Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Upside of Irrationality (2010) by Dan Ariely, A Book Review

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home (2010)
by Dan Ariely

"Human beings are irrational," said the author. We human thought (mostly unconscious) that we are objective, rational and logical. We take pride in the ‘fact' that we make decisions based on reason. When we decide to invest our money, buy a home or books, choose restaurants for dinner, or pick a medical treatment, we usually assume that the choices we make are the right ones. Ariely observes, "We are all susceptible to a formidable array of decision biases. There are more of them than we realize, and they come to visit us more often than we like to admit." This book attempt to show us the many ways in which we act irrationally while thinking what we're doing makes perfect sense, and how this irrational behavior can actually be beneficial as long as we use it the right way.

You see, sometimes being irrational has its advantages (as the author keep on emphasized throughout the book). In our optimized world trying to make 100% rational decisions all of the time seems tempting, and most people would probably adopt a robot-like decision-making ability in a heartbeat if they could. Ariely argues that this isn't the best solution, for much of what makes us irrational is also what makes us human and allows us to connect with one another. "Rather than strive for perfect rationality, we need to appreciate those imperfections that benefits us, recognize the ones we would like to overcome, and design the world around us in a way that takes advantage of our incredible abilities while overcoming some of our limitations," said Ariely.

In this book, he asked rational-vs-irrational-based questions such as: Why large bonuses actually make us less productive? Why is revenge so important for us? Why there is such a big difference between what we 'think' will make us happy and what 'really' makes us happy? How to enjoy your work? Why we overvalue what we make? Why 'my' ideas are better than 'yours' regardless of its quality and brilliance?  Why we get used to things even though it is sometimes irrational to do so? Why does an online dating fail? Why we shouldn't act on our negative feelings? Why do we respond to one person who needs help but not too many? And many more. Some questions are common sense, but sometimes we don't really know what's the thinking and motives behind those actions and responses. Here Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics, social scientist, answered these questions based on his (and partners) researches and experiments. These may sound technical and somewhat boring to some – but not so. If Ariely wrote it, he wrote it with clarity, easy to understand and fun. It's not overrated if I say that this book is FUN to read.

I want to write a chapter by chapter summary of this book, but I found that a responder, Poonam had done a great job doing it. So I would like to refer to you to Poonam's review [CLICK HERE]. Dan Ariely first book Predictably Irrational (2008) was a success but I haven't read it. I bet it is as good as this one. I plan to read The Honest Truth About Dishonesty (2012) on the subject of lying in the near future. If you like Malcolm Gladwell's or Adam Grant's books, you will surely like Dan Ariely's… Perhaps you'll love Ariely more. Like I do.  

[P.S: If you want to have a ‘taste’ of Dan Ariely, watch him on YouTube and TED Talks videos.]

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