Review: The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
Title: The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic
Author: Ariely, Dan
Length: 334 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Behavioral Science
Publisher / Year: Harper Perennial / 2010
Source: From the publisher for review
Why I Read It: It sounded interesting.
Date Read: 28/09/11
This was a fun popular science book that explores how illogical we humans really are. The experiments discussed in the book include bonuses and how large bonuses don’t work, the necessity of meaning at work, why we prize the things we make even when they are of lesser quality, idea bias (mine is better than yours), why we like revenge, why we adapt so easily, adaptation in mating, how online dating fails, why we are crap at giving to charities that help many, and why we shouldn’t act rashly when angry. As you can see there are a huge range of different situations discussed, and each was a lot of fun.
Ariely gives a good overview of behavioral economics in the introduction, saying on page 10:
[...] this is what behavioral economics is about – figuring out the hidden forces that shape our decisions, across many different domains, and finding solutions to common problems that affect our personal, business, and public lives.
As I love knowing why people act and think the way that they do, I was fairly certain that I would find the experiments contained within fascinating – and I really did. Some of the experiments and results were obvious I felt (like that people seem to always be willing to help that one person injured or in need rather than solve large problems or donate to disasters). Some of them, however, were really interesting and really made me think about how I make my own decisions.
Ariely did a great job of explaining why the experiments were created, and why their results matter. Behavioral economics is an interesting field and one that I would love to read more about. I love how relevant the author really makes it in explaining. My only quibble with the book is something that most people will enjoy. Ariely writes in a more conversational manner, sometimes throwing out sentences such as “As I’m sure you guessed [...]” and so on. For some reason I don’t like when authors talk directly to the reader like that in science books.
As most people do like that though, the more narrative tone, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys non-fiction or who likes knowing why humans act the way that we do.