, um....

There's correlation and there's causation. Not sure that Ariely adequately grasps the distinction or even the direction of what causation might be connected to the correlations he discovers.

REGARDLESS - this guy's mind is fun. His ideas startle the way a corn kernel's pop does even when you're watching the pot. There's a lot more work to do in his field before we can consider that the package entirely overcomes the value to consumers of whatever's inside.He argues, I think that things other than prince cause us to scurry up or down the demand curve. But economist have always said that the position of the curve... its place in space is determined by things other than price... Consumer tastes among them. By confusing demand with quantity demanded Ariely makes a rather basic mistake... yet he is contributing to our knowledge of shifting shapes and positions of snaky curves.

Which is why I'm glad I listened and look forward to listening to more... and questioning Dr. Ariely's intriguing conclusions.


Hey... how often do we get to enjoy good questions, huh?

7 people found this helpful