Book Review: Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely

Book Review

About the author: Dan Ariely is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. Three of his books, The Upside of IrrationalityThe Honest Truth about Dishonesty and Predictably Irrational has been the New York Times bestsellers. He is also the founder of the centre for Advanced Hindsight and a visiting professor at MIT’s Media Lab.

In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely discusses how the human brain is wired to take repeated irrational decisions despite being exposed to similar prior experiences. He walks the readers through a series of anecdotes and experiments explaining how even in the highest of our senses, humans tend to cave to irrational behaviours especially when he/she is a consumer.

The plot of the book is highly intriguing for the people who likes to explore this area. Though the redundant presentation is a downside, the book is a light and exciting read for those of us who wants to explore the real self and understand the way our brain works. Introducing with his personal experience of facing the biases of irrationality during his time at a hospital, Dan Ariely covers the different aspects in detail, with the help of simple and relative examples and experiments. The characters, most of whom are samples of his experiments can be related to our own self but may not find the reader attached to them. The author goes into detail about the different behaviours/ways humans are prone to irrationality, through various interesting experiments, which is explained in the 13 chapters that constitute the content of the book.

Dan also explains the concept of Behavioural Economics and explains it as opposed to standard Economics. He goes in-depth on how conventional behaviours are a result of preconceived notions and the immediate environment we are exposed to. The various instances captured also proves how personal choices or consumer behaviour changes with respect to the comparisons and how this directly leads to the benefit of many marketers. Walking us through not only hilarious but also thought-provoking incidents (experiments), Dan explains the ‘emotional surge of FREE!’ and how the cost of zero, in fact, isn’t zero. Likewise, a series of incidents narrates how unbelievingly irrational we are, yes, including me, falling for wrong decisions.

The book is simply a casual 2 – 3 days read (depends), which humorously captures the irrationality shown by people over psychologically appealing factors. Though, one suggestion would be to change the presentation style, as the readers may want to fast forward to the next section if they know what is coming. Despite this redundancy affecting the interest, the real-life experiments give the whole bundle a spin, making readers anticipate the results. If there are some pointers to take from, here they are:

  • A series of relatable experiments on how people might act upon situations, which could be of use for correcting our decisions when we come across a similar one. 
  • How big a fool your mind can make you? No offence but, the reading is quite funny. And how you can escape such incidents in the future.
  • A guide to keep, for understanding how your behaviour affects your financial decisions, understand procrastination, in turn benefitting an increase of money, time and productivity.
  • A must-read for shopaholics, marketing professionals, people in search of potential partners, et al. 
  • A comprehensive record of all significant human behaviours in personal, social, and economic settings. It also explores how moral standards takes a new face when money comes in the bay.
  • An interesting chapter dedicated to the famous Placebo Effect.

Overall, the author Dan Ariely covers the basic, yet complex human nature in the simple language and the best possible way with several anecdotes, experiments, and pun-intends! In the end, behavioural economists prove how human nature is vulnerable to irrelevant influences from their immediate environment. A good read if you are interested to identify your real self.

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