The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

By Dr. Dan Ariely

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
hasbul
I appreciate the value of laboratory studies in psychology, but the book relies to heavily on a dramatization of individual cases in the author's laboratory studies. There are some interesting insights, but they are not worth reading the entire book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
meg wise
Typical of what we've come to expect from Mr. Ariely, this book pairs well established research with fresh questions, bringing us to new conclusions. Logic was held up for centuries as the height of human capacity, leading to almost all human achievement. But what if it isn't? What if the indefinable, unpredictable blend of instinct, creativity, and logic is the only way that logic can be usefully applied? What if logic is at its best when applied to creative musings, or the most unlikely of circumstances? Mr. Ariely leads us down an intellectual rabbit hole, and we come out in a better place.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brenda dickson
Dan Ariely has done it again! A fascinating book that will make you think and see the world differently! Highly recommend the book - especially if you like social sciences and behavioural economics :)
and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe :: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope - Boy Who Harnessed the Wind :: Cover of Night: A Novel :: The Honest Truth About Life - and the Business of Beauty :: To Die For (Blair Mallory)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lennar
I chose to review this literature written by Mr. Ariely solely how i was engage with the book at the first page. He give you an amazing perspective to human flaws. Pick it up. See how it relates to you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ayanna annaya
A quantitative yet thoughtful look into many of the concepts which each of us carry within us unchallenged. While not a fresh new look at our concepts of the world Dan Ariely certainly shed a different, or refreshed, new light of my thoughts.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dylan smith
Dan Ariely's writing is fascinating. This book reflects each and everyone of us, and is life changing in the way I make decisions after reading it. VERY interesting book, with tuns of examples which makes it an- easy to understand book- for every age. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
natalie hadden
Certainly an interesting book for a wide variety of readers (business, education). I would have rated higher but I found the book to be a bit tedious in spots. He covers the same ground several times. Is an interesting person doing interesting work.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sarah ensor
Dan Ariely is back with more studies on the irrational things we humans do. I'm not convinced he really makes many arguments for the upside, and the book lacks some of the punch of originality of the first. Overall, the book is very educational and entertaining.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bangquito
AFTER HAVING LISTENED TO A LECTURE BY THIS HIGHLY QUALIFIED PROFESSOR, NOW AT DUKE UNIVERSITY, I HAVE BEEN INTRIGUED BY HIS RESEARCH AND FINDINGS ABOUT HOW WE THINK AND MAKE DECISIONS. IN THIS WELL WRITTEN AND READABLE BOOK, HE EXPLAINS MANY OF HIS STUDIES AND REPORTS ON HIS RESULTS WHICH MIGHT INFLUENCE OUR OWN ACTIONS AND THINKING AS WE DEAL WITH OTHERS.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
katherine kirzinger
I found this to be light weight book about light weight science. The author's constant reference to his own serious burn injuries and treatment add little to an understanding of his themes. This would be a real problem if the themes were of any great significance or originality. They are not.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kim lacey
I am a professional economist with an interest in human nature and human institutions. I won't say I understood any less about my areas of interest after finishing "The Upside of Irrationality" but the book did not help me either. It was clever without being wise.

I had expected an elaboration of the work of Thomas Shelling (who was mentioned once) and Robert Frank ("Passions within Reason"), who was not mentioned at all. Occasionally Ariely betrays some suspicion that irrational impulses may be part of rational design, but the overall thrust of the book is to show how we can rationally overcome our irrational impulses to achieve greater good for ourselves and for mankind.

One will acquire much more insight into the nature of human rationality by spending time with Adam Smith's "Theory of Moral Sentiments" and Robert Frank's "Passion within Reason". I would recommend these to Professor Ariely as shedding more light on human nature and the human condition than clever experiments conducted in the coffee houses of Cambridge.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
charles krebs
Did not like. Its pretty much a collection of thoughts, not particularly interesting ones either. Its kind of phony calling it "economic behavioralism" when it is pretty much just a generalization of thought patterns.

I could not finish reading it because I was tired of reading the exact same thing over and over!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
inder
One of those books written by a smart academic with lots of stories, all well documented, all well written, excellent formatting. Everything about this book is first class professional. But there was nothing in it for me.

Great title, the Upside of Irrationality. Nothing I read in the book had anything to do with that title that I could apply to me.

Another way to judge a book is the difference between the used price and the new price on the store.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
buecherjenna
Having read and immensely enjoyed his previous book, "Predictably Irrational", I was really thrilled to buy the new book by Dan Ariely. I was very disappointed. The book cover is hideous and the quality of paper of the book is very poor with pages being cut in a very irregular way. But the worst disappointment is the content.
Ariely is clearly milking the success of his previous book which was well-researched and well-put together. "The Upside" makes an impression that it was written over a weekend in the hope to make a quick buck.
The case studies on human behaviour, a strong point of the previous book, are weird and towards the last chapters of the book they disappear altogether being replaced by Ariely's own subjective experiences which he then interprets as general rules for humankind.
I was really disappointed at some of the laughable conclusions he makes. For example: so poor peasants in India get really nervous if offered an equivalent of a 6-month salary for playing some stupid game well. Not surprising. You would get nervous too. Ariely's conclusion: big bonuses make CEO's less effective. What a ridiculous conclusion.
Next example: when deciding between buying a new kitchen or going on an exotic luxury holiday for the same money, go for the holiday because you will enjoy this experience more. How stupid and also irresponsible to suggest this. I absolutely disagree with this conclusion. Underlying principle he seems to recommend here: don't save just spend.
The final chapters on dating are just laughable, there is no underlying research supporting the claims Ariely makes, just a few personal anecdotes.
This book is not even worth the paper it is printed on and Ariely failed big time to live up to my expectations created by his excellent first book.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
alexa hamilton
You know those authors that just like to jibber jabber about a bunch of meaningless stuff? This is one of them. This book wastes a lot of time telling you meaningless stuff. I quit reading it way early in the book. Don't waste your money.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chad jen
From the very first paragraph of the introduction, it felt like Dan Ariely was speaking directly to me when he pointed out how difficult it is to successfully stop procrastinating, no matter how much willpower I exert. If you find human behavior intriguing and if you like personal growth, you'll like this book. Every chapter is based on experiments Ariely carried out himself.

There are descriptions of many clever and interesting experiments throughout the book. And I think learning how an experiment is done is just as fascinating as learning what the experiment showed. When a researcher wants to discover something, s/he must first invent an experiment that could successfully reveal it. I think the invention of experiments is an underappreciated art form. Sometimes when you read an experiment, you can experience a pleasurable appreciation of the brilliance of the experiment itself.

One great thing about studying sociology is that you learn things that can help you enjoy your life. It is not merely interesting. You learn how to reduce the unpleasantness of chores and how to make pleasant tasks even more enjoyable. Without trying to be, "The Upside of Rationality" ends up being a great self-help book, and I say this as an expert on the topic (I wrote the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works).

Knowing the findings of these experiments will help you make better, saner, but more counterintuitive decisions (sometimes the best decisions aren't the most obvious or natural choices). Sociology experiments have much to teach us about human nature. They are the parables or allegories of the modern age.

I don't think the title does the book justice. It should be called, "The Fascinating World of Human Nature." It is divided into two parts: Work and relationships. Although Ariely is a researcher, the book is NOT written in academic-ese. It is normal, everyday English and easy to read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
molly m
I bought this book after having read Predictably Irrational. It's discovery after discovery about how our biases lead us into making pretty funny and unwise decisions. We're full of guesswork. Indeed, we have a reason for just about everything, but as Sherlock Holmes noted, "It's a capital mistake to theorize before one has the data." Read the book and get the data to make wiser decisions.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rosie nowlin
Following up on his blockbuster hit Predictably Irrational, Ariely presents us with a whole slew of new arguments and experiments that rip apart "rational" economic assumptions. In actuality, rational economic assumptions only work on the basis of financial gain, and ignore half of the brain, the emotional half, that has a greater impact upon our decisions and actions (largely in part because it is a more primitive portion of our brains).

Chapter 1 is an entertaining look at how monetary incentives can pile on the pressure, leading to choking and sub-par performance. This seems to be true in every aspect of work, based on the most recent research we have. Ariely does proffer a solution - offer incentives every few years, rather than annually, to prevent employees from focusing on the prize towards the end of the year, and thereby having their thoughts in the clouds instead of their noses to the grindstone. Sadly, such advice is often ignored of treated with derision by business executives (whose salaries are at stake).

Every chapter is more entertaining and enlightening than the last. Perhaps the research with the most long-lasting impact is Chapter 5, which deals with game theory and revenge. Even when economically disadvantageous (pay the researchers a dollar, and they will strip your opponent of double that), most people who have been wronged will seek to get their own back. While counter-intuitive, it actually makes perfect sense from an emotional viewpoint, and is not truly "irrational."

As one might expect, people have an internal bias toward their own achievements and ideas. Taking a step back, learning more about the field (be it origami or quantum mechanics) can help individuals dampen this bias and evaluate their own efforts and ideas more objectively. The experiments required the participants to value their own creations soon after creating them, after all.

The infamous "shredder" experiment also features prominently, and provides a considerable deal of black humour. The point is unmistakable, whether applied to employment or school. Similarly, we tend to take things out of proportion. When faced with an abandoned child in our neighbourhood (or presented with images from across the globe), we tend to respond with more dollars and hours of aid.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
tess bonn
When I first read Predictably Irrational it sparked an interest to read more about behavioral economics. So over the years I read a few books about behavioral economics such as Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (who are the fathers of behavioral economics), and Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. After a while, I noticed that these books quite repeat each other and that they seldom provide any new insights.

As for The Upside of Irrationality, Ariely's writing style is witty and filled with humor. However, as opposed to Predictably Irrational it doesn't provide any new insights. As other reviewers have already mentioned, some of the experiments in this book are questionable. Just to cite one example, Ariely argues that high bonuses are not effective because when high stakes are involved people get nervous, and therefore, their performance drops. He "proves" that by offering three different winning prices (a small, medium and large bonuses) to random people to play various games. In this experiment, the performance of the player dropped as the amount of the bonuses was higher. Therefore, Ariely argues, big bonuses are not the best way to provide incentives to workers. (This only applies to cognitive tasks, and not to, for instance, laying brick, where the bigger the bonuses the harder people work).

Just imagine someone approached you and told you that if you will perform well in some game you will win a sum of money equivalent to an average five-month salary. Obviously, your heart rate will go sky-high and your performance will drop. Now, let's say you're working in some think tank in Washington and you're currently working on some presentation that is due in a few weeks. Do you think the high bonuses, to be received at the end of the year, will affect you in the same way? In my opinion, it will not. In the second scenario, I think the employee will be less subjected to pressure since he had more time to adjust himself to the idea of a large bonus. Moreover, because the reward of the bonus will not be immediate, you'll be less subjected to pressure of a high bonus as well. The example above just comes to show that Ariely's conclusions are inconclusive (people can argue both ways).

All in all, if you're already familiar with behavioral economics you might as well pass on this book, but if you're not you might enjoy this book. Just remember to read this book with a critical eye.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
melissa sgroi
This beautiful book speaks about how the expectation of extracting rational behavior from our irrational selves is flawed. If we were completely rational, we would easily make choices which were in our long term interest and just as easily let go of short term pleasures and gains which did not serve us in the long run. But the fact that this is not how we are is illustrious of our irrational self. However, in spite of the seeming malignant nature of this dilemma there is a benign upside to this phenomenon, which is what this book is about.

The book also behooves readers to think of oneself as the subject of an experiment whose aim is to discover the truths about one's own self and behaviors. The author shares some fascinating experiments with revealing insights. There is much available for us to learn about ourselves should we so desire and go about it meticulously.

While we figure out what experiments we may want to conduct on ourselves, we may think through the findings and lessons from the book and think of how they may apply to our day to day behavior, what could be learned from them, how could we grow as a person of greater self awareness and discipline.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jennybeast
The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic
Standard economic theory assumes that people are rational, utility-maximizing creatures, and behavioral economics repeatedly disproves this notion through various, often humorous, experiments. Ariely is a behavioral economist who has conducted many such experiments over the years. His thinking about research is greatly influenced by a horrific accident he experienced as a youth that left him badly burned. This book aims to put a positive spin on irrationality, arguing that it's what makes us human and gives us the capacity to love others. Ariely also hopes to point out some practical applications of his experiments' conclusions.

A few points:
Don't pay your workers bonuses that are too high. This creates too much pressure that distracts; the effect is worse if it's a loss-aversion experiment.

Clutch players don't perform/shoot any better at "crunch time," they just take more shots.

People prefer to work for a reward rather than have it handed to them. Studies show that people do not by-and-large just put in the minimum effort in order to get the maximum reward. I wrote a personal observation of this on an assembly line years ago. They put in effort and desire to achieve goals, they value their work. But people want to know their work serves a higher purpose. If your boss gives you an assignment and you work very hard on it, and even get recognition for it, if the work gets shelved or the project is canceled, it crushes motivation. This isn't rational-- you know you did a good job, you got paid for it, you got praised by your boss. But those rewards aren't enough. The next time you're given such a task, it will affect your motivation and the quality of your work.

Connecting even the lowliest worker's tasks to the overall goals of the company will increase productivity. I remember this being best exemplified by SRC Holdings in Springfield, MO which includes all its employees in its monthly financial meetings-- all employees (from the janitor to the CEO) see how their work affects the bottom line, the success of the company, and therefore their paychecks. This is considered "best practice" in management and is encouraged by current ISO standards.

Playing "hard to get" in love really does work, when we have to struggle to accomplish or build something we take greater satisfaction than if it was easy. When the task is a big struggle and we fail to complete it, we feel worse than if the task had been easy and we failed.

The IKEA effect. IKEA may sell cheap furniture, but the assembly process it requires causes us to value it more-- we created something. We become attached to and take greater pride in our own creations, which leads to overvaluation of them. My wife and I recently decided to purchase a used house rather than build a new one, even though the new one would have been nicer and was within our price range and had more positive upside. We made this choice, in part, because I remembered how attached my family was to a house we built in my childhood, where my parents designed it and included input from all of us; it was tailor-made. Among the hardest things we ever did was leave that home, part of me still misses it. We don't intend to live in our current location for very long, so we felt that investing in the creation of a new home would have rooted our hearts more than we wanted. It also would have been harder for us to put our clunky, used furniture into a shiny new house.

People who have experienced a great deal of pain develop higher pain tolerance. Our bodies, minds, and attitudes adjust to our surroundings. Studies have found that people who moved from the cold Midwest to sunny California may have been happier temporarily, but over time reverted to the previous baseline of happiness-- and vice-versa for those who moved to the Midwest from California.

Much of the book deals with Ariely's fascination with assortive mating and the "inefficient market" that is the U.S. dating market. He hypothesizes that those who have obvious shortcomings-- like horrible burns-- may compensate by seeking a less-attractive mate who is, say, funnier or smarter than average. Studies find that men tend to be more "optimistic" and "aim higher" in dating activity than women. They seem to be less aware, or less influenced by, their shortcomings.

Emotions affect our decisions long after the emotions fade. If you decide on a particular course of action because you were influenced by an emotion you felt at the time--positive or negative--you will likely continue on that course of action (even if irrational or inefficient) even though you got over the emotion you were feeling. People have a strong "status quo bias," which makes them loathe to change and we often fall for the "sunk cost fallacy" of becoming attached to things just because they're there.

In the end, Ariely praises the biblical Gideon for testing everything. That is sort of Ariely's motto.

The book was pretty good. I still would recommend Kahneman's seminal Thinking Fast and Slow (my review here) before reading this book, but I would add Ariely's book to the "behavioral economics" reading list. 3 stars out of 5.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jan havlis
Rating:3.75

Ariely talks of studies and all the silliness that is inside our head. This book poses more questions than it gives answers which is what I think Ariely wants. I feel he wants you to think about your decisions and why you make them.

A few experiments that I thought were interesting were the Lego experiment where they were seeing if Pay was a motivator for work. Also there was a good discussion on revenge. Being a Behavioral economist Ariely doesn't beat around the bush when trying to find out how and why you act the way you do.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoy social science. The book is fully of interesting studies and really has you thinking about the decision you make.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
whitney king
The author is a famous researcher in behavioral economics -- a fascinating field. I enjoyed his first book. Here, though, the chapters are very much hit or miss.

Some of his experiments -- real experiments, not merely thought experiments, seem superficial. The LEGO experiment on the value of work is a prime example. He wanted to see if the destruction of one's work product would diminish a person's satisfaction with the work. Can you guess the results?? You got it! A resounding yes. Admittedly, if the results had turned out to be the reverse, this would be a revelation, but these conclusions are common sense.

Equally silly is the IKEA chapter. IKEA sells assemble-it-yourself furniture. You can invent the experiment for yourself and again, predict the results.

However, his chapter on online dating as a "failed market" is excellent. I will not tip his research here.

The book is loaded with insights, proven by behavioral economic research. Did you know you know you enjoy watching a TV show with commercials more than one that runs straight through? That's in here.

Moreover, I must praise Mr. Ariely's candor in describing -- sometimes graphically -- his health and recovery issues -- painful physically and emotionally -- and how they influenced his life and work. The book is worth reading for that frankness alone.

The book is super readable*, and mercifully is not loaded with the required arcane statistics, which must underpin the experiments for scientific validity.

* His notes on his contributors underline that he has worked with some amazing people and that he's the world's nicest guy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nan kirkpatrick
Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

This is an absolutely fascinating book. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it. I loved the stories, I loved the experiments, I loved the practical nature of the entire book and how Ariely applies all of the information to our lives whether it be at work, in relationships, or simply everyday existence.

Here is an example of how Ariely relates stories or experiments to readers' lives: "The moral of the story?" he writes. "You may think that taking a break during an irritating or boring experience will be good for you, but a break actually decreases your ability to adapt, making the experience seem worse when you have to return to it. When cleaning your house or doing your taxes, the trick is to stick with it until you are done" (p. 179).

His experience with "Public Speaking 101" (pp. 42-49), of course, caught my attention. Ariely is so good at telling stories. The details he provides allow readers to imagine the situations he describes accurately, but not only that, it puts readers into those situations with all of the attendant emotions and reactions.

What I found particularly interesting was the build-up Ariely offered for each of his experiments. If you have ever wondered where the motivation or stimulation for behavioral science experiments come from, reading this book will be especially enlightening.

Also, delightful and evident on almost every page of the book, is Ariely's engaging and surprising sense of humor. If you ever think that university professors -- especially ones like Ariely who not only have two Ph.D's, but are obviously well-versed and well-practiced in research methodology and approaches -- are sedate, staid, formal, stuffy, and conventional (devoid of any sense of humor!), then you will not only be pleasantly surprised by this book, you may even be astonished. On page 61, Ariely puts you (the reader) in the "character" of an adult male albino rat in a cage. He gives you all the rat language and rat feelings to help you identify with it: "You accidentally press the bar, and immediately a pellet of food is released. Wonderful! You press the bar again. Oh joy!--another pellet comes out. . . ." In the next paragraph he says, "You wander around the cage, cursing under your rat breath, and go over to the tin cup. `Oh my!' you say to yourself. `It's full of pellets! Free food!'" (You get the point.).

The book is written for anyone and everyone. It is highly readable! There are few technical words, no erudite vocabulary, and it is incredibly engaging. You just can't put it down. (That's because the stories and illustrations are so captivating!) "I truly enjoy the research I do," Ariely writes, "I think it's fun. I'm excited to tell you, dear reader, about how I have spent the last twenty years of my life. I'm almost sure my mother will read this boo, and I'm hoping that at least a few others will as well" (p. 64).

I loved his personal examples, like putting together the IKEA furniture designed for his toy room (pp. 83-84). His example of what happened with his small Audi (pp. 131-135) was delightful, and it was truly an illustration with which all readers could identify. Also, once again, it was a story that led to an experiment "to measure the extent of vengeful behavior" (p. 135).

Just an aside regarding Ariely's Audi experience, here he writes about it in retrospect on page 153: "Other than my near brush with death on the highway, I'd say that my experience with Audi was overall beneficial. I got to reflect on the phenomenon of revenge, do a few experiments, share my perspective in print, and write this chapter." These sentences give you a good sample of his writing style, his directness in talking to readers, and his honesty.

Speaking of his use of personal examples, how he became an academic (because I am, too, an academic) is most interesting. It was a choice, incidentally, that happened slowly over time as he "began engaging in more and more academic pursuits" (p. 184). Ariely uses this experience as an example of how he adapted to a powerful, painful, and prolonged injury (which he fully explains toward the beginning of the book).

This really is an outstanding book that will capture your attention, tune your senses to a number of aspects of human behavior, and inform, enlighten, and entertain you along the way. If it hasn't been clear in this review, I truly loved the book and Ariely's writing style.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
xavier
This is a wonderfully written, amusing book on top of being very informative. The author benefited (?!) by being almost burned to death when he was 18. It gave him a new perspective on life, and the limitations of the lifelong scarring, pain, and physical disability forced him to choose a compatible career path. Fortunately for us, it was academia.

He talks about innumerable irrational things we do. The IKEA effect is the love we have for furniture when we have assembled ourselves. The very well known "not invented here" effect, which smothers good ideas in their crib. The ones I found most interesting concerned our mating habits. How do we make ourselves attractive to the opposite sex, and conversely, how does the human animal deal with the fact that he or she is just not that attractive? Keep hitting on people above our class? Rationalize that ugly people have other qualities such as a sense of humor? Or simply retreat into a monastery?

He has interesting riffs on the virtues of a society which employs yentas, the downside of computer dating, the psychology of speed dating in a great deal more.

I'm not going to invest great deal more in this because more than 100 have preceded me. I generally agree with the five star reviews.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lance tracey
After reading the first few chapters of the Upside of Irrationality, I was prepared to give it a fairly negative review. Why? Because most of the points made by Ariely were fairly obvious to me, and not particularly insightful. As a psychotherapist (and author of a book exploring how we repress painful thoughts and emotions which threaten our self-image), I am very aware of how I and most people are often more motivated by feelings and habits than by reason.

I was initially turned off by Ariely's chatty, wordy writing style, full of rambling anecdotes. Later, I also questioned the title of the book, for it is NOT about the UPSIDE of irrationality and could more appropriately be titled Predictably Irrational: Volume Two. I also wondered about the validity of his many hackneyed, gamey experiments with college students, and the conclusions he drew from limited data.

However, I'm glad I continued reading, because although more than 75% than of the book was known territory for me, the 20% or more that wasn't provided a few gems of insight which made my reading experience worthwhile. Ariely's open sharing of his physical pain and vulnerability and some of the mistakes he made moved me, enabling me to connect emotionally with what I was reading and therefore be capable of "getting it" on a gut level.

For most people, reading nonfiction is primarily an intellectual exercise. If we learn about ourselves or human behavior, we usually learn via our left brains. Rarely do we have the kind of "aha" experiences that catalyze our right brain or impact us on a deep, core level.

What I find most valuable about The Upside of Irrationality is that Ariely's basic premise - that we are often motivated by emotional patterns and habits unknown to our reason - is reflected and constructively expressed at least as much through his writing style as his content. That is to say, his ability to tap into our compassion and engage our feelings means that his conclusions are likely to penetrate beyond our reason, creating the kind of bridge between our rational and irrational selves that leads to true insight. And gaining one or two real insights from a book - insight rather than knowledge - can be a rare experience in a world which bombards us with data that rarely penetrates beneath the surface of our consciousness.

To elaborate further: I found many of Ariely's conclusions obvious, while acknowledging that they may not be obvious to readers who are more identified with their minds than their feelings, or who have not studied human psychology or been in psychotherapy. Some of these conclusions are: We tend to perform worse when under a lot of pressure. Our motivation increases with the sense of meaning we contribute to an activity. We are attached to our own ideas. We experience pleasure in taking revenge against someone who offends us. Attractive people are more likely to form intimate relationships with attractive partners than unattractive people are. We tend to respond to one person in need of help, but are less inclined to take action in regard to long distance crises involving large numbers of people.

The hypotheses and conclusions that were less obvious and more meaningful to me were in the latter part of the book, and pertain to adaptation and to the effect of short-term emotions on long term decisions. Knowing that we benefit most when we don't interrupt unpleasurable experiences helped me decide to have periodontal surgery on all four quadrants of my mouth at once rather than one quadrant every six months. Learning, on the other hand, that interrupting and spreading out pleasurable experience over time is particularly beneficial reinforced my new tendency to take half a dozen four-day vacations a year rather than a two week vacation every year or two. Examining how decisions I made when in a pronounced emotional state in the past have impacted and continued to impact present decisions enables me to bring a greater degree of self-awareness and wisdom to my current decisionmaking.

In conclusion, whether you are likely to find most of Ariely's book valuable, or only one or two chapters, I do recommend it. We all can benefit from gaining even a tiny bit of insight into our irrational behaviors, and as a result become more congruent with ourselves.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
missquiss
Once again, Dan Ariely (successfully and delightfully) takes on the school of rational economists who insist humans are "rational, selfish, maximizing agents." His research in the field of behavioral economics (as well as his keen insight developed from years of being human) has lead to his realization that: "If we place human beings on a spectrum between the hyperrational Mr. Spock and the fallible Homer Simpson, we are closer to Homer than we realize."
Each chapter in this irresistible book takes a fascinating look at the irrational forces that move us away from Spock and more towards Homer:
*We behave more irrationally when the incentives are high
*We are less productive when we feel the work we are doing is not meaningful
*We tend to over-value our own ideas and creations
*We tend to under-value others' ideas and creations
*Our desire for revenge is one of our most basic human drives, and as such, it is incredibly difficult to overcome
*Our ability to adapt to both positive and negative experiences results in us often missing the mark when predicting our responses
*Although our individual level of attractiveness does not change who we find "hot or not," it does ultimately effect the relative importance we place on the "deeper" qualities of our (potential) mates
*The most effective services and products are ones that accommodate to our "Homer Simpson-likenesses"
*Individual emotional appeals--and not hardcore facts and data about the struggling "masses"--are the most effective ways to get us to respond to the suffering of others
*Acting on our emotions is often the result of the leakage from our past experiences, as well as the cause of unhelpful future decisions and habits
*We have oodles of irrational tendencies--most of which influence us in ways beyond our awareness

That's the downside of irrationality. But, as the book's title broadcasts: there's an upside to irrationality too. Dan shows how these same irrational forces are also the exact traits that make us wonderfully human. They are what allow us to: find meaning from our work, trust others, adapt to changing circumstances, love our creations and ideas, care about others, and enjoy our imperfectly perfect lives.

So, how do we become aware of the downsides of our irrational influences and harness their upsides? Ah...that's exactly what this book is all about. The secret to finding a comfortably human balance in the Mr. Spock/Homer Simpson spectrum lies within!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
heba albeity
A personal celebration, inquisition, investigation, and critique of the myth of the "rational person". Not a whole lot of new ground covered though. Well written, breezy style, easy-to-read, with lots of experiments the author conducted described in detail.

By itself the book is good. Recommended for sure. But if you have read other books in this area, behavioral economics, like Stumbling on Happiness or Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, then at least some of the material will read familiar. Especially the parts about expectations and adaptation, which is covered at length and in a lot more depth in Stumbling on Happiness.

The organization of the book is also a bit different. It is divided very clearly into two parts, and is also more personal than other such books.

The underlying premise of the book is that while we, humans, should be rational, and make decisions that are in our best interests, we often do not.

..... "From a rational perspective, we should only make decisions that are in our best interests."

But we don't. Surprise! The title is a bit misleading, but given the incredible success of Dan Ariely's first book, Predictably Irrational, it would have been irrational for him not to reuse part of the title for his second book!

The very first irrationality described, so to say, is the fact that more pay does not necessarily translate into better performance, or even better motivation. Thankfully, the financial crisis of 2008 proved that more money does not translate into better results. Quite the opposite in many cases.

..... "But beyond that point, motivational pressures can be so high that it actually distracts an individual from concentrating on and carrying out a task - an undesirable outcome for anyone." The irony of these findings is illustrated quite unsurprisingly, when the author presented his findings to a select group of MIT alumni, "They all nodded their heads in agreement with the theory that high bonuses might backfire - until I suggested that the same psychological effects might also apply to the people in the room. They were clearly offended by the suggestion." .... "... Upton Sinclair once noted, 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.'" [page 38 of the ARC]

Another finding that is contrary to rational thinking is one of "contrafreeloading" - contrary to expectations, people do not want to always maximize their reward whilst expending a minimum amount of work. Borne out in several experiments, people do value the rewards if they perceive they have expended at least some effort into it.

As a corollary, "... sucking the meaning out of work is surprisingly easy. If you're a manager who really wants to demotivate your employees, destroy their work in front of their eyes. Or, if you want to be a little subtler about it, just ignore them and their efforts." [page 76 of the Advance Reviewer's Copy]. Ouch!!! How many times, at how many places have we seen it, experienced it, and possibly even inflicted this form of motivational destruction onto others?

It stands to reason therefore, that beauty lies not in the eyes of the beholder as much as it lies in the eyes of its creator. "The Ikea Effect" chapter covers this irrationality.

..... These results showed us that the creators had a substantial bias when evaluating their own hard work. [page 94] ... When the effort is unfruitful, affection for one's work plummets. (This is also why playing hard to get is often a successful strategy in the game of love. If you put an obstacle in the way of someone you like and they keep on working on it, you're bound to make the person value you even more. On the other hand, if you drive that person to extremes and persist in rejecting them, don't count on staying "just friends.") [page 105]

The Laws of Labor and Love, or the 'four principles of human endeavor', are:

..... * The effort that we put into something does not just change the object. It changes us and the way we evaluate that object.
..... * Greater labor leads to greater love.
..... * Our overvaluation of things we make runs so deep that we assume that others share our biased perspective.
..... * When we cannot complete something into which we have put greater effort, we don't feel so attached to it.

Or what about revenge? Surely there is nothing so irrational, and emotionally destructive as revenge, is there? Well, it turns out, Ariely posits "that the threat of revenge - even at great personal expense - can serve as an effective reinforcement mechanism that supports social cooperation and order. ... I do suspect that, overall, the threat of vengeance can have a certain efficacy."

Don't believe me? Or the author? What about PET? Positron Emission Tomography.

..... The results showed increased activity in the striatum, which is a part of the brain associated with the way we experience reward. In other words, according to the PET scan, it looked as though the decision to punish others was related to a feeling of pleasure. ... All this suggests that punishment, betrayal, even when it costs us something, has biological underpinnings. [page 126]

...

..... It seems that at the moment we feel the desire for revenge, we don't care whom we punish - we only want to see someone pay, regardless of whether they are the agent of the principal. [page 146]

And so on... This book is not likely to become a classic or an instant hit, but offers enough nuggets of insight that you may want to bookmark several pages and return to them every now and then to remind yourself that man is, after all, not a rational animal.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
paola coppola
This is a book I really wanted to love. I like it, but I don't love it. Ariely is an excellent speaker, so, having heard him speak, my expectations may have been a little too high. It's not that his book is poorly written or his conclusions full of howling errors, just that he is not as entertaining a writer as he is a speaker.

There's a tension in the book, as well. Ariely reveals, through experiments he's carried out in his academic career as a psychologist, ways in which we all fall well short of our rational self-image. It's not just that we occasionally do strange, irrational things, but that, as the title of his previous book says, we behave irrationally in predictable ways -- our buying decisions are influenced by the appearance of deals (real or illusory), our happiness is influenced by how close together or far apart in time the things that make us happy occur, our sympathy is aroused more strongly by a single case of suffering than by mass suffering, . . . and so on. Much of what he reveals is surprising, surprising about our own behavior. And all of this goes catastrophically against the grain of theories of rational agents in economics, game theory, etc.

But the title of this book implies that he is going to focus on the "upside" of irrationality. That's where the tension comes in. Often, revealing our irrational patterns is meant to allow us to overcome them (as in the buying decisions); other times it is meant to allow us to take advantage of them (as in his discussions of happiness and "hedonic adaptation"). The tension is between fully embracing and celebrating our irrationalities and resisting them, or even (as in the case of hedonic adaptation) learning how best to live rationally with them. Fully embracing our irrationality might mean such things as enjoying irrational urges to "get back" at someone even though it is against our long-term interests, or, maybe less self-destructively, giving ourselves more permission to play (without justifications in better relationships with our kids, our own fitness, our dog's fitness, . . . ). I don't think Ariely settled on either side -- of course, he doesn't have to, and maybe the tension is exactly right.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
boonchee
Dan Ariely continues exploring the irrational world of behavioral economics in the Upside of Irrationality. Drawing on his own research as well as others, Ariely is able to bring out of the dense academic world glimmers of light that have relevance to his readers. Not only do we learn a lot from Ariely, but he engages us with some simple principles to improve our life. Whereas Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions focused on the marketplace, this new book looks at how the lessons and learnings of behavioral economics is applicable both at work and at home, and in doing so, forces us to re-examine the decisions we make and our view of the world. For example, he discusses why we value the output of our own hands, be it assembling furniture, folding origami, or baking a cake, more than others would. In a chapter on how emotions affect decisions, he demonstrates how the appeal of a single individual for charity can often outweigh the collective need of millions anonymously suffering halfway around the world. The success of Ariely's writings (and for that matter his engaging podcast "Arming the Donkey") are 3 fold. His lucid observations are able to peal the layers of a research topic and illuminate the core learnings from a set of experiments. He has a dry wit that entertains while educating and would often cause me to laugh out loud (his 2 sentence description of the academic article review process was not only hysterical, but completely on the money). And finally, his personal vignettes and experiences (some of which were quite horrific as he battled 3rd degree burns on much of his body as an 18-year old and others quite humorous) serve to add depth and understanding of his personal journey to understand human behavior (including his own). While one might expect Ariely, given his knowledge of his field, his fantastic output of books, articles, blogs, and podcasts, to be a Superhuman Behaviorial Economist, it is somewhat reassuring to read about his own behavior to see that he is merely a Moderately Irrational Superhuman Behavioral Economist.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kruti
Dan Ariely does a great job mixing good narration, experiments and tests, personal experience, as well as old and new phenomenons about life. Most of the chapters in the book explores some of the irrational phenomenon in our daily lives, and finding a way to either rid or live with the particular irrational human behaviors.

I especially like how the chapters are set up: Ariely introduces a topic, explains the many tests that he planned and conducted, and then discusses the findings and possible way you can put a positive spin to the many irrational human behaviors. The experiments are very easy to follow, and even enjoyable to read. There are several (not many) charts and graphics that appear throughout the book.

I won't spoil much, because this book is filled rich and plentiful with interesting topics. But I will say that my favorite two chapters are about the meaning of labor and the "Ikea effect." The meaning of labor is about how it gives more meaning and motivation to one when the result is considered and appreciated, rather than tossed away and done to keep the worker busy. The Ikea effect is about how one will feel attached and take pride in a work because they themselves invested time and effort into the project. Both are indeed irrational, but we can certainly make the irrational behavior a positive in our lives.

I highly recommend this book because of its eye-opening experience and advantage it gives you with more perspective on our daily lives.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
drew beja
I had a sufficiently positive impression of Dan Ariely from his first book, "Predictably Irrational", to be willing to give this one a try. My residual impression from the earlier book was of a smart, likable guy, with a knack for designing clever experiments to capture the irrational side of human behavior, particularly when making decisions with economic consequences. This area of investigation has risen to prominence over the past 5 to 10 years, there is now a flood of titles on the market, which shows no sign of abating in the foreseeable future. "Predictably Irrational" holds up well against the competition: it covers a lot of ground in reasonably concise fashion, and is very readable. Each chapter's primary message is grounded in, and illustrated by, specific experiments conducted by Ariely and colleagues, and this is the book's particular strength.

Given the strength of Ariely's first book, and the relatively short interval since its publication, it would be truly surprising if this second book reached the same high standard. "Sophomore slump" is a real phenomenon (just a manifestation of what statisticians would call "regression to the mean") and Professor Ariely is not immune to its effects. A reviewer predisposed to be critical of the author might argue that this is a sequel that is short on substance, presenting results that are either
(i) blindingly obvious (e.g. that people need to believe their work is meaningful to feel motivated),
(ii) needless and not particularly illuminating amplification of ideas already presented in the first book (overvaluing of ownership and the power of anchoring),or,
(iii)material presented previously, and better, by other authors.

That assessment seems unduly harsh to me - the sequel shares many of the positive qualities of the original - primarily Ariely's clear and engaging style, which guarantees readability at the very least. Unfortunately, an engaging style doesn't quite make up for some obvious weaknesses. The material in the earlier book was fascinating because most of the results were surprising -- counterintuitive or non-obvious -- but the experimental work was strong enough to be persuasive. The experimental foundation of the work discussed in the second book is noticeably weaker across the board, at times barely rising about the level of anecdotal data, with the author displaying a regrettable propensity to issue pronouncements of a general nature solely on the basis of his own personal experience. Even if one disregards the relative weakness of the empirical evidence to support them, claims made in the second book are simply not as interesting as the earlier work - either they are immediately obvious, or restatements of material likely to be familiar to anyone who has done any prior reading in this general area.

Finally, there is the unavoidable impression that a significant portion of the material is nothing more than padding (the book is studded with space-filling sidebars that are notably lacking in content: examples include a one-page explanation of the myth of Sisyphus, complete with stick-figure diagram, a verbatim transcript of an online rant about the 2008 banking bailout, graphs that were superfluous, cartoonish, or both). The most egregious padding is Ariely's inclusion of far too many personal anecdotes from his own life, a feature that severely tests the reader's patience and is an implicit acknowledgement that this is a book based primarily on anecdotal evidence, rather than hard science.

With these caveats in mind, I actually enjoyed the book quite a bit. But I can't give it a resounding endorsement. Instead, I would steer readers to Ariely's earlier effort (Predictably Irrational), and to "Stumbling on Happiness" by Daniel Gilbert and "Nudge" by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein . Cumulatively they afford an accessible account of the same material that is more thorough and more rigorous than that given by Professor Ariely in this slightly disappointing followup to his earlier masterpiece.

If I were to grade on content alone, I'd give only 3 stars; Professor Ariely's clear, engaging style raises my rating to 4 stars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dmastey
I've not yet read Predictably Irrational, but I'm a big fan of books like Freakonomics and Blink. Given that this book seemed to be more of the same, I highly anticipated receiving it!

The goal of the book is to shed light on the benefits of irrational thinking, and why seemingly odd decisions are better for us.

I found the first half of the book to be less about illustrating the benefits of irrationality, and more an exploration of the hows, whys and how nots to incentivize people (including ourselves) to do things, and how what works and what doesn't can be counter-intuitive at times. The book's second half, which is more inwardly focused, spends more time exploring how we adapt, and what we do to compensate. The second half of the book felt a bit closer to the theme.

For the most part, I found the book highly entertaining and informative. I especially liked the names the author gave to various concepts (e.g. the Ikea effect - how you tend to value more the things you build yourself), as they were great mnemonic devices. The author expressed that he took a more personal approach to this book, and many of the chapter experiments were prefaced with his motivations behind the research. I found this approach really enjoyable - it didn't feel so much like a `sensationalist' book, and more a book about personal journey, insight and discovery.

I didn't necessarily agree everywhere. At one point in the book, Airely asserts that the effect of stress on performance is parabola shaped. While I agree with that, and I agree that too much stress can affect performance, I didn't necessarily agree that we always score better in practice tests, and likewise didn't agree that rehearsals are superior to the actual performance. I'd say it probably depends on how prepared you feel, or how comfortable you are. I imagine an actor who relishes the stage will shine and bring that extra bit of energy when performing to a rapt crowd versus preparing in front of an imaginary stage. If you're not confident in your abilities or if you're not familiar with the task though, I can see how the added pressure of social judgment can hinder your ability to perform the tasks.

I also liked that at the end of each set of anecdotes, the author posed questions and thoughts for us to apply the ideas to our own day-to-day life. It was a challenge to question how rational, or accurate my decisions have been, and to be more aware of biases that I could make going forward. In all, this book is less an armchair read and more an enlightening journey on how to change our behaviour, and to see where we can better compensate for our "irrational" judgment.

Definitely highly recommended!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ginny
If you pick up this book expecting it to be as good as Ariely's first book, Predictably Irrational, you are likely to be disappointed. If, however, you approach it without high expectations caused by that first book, you will probably enjoy it quite a bit and pick up some useful and interesting information.

The Upside of Irrationality explores many facets of human behavior at work and at home and how we are all less than optimal in our behavior, even genius inventor Thomas Edison, who resisted AC current in large part because it was not his idea. It asks some very timely questions, like whether big bonuses really make CEOs more productive (His answer is No.) and how to improve internet dating, and more eternal questions, like the role of revenge in our lives.

The book emphasizes Ariely's own research and its conclusions, an approach that has both advantages and disadvantages. More than the first book, I found myself reflecting that it would desirable to do this or that additional work to try to support a conclusion more fully. Having read the book, I can reflect that perhaps some of this omission is due to the human tendency to overvalue what we make or do ourselves a phenomenon Ariely discusses and acknowledges he shares with the rest of us. Or perhaps it is simply that he has not had time or funding to pursue the work further.

The author also uses himself and his own life frequently as examples of the phenomena he discusses. These are vivid, but the technique may be overdone. In the first chapter Ariely describes a horrific accident he had in his late teens that resulted in his spending several years in the hospital and causes him pain and some disability even today. He uses this aspect of his life so frequently that I sometimes wondered if the use of the material was more for examples or for personal therapy.

The title and subtitle of the book are a bit misleading. The bulk of the conclusions in The Upside of Irrationality seem not so much irrational as counter-intuitive. For example, one of my favorite chapters is about adaptation, the human trait that enables us to get used to just about anything, good or bad. If we do something we enjoy, our pleasure increases for a while, but after a time our enjoyment tends to lessen. The same is true of painful or annoying experiences. The curve looks rather like an upside down U. If we stop and begin again, we will experience the same U-curve of pleasure or pain/annoyance. The lesson to draw from that result is that, contrary to human tendency, we should not take on an unpleasant chore "in pieces" but do it in one pass. This will reduce our sum total of negative experience. On the other hand, we should break up our positive experiences to maximize our enjoyment, e.g., we really WILL enjoy that piece of pie more if we cut it into smaller pieces and save one for tomorrow (as long as our spouse doesn't eat it first!).

In addition, although the subtitle of the book is "the unexpected benefits of defying logic at work and at home", I finished several chapters wondering what benefits were conferred by the illogical behavior.

In sum, despite the flaws I have noted, the upside of The Upside of Irrationality is its fascinating look at many aspects of human behavior. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in why we do what we do and how that can cause us to make bad decisions.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
andrea kenyon
I don't know what's going on in the world of title writing, but this is another book whose title doesn't match it's content. A sub-title like The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home suggests some secret formula to getting ahead by doing irrational things. I was hoping that getting deep into debt and arriving late to work would somehow result in some hidden benefits. Not so, apparently.

This book is more an addendum to Ariely's first book, Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, than a look at the other side of the coin. Ariely covers other areas where so called homo-economicus, or the ultra-rational, logical man (the Mr. Spock in all of us), does not in fact exist. We do not make the rational choices one thinks we would. For example, we let decisions made under strong emotions affect the way we make similar decisions in the future; we care more about individuals whom we can identify with than with large nameless masses of people; we don't necessarily produce more when we get paid more. These and other examples make the point that we often make decisions for reasons other than the strictly logical, and rely instead on emotions, intuition and other factors. It is important to know this because we can then pause and make adjustments accordingly, if we so desire.

On the down side, after reading a lot of behavioral economics books, there seems to be an almost boilerplate formula for writing them - a light conversational style, peppered with attempts at humor. Also, the social science experiments that Ariely conducts and presents all seem to be done with very small groups of people. From what I can tell, his experiments have not been veriifed or peer reviewed. Can they alone support the claims he makes? There is even one experiment where he discusses the social awarenes of cockroaches.

Overall, however, I recommend this book for the insights on human nature and how it affects us in ways of which we are largely unaware.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sarah clingan
You know those "Big Idea" books? You know, the ones that take some sort of small insight based on psychology or behavioral economics - and then they create an all encompassing theory of how the world works based off of that one insight. And you think you can nudge, blink, sway, wink, or something else to total enlightenment.? Those books. I don't particularly like them.

Thankfully, this book is not one of those books. Areily doesn't do that here. He is a practicing economist whose main insight is that we are all susceptible to decision-making biases. Each chapter details experiments to back this up, where even those that are cognizant of those biases fall prey to them. He says that we must learn to appreciate the imperfections in the human creature that is more Homer Simpson than Mr. Spock.

I liked this book because I like to be a geek about narrative descriptions of behavioral economics experiments, but also because the author has a bit of humility about what he knows - but he also has optimism, knowing that we are not at the end of history, but only at the beginning of coming to an understanding of who we are.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
brendon
I missed the author's previous book but I hear him on NPR. Often follow-ups that extend the premise of a first book are vague money grabs. This book isn't. There's a lot of good material here.

Unlike say, Freakonomics, The Upside of Irrationality doesn't sag near the end. Publishers know most people don't read past the first chapter of most books they buy. Thus the winning chapters are put at the beginning, usually. This book is an exception - while I wasn't dazzled I did enjoy reading it and was engaged by Ariely's methods.

Aiely writes about real experiments. Every chapter covers specific experiments he conducted and the conclusions, which sometimes surprise him, he drew from the results. It is not that human nature is not predictable - it is, fairly, and many of us are familiar with the basic principle. Where Ariely takes it further is he runs these weird little experiments with rewards that are usually paltry (a few bucks usually for participants) to see what people, on average, will do when the conditions for getting the reward are tweaked.

What he gets is some fine-grained data about, for example, what makes work meaningful. Ariely ran one experiment where guys would build a Lego robot, exactly as per the instructions, for diminishing monetary returns with each one built. The catch is the builders were making the same two robots over and over, so there wasn't much satisfactory variety. In one condition however, the experimentor took apart the robot the subject just made, while in the other the robot was "saved". Subjects who had their robots immediately destroyed were less inclined to keep building them, even though their time investment and money received for building them was identical in both groups. The conclusion is that we all seek meaning in even the most repetitive of tasks.

Another interesting insight related to work is that most animals prefer to work for at least some of their food. Ariely has nearly 300 pages to discuss these experiments. I'd say, read the book if this sort of stuff intrigues you. The last couple of chapters were strong too - which I didn't expect.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
maan
Dan Ariely's followup to his first engaging book is just as well-written. It presents a similar mix of sociology experiments and personal stories, albeit with a firmer eye on the benefits of ignoring logic. You wouldn't want to live in a world where everyone acted purely in accord with his or her best economic interests of the moment, would you? Nobody would rescue a drowning person (real risk to the self outweighing slight personal benefit of saving a life). People would abandon sick or elderly relatives, and so on.

There are already plenty of books about cognitive bias, human irrationality, and so on. Ariely's first book was a standout because he is a good writer who comes across as personable. Also, he knows how to summarize, and he knows how to describe a dry experiment in an interesting way. His second is nearly as good, and it shifts focus slightly to make practical recommendations based on conclusions drawn from the experiment. If you want to reward yourself, don't buy the Porsche and the new wardrobe in the same month. Spread it out and you'll derive more total enjoyment. Conversely, if you have to retrench, move to the studio apartment and give up eating out all at once. You'll accommodate to all the changes at once, taking less total time and hurting less. Of course you probably knew that as a child from yanking bandaids off in one move or jumping into the cold pool instead of dipping in a toe, and from stretching out your dessert by eating it one bite at a time.

Caveat: you may not be convinced that human behavior in an experimental situation properly reflects human behavior in more complex situations. And Ariely sets up too much of a strawman in the form of the rational economic actor. Even economists probably don't believe in that being any more.

Still, this is a good read. Recommended so long as you don't expect huge breakthroughs.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
beth thompson
Many people have some strong opinions towards this book and one of the complaints is that it's too similar to Dan Ariely's previous book (Predictably Irrational) but in fairness, I didn't read that book so I can't comment on whether I agree or not with those claims.

Books like these, about behavioral economics and psychology (including Freakonomics ...etc) should be enjoyed and taken as a simplification of complex phenomena. Once you begin taking these books too seriously and analyzing the science behind them, they lose their appeal. Granted, no book should be published that includes false information but there is a difference between a book geared for the general public and one that is used a university textbook or is comprised of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles.

Having said that, I did enjoy this book and I believe that Ariely has included a wide variety of topics to explore. I especially liked the parts where he weaves his own personal life into the mix. It makes the book more human and his research easier to relate to. One of my favorite sections was about the issues with online dating and I wonder if his recommendations for its improvement will be applied someday.

Overall, this book makes for an interesting read with its combination of science and humor but should probably not be taken too seriously.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christina jones
I am an employment lawyer. I help employers deal with their workforces. And I often cite Ariely and his work to support this simple but key idea:show appreciation for your employees, apologize when you are rude, and you will have a better workforce.Great experiment where he has people circle adjacent Ss on a piece of paper. They can do it on up to 12 sheets. They get a small monetary reward for each sheet they complete and turn in but the reward goes down with each sheet turned in.When they turn in each paper before completing another, they go to one of three lines:line one, person is acknowledged; line two, the proctor takes the sheet, no acknowlegment;line 3 not only is there no acknowledgement but the paper is shredded in front of them. The results? The number of sheets turned in by the acknowledged group 9.03, the ignored group 6.77, and the shredded group 6.34. So, ignoring someone's efforts is on par with when you destroy their work. This is one example among lots. Book is rich with wisdom, almost like chocolate cake, too rich. A rewarding read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
victor fitzpatrick
Dan Ariely's first book, Predictably Irrational was a revelation: a deceptively simple and accessible book that destroyed many of our fond illusions about rationality and autonomy. His genius is in coming up with simple experiments in which the counter-intuitive results lead us to question the social psychology that underpins so much of what we are. I've recommended the book to many friends, and watch Ariely's blog for new material. So naturally (or is it...?) I looked forward to his new book.

It's good. If you enjoyed the first book, you'll probably like this. But it isn't as strong. The personal story that he weaves through the material is interesting, and compelling, but ultimately it doesn't contribute all that much. And the title is downright misleading: it implied to me a thesis that many kinds of irrational behavior can be shown to be more effective (productive, successful) than a strictly rational approach would bring. Instead the book establishes a more modest hypothesis: irrational actions rarely turn out as badly as we might expect. Can an avoidance of downside be construed as a form of upside? It's a bit of a stretch.

A good book, but not quite as compelling as its predecessor.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
gita
In this book, author Dan Ariely uses a very easygoing and direct narrative style and takes us through this insightful journey through human mind, which ultimately concludes that human brain is "irrational" by design.

This informative text will help you to learn:
1) How behavioral economics experiments reveal the mind's irrational processes;
2) How workers attach value to what they do, and why that matters;
3) How humans adapt and
4) How to understand your own adaptive processes.

There have been lot of books based on such experiments like Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, which help one to understand the inner workings of human brain. However, the real challenge lies in adaption one's own behavior and get the most out of daily-life situations.

We face such situations everyday where "rational thinking" is needed. But in the end we end up making decisions based on what we have seen, known, or liked.

Overall, this book is very interesting and recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carolanne
If you enjoyed Ariely's first book, you will not be disappointed with this one either. Forget the title - Ariely's second book consists of more interesting studies about human nature and judgment. It is written in an entertaining and engaging way. He also adds a lot about his own life particularly his time in the hospital as a burn victim. Ariely is a delightful author who cares about his readers. He is deeply interested in enlightening his audience and his enthusiasm for this subject matter shows.

We all have opinions about topics ranging from politics, science, and psychology. For example, how does level of pay influence how hard you try at your job. If you ask this question, most people have their opinions and many have strong convictions. Ariely and his colleagues question our intuition and design studies to test topics that may seem obvious to many people. Some of the designs are brilliant and I appreciated their creativity. Many of the concepts have been discussed in other books but Ariely manages to add a new twist to many of these ideas. Ariely makes us aware of our own irrationality. I highly recommend it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
trina shayna
A fascinating look into the ordinary world of human beings, minds, motivation -- and how UN ordinary it really is.

Of particular interest to me were the segments on Revenge, and the effects of an apology on future revenge. I thought the tests were very well thought-out and was surprised, (perhaps just a little, based on my own experience) by the outcomes. Seems like humans are of one mind when it comes to certain actions and mindset(s).

Of great eye-opening interest was the deconstruction of the myth of the Clutch Player. Maybe that applies to basketball, and perhaps Hockey, even tennis -- but what about baseball and football? I think more research is needed in that area.

Dan Ariely impresses me greatly by the way he approaches his own tragedy -- and by his determination to proceed despite life-threatening injuries.

This is a landmark book -- unique in its approach to certain day-to-day things we either took for granted, or never really paid much attention to.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
wasan makhlouf
Being a student of behavioural economics I typically read almost anything new that comes out connected to the field and I tremendously enjoyed Ariely's latest book. I found that he got the mix just right between the number and complexity of research studies that would appeal to a wide range of readers. The book is an easy read but provides the reader with many new instances that challenge our general assumptions and biases and makes us think a little more deeply about our own behaviour. The studies covered some new research ground and certainly add to the body of knowledge. Ariely's books are quite personal, filled with many anecdotes from his experiences and while some readers may be put off by his frequent use of "a sample of one" it does imbue his books with a bit more humanity than the dry academic behavioural treatises one reads in academic journals. The book also provides a good resource list of further reading into the studies covered, allowing the reader to delve further into the depths of human's often counter intuitive and irrational behaviour to their heart's content (I'll probably read them all if I could just get past my procrastination problems...)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessy
Like "Predictably Irrational", "The Upside of Irrationality" is a fascinating look at how we assign value and make decisions.

As I read this book I found myself telling everyone I talked to about whatever the last topic I read was. After my boyfriend heard Ariely interviewed by Leonard Lopate, he came home and told me Ariely had talked about all the same research I'd felt compelled to talk about. And this stuff is compelling.

This book is a bit more personal than "Predictably Irrational" -- Ariely talks about speed and internet dating, charitable giving, and attraction more than he talks about bank accounts and savings plans. I find both angles interesting, so I enjoyed this book as much as enjoyed the first one.

If you found the topics covered in "Predictably Irrational" a bit dry, but like the idea, this book might be for you. If you enjoyed PI, this book is for you. If you think behavioral economics is a bunch of bunk, well, you should probably read this anyway.

Highly recommended for all decision-making humans. :-)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
viveka g g
In this sequel to his bestseller, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics, returns to the how and why of human beings' inexplicable thought processes. Through a series of telling, small-scale social experiments, he attempts to quantify such unquantifiables as how satisfaction in work becomes nourished or destroyed, how people value their attractiveness and the attractiveness of others, how humans adapt to adverse or positive circumstances, and how to make pleasure more enduring and annoyances less upsetting. Those who read Ariely's first book might have the context to better appreciate this one, but he doesn't seem to hold anything back as he explains his traumatic physical injuries and the lessons, both painful and joyous, those experiences wrought. The author's warm, direct, compassionate tone, and his willingness to share his frustrations and discoveries, lead getAbstract to recommend this insightful, easy-going tour of the irrational side of the human psyche.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
leanne fessenden
Writing as reviewer #31, having written a number of other reviews myself: what is it about this book that virtually all of the reviews thus far, even the negative ones, are multi-paragraph and thoughtful? Usually, by the time a book has 30, we're seeing the "loved it!" "hated it!" "Didn't arrive on time!" filler. Not here. Ariely's work sticks in your mind, and you are inspired to write more than you normally would.

That said--it appears that behavioral econ gets really really close to marketing, as a field of study. Economists are testing and discovering what marketers have known since Ogilvy wrote his first ad.

Both of Ariely's books are "news you can use." I find myself referring to the stories--we cheat, given the opportunity. We make decisions about sex differently when we're drunk (duh, but that's rarely addressed in sex ed). (Still haven't forgiven him for presenting 50-yo women as "beyond the pale" in that experiment, BTW.) Those experiments are from the first book. I know the one about Legos and meaning in work from this book will find its way into my life--watching work get canceled or undone has had a huge effect on my own career and motivation.

Many of the review copy books that come my way get passed on to book swaps, in hope that someone else will find them more useful. I'm keeping this one. I'll be back in it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
alimie liman
I read Ariely's previous book Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and found it very interesting. With his new book, he's covered the same ground, but with new items. As before, life and people don't behave the way we expect them to; Top management gets concerned that they won't reach their bonuses, and foul up in the process, and guys who spend their lives looking for the right woman who meets every criteria on a grid are devastated when the perfect woman rejects the offer.

Ariely covers this and much more. He gives some details of his terrible accident, and the recovery from it.

If you liked the previous book, you'll like this one. If you haven't read "Predictably Irrational" I should go for that first, particularly since it's been released in paperback and revised and expanded.

But no matter where you start, I'm sure Ariely's writing will soon have you hooked.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
enrico accenti
Dan's wonderful book and his variety of experiments, makes this book, a wonderful treat for all to read. If you found behavioral economics strange, odd or boring, this book will dispel that myth. The test subjects with "Meaningful work and Non Meaningful" provide insights into how we view our labor and our reaction to those who treat it with respect or disdain.

Dating- those who have ever dated using E-harmony, will find out the real value, is created with the personal experience of meeting them in person vs using some sophisticated algorithm. One experiment showed, good old human interaction worked better.

What about charity and statistics, how are some charities so successful at priming our kindness, empathy and gift giving? Dan shares research with the latest methods charities use, to gain our pity to help. I can't do justice for his book with this review, all I can say, it was a sweet reading pleasure, and I hope Dan overtakes Malcom Gladwells books, things I am hearing about Gladwell, are making me sad, I hope he is still the wonderful man, who wrote great books and used solid data (but a few friends, teachers with double p.H.D.s are changing my viewpoint, saying things I don't like. I don't want to fall into another situation like "Broken into a Million Pieces", so I will avoid Gladwell until this is cleared up.) Good Luck Mr. Ariely and I look forward to buying your next book!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
brooks bird
This is clearly weaker than the previous Ariely book, which was quite enjoyable. The book is quite rambling and gives a few new results compared to the earlier book, which can be recommended. The interpretations of the simple studies are too bold as many reviewers have reminded. There is a touching human history here, but it does not help the message of the book very much. This material could be presented clearly enough in half of the pages. There are some interesting and clever studies, but it is difficult to say, what really is the message of the book. Does irrationality benefit us or not? - Viktor Frankl is was not a psychoanalyst, but logoterapist. He did study psychoanalysis, but found it unsuitable for him. Freud devalued meaning, but meaning was center of Frankl's work.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kristine bruneau
Ariely brings together various perspective of work and life in a cohesive yet interesting flow that reveals our logical sense isn't truly like what we believe it to be. Take the example of works in the first chapter of how big bonuses decrease productivity, or how we value our works and what motivates us to work beyond the dollar figure on our payroll.

Overall this book comes in light package to read on commute yet brings valuable insights of many things that we've done unknowingly at work and in life, how to appreciate, learn, and take advantage of the upside of some things that we could've thought as utterly illogical and irrational.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
l lafave
Dan Ariely follows up his first book, Predictably Irrational, with a solid entry: The Upside of Irrationality. If you enjoyed the first one, you'll likely enjoy the second as well. They run in the same vein. Ariely explores the underlying reasons why we do the things that we do. He explores such interesting topics such as: Why do we value our own work more than others? Why do we feel a strong push for revenge? Why are we more moved by one person in need than we are by millions?

I don't know that there are a ton of surprises in this book. I feel as though most of this ground has been covered. But the author does a great job of explaining and executing simple experiments to display our irrational behavior. Some may argue that the simplicity of the trials causes them to not be applicable to "real" life, but I would argue that since the experiments and results hold true in fairly minor circumstances, a real world, complex input would cause at least the same results, if not stronger.

I also appreciate that Ariely is open to sharing more of his own experiences. His awful burns have given him insights into certain human behaviors that others may not notice, and he takes those observations and translates them into the book neatly.

I like this book because it takes tricky, complicated behaviors and boils it down to simple explanations.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amaya
I haven't read Ariely's first book and one doesn't have to have read it to enjoy this one. "The Upside of Irrationality" is a brief account of the findings of the author's experiments and research in behavioral economics. His findings touch on not only the business world (such as the relationship between executive compensation and productivity; sense of work achievement, and job satisfaction), but also on more commonplace human behaviors (e.g. how people decide to donate their money, the myth that women can endure more pain than men, and online dating etc).

Written in a conversational tone, Dan Ariely goes into the findings of the behavior experiments that he and his collaborators conducted. He then writes about how these simple experiments may explain various irrational human behaviors. Although sometimes Ariely may over-interpret his data by arguing that results from such seemingly simple experiments explain major events, his arguments make sense. The studies he conducted and wrote about in this book are very interesting and shed light on many seemingly trivial aspects of daily life. He also delves into many important topics, such as how human beings perceive and experience happiness, and how people select their mates. Reading this book has made me sit back and really think about how Ariely's interesting data and conjectures could be applied to improve my daily life.

I love that anyone (and not just economists) can pick up this book, read it and completely understand it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book not only because it is inspiring and can help improve lives, but also because it is written in such an approachable tone that it is easy to sympathize and like the author. I recommend this book for interesting insights into human irrationality or a simply entertaining and educational read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
richie keogh
Another healthy dose of irrationality to Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions!

The book is belongs to the field of behavioral economics. For the uninitiated, behavioral economics is a branch of economics that debunks the general assumption underlying economics - that all of us are rational beings (homo economicus). The author, Dan Ariely, is a leading expert and thought leader in this area.

What's different (compared with Predictably Irrational):
a) This account is filled with several personal examples from the author's life
b) It is divided into two clear sections - one on work and other on irrationality at home
c) The focus of the book is on "Upside" of irrationality (when our irrationality works to our advantage)

What's the same:

Excellent sense of humor, fascinating behavioral economics experiments & fresh insights about human behavior at work and home.

What I liked the most - The chapter on Adaptation (Chapter 7) and long term effects of short term emotions (Chapter 10).
What I didn't like as much - The ultimatum game (too many books/experiments cover this game)

Read it, it will change the way you look at human behavior. If you are deeply informed about the subject, it is still an interesting read.

If you are trying to choose between Predictably Irrational and this book, Predictably irrational is the original classic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kareena rogers
This is a clearly written, well researched book that applies behavioral economics to everyday situations. Most of its arguments are counterintuitive. Did you know, for example, that paying out big bonuses does not always increase on-the-job performance? It may at certain levels of income. But at others, it only increases anxiety, which results in counterproductivity. The Upside of Irrationality is filled with such insights that Dan Ariely and his colleagues tested empirically using very creative scenarios, such as playing games or building Lego Bionicles for money. Ariely explores work situations, but also personal situations, such as online dating. A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
betsy pederson
Ariely's experiments are legendary, and with good reason. They are great experiments, and Ariely focuses on interesting and potentially important questions. The only thing I would have liked to at some points I thought that a little bit of explanation on the experiment's relationship to other work in psychology might have been useful. This was especially true for exploring sports psychology and Flow. I also haven't read Ariely's First book, so I cannot comment on the similarity of the books' content.
The writing is also great, Ariely's easy style makes the book pleasant to read, and I particularly enjoy the way he weaves in personal stories as a way to explain both his inspiration and learnings from these experiments.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
edith
In this, the second of Dan Arielly's books on behavioral economics (the first being Predictable irrational), Arielly takes on more personal aspects of people's behavior and tries to explain them predictable and scientific terms. He discusses payments for rewards (salaries, bonuses, etc.), what really makes you happy at work, overvaluing things we've made ourselves, revenge, getting used to things, attraction, dating, and empathy. He makes this work much more personal, relying on his personal stories, other's stories, and anecdotes. (Which will make sense if you read his chapter on empathy). An enjoyable read even if the topics it covers are less broadly applicable than his first book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
aluap
The sequel to Predictably Irrational by one of my favorite economists. His stuff is just so "useful". You will learn about many interesting things like:

The disincentive value of very high cash bonuses
How creators place a very high value on their work
Not invented here is a very basic flaw in our makeup
the "identifiable victim" impact on fundraising
the failure of online dating to solve the singles problem
how emotional cascades impact on decisions
the danger of theorizing without the data (trusting your gut)

Very readable, so human, the writer spins a compelling book that I could not put down.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
robyn cole
I wanted to like this book on behaviorial economics but I had problems with the theses and proof the author offered. While it is true, he has stellar academic creditials as a professor of economics at MIT, I found his logic questionable. In his first argument, he offers that large bonuses are a double edged sword. For tasks requiring cognative ability, low to moderate performance-based incentives can help. "When the incentive is high it can command too much attention and distract the person's mind with thoughts about the reward." What? You mean people have a tendancy to choke when the stakes are high? I think the author confuses "performance anxiety" with "big rewards don't produce results". Though I am certain these ideas hold sway with people with a particular political bent, the average person would disagree.

The rest of the book engages in similar interesting thought experiments that defy commonsense.

Well written but not recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
danielle maddox
Like Ariely's earlier book, this is a fascinating read. I recommended it to my son, who has a special interest in the gathering and interpreting of statistics. We enjoy discussing the experiments Ariely has designed to test different facets of the human decision-making process. I do not always agree that the data support the conclusions the author draws from them, but I love the thought process that goes into trying to measure these phenomena. Well written. I particularly enjoy the passages when Ariely discusses his own recovery from severe burns and the life lessons he has drawn, sometimes raising questions about human behavior that he explores in his experiments.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
miki
The Upside of Irrationality is a book about business and social science written by Dan Ariely. He expresses a new way of looking at the reasons of our actions. Many stories are contained in this book which each have moral in them. Many of his topics are very interesting such as “Why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive” and “Why is revenge so important to us? Ariely cleverly express to us his ideas in an entertaining and addictive way.
Many ways to look at a curtain topic are introduced in this book. Ariely’s perspective often contrasts with the reader, but he managed to persuade the reader by using his personal experiences and explaining the reasons behind his action. For example, the story about his illness in the past tells the reader how he uses movies he wants to watch to forget about the pain from pills and the mindset he has during the event. However, because his book is a book of his personal ideas and perspectives, some people might not agree with him. Some might say that his way of thinking does not work and thus consider it as a waste of time to read the book.
Although his ideas might not seem reasonable in some situations, The Upside of Irrationality is a book that everyone should at least look into it. It’s very entertaining to read, and readers can adapt his ideas of thinking to use their life. The Upside of Irrationality is one of the best books I have read.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kate stone
First, I should point out that I've read several lay books in behavioral economics, such as Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness,The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us,Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, and Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.) series.

That said, it is now starting to get old. If you've read even one of these other books, this one will not be all that interesting to you. If you haven't, there may be some good stuff here. Your interest level will likely depend on which group you fall into.

Do larger bonuses actually hinder job performance? Does making (even part of) something yourself increase your valuation of it? What is the success rate of dating websites, who reduce non-formulaic variables (sense of humor, attitude, etc) to quantifiable numbers? Do we tend to value ideas that are ours even if other ideas may really be better? Ariely purports to answer these questions using his own and others' experiments, and show that there are "upsides" to many of our irrational tendencies.

First, I agree with some other reviewers particularly about the seeming validity (internal and external) of Ariely's studies. Bluntly, many of Ariely's studies seemed very informal and had large possible selection biases (consisting largely of student samples which may not always be the most representative). Some of the samples seemed too small to yield very generalizable conclusions, and some of Ariely's conclusions seemed to be one of several possible explanations for the observed results.

Secondly, he doesn't often get to what the "upside" of these irrationalities are aside from, say, letting us know that when we are aware of our blind spots we can better adjust for them. But what, specifically, was the upside of our tendency to respond to stories more than statistics? Or our tendency to respond more favorably to things or ideas we helped create? Ariely's only answer seems largely to be that being aware of our biases helps us adjust for them. Well, that is good, but it is also the main theme of every book I listed above, so it is not horribly exciting. (And I think i knew that before I read the books; I am betting that most people who would tend toward books like these know that without even reading the books.)

Anyhow, I am going to give it three stars because, had I not read the books above, this one may well have been interesting. It is well written, explains pretty well, and presents us with tendencies about ourselves that might come as a shock to some. But, honestly, if you've read any of those cited above (or even Ariely's first book), this one is not going to be that interesting.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
nortina
This was definitely not as good as Ariely's first book "Predictably Irrational." I loved that book. This one I could take or leave. It repeated quite a bit of the first book, didn't really seem to go as in depth into his experiments and CERTAINLY wasn't as funny. Still it had it's moments. Overall though, read that one - skip this one.

Follow up note: And if you DO read this one, you can skip his last book which is 60% a combo of the first two!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
joanann
I've read his first book "Predictably Irrational". In that he opens the window to human irrationality and in this book he explores various ways to take advantage of that irrationality. Enjoyable read as well as informative. But this book fell short of my expectations that he set with his first book.

He tried to extrapolate the results to unrelated groups under different conditions. For example, he proved in an experiment that under the "acute stress of high reward" an untrained group of individuals performed poorly compared to a similarly untrained group of people who were not pressured by the high reward. And then he goes on to argue that executives and professionals should be paid less. He in fact asks if you would rather be operated on by a well paid surgeon or less paid surgeon, arguing that a well paid surgeon will underperform because of the pressure of high reward (compensation). I guess I should disclose here that I am a physician. I'm in no way supporting the ridiculous pay of this generation of executives, bankers and even some physicians, but I believe this extrapolation is not scientific. I found a few similar misinterpretations.

At times, he described his ordeal of recovery from extensive burns in gory details. I am very sympathetic to his suffering and there are times I cried reading it (bear in mind that I'm not stranger to suffering). When looked at it objectively, though, the details were a little more than needed for the narrative. I felt that he invoked emotional reactions, unrelated to the book's narrative. Was he trying to harness the irrationality of the readers?

Most observations made in the book appear logical and insightful and his research is commendable. That's all the more reason for him to be as scientifically accurate as possible and not stray. In such a setting, even one unscientific conclusion will cast a shadow of doubt on the validity of the rest. How ever, I do highly recommend, but advise the reader to read it critically.

First let me explain my rating. 5 star if it's an all time great (The selfish gene, 2001 Space Odyssey, Rendezvous with Rama), 4 star if all is great, but for a few shortfalls (The Greatest show on earth). Then comes 3, which means I enjoyed it, but it has too many shortfalls. 2 I wouldn't read it again. and 1 if it's a no no.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
leslie abramson
What a great examination of the limitations in our decision making process, both as individuals and as a society. To me, understanding where we fall short in critically analyzing information is a crucial piece of our ability to be successful in life and as democratic citizens.

Really well done.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ally fox
The tone of this book felt more like an intimate conversation with Dan Ariely than a book containing experiments, explanations, and results (though it certainly had all of those things). I came away from this book wanting to watch my behavior and decision-making patterns closely and question and experiment.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
olsy vinoli arnof
In this sequel to his great book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely gives further examples of his experiments in behavioral economics, but also delves into how one might be able to use that irrationality to improve ones life.

Ariely through a series of experiments is able to demonstrate that not only do we react in irrational ways, we are also influenced by things that we are unaware of. In one experiment he shows how a bad mood one day can change a person's behavior over the course of weeks.

But since our irrational behavior is in fact predictable (as his previous book showed) we can use some of these influences to attempt to train ourselves to respond the way we wish we would.

Along the way Ariely touches on many things, like the universally negative results of pressure (no one in fact thrives on it) and the reason that people react more strongly to individuals than to large groups of people.

You won't come away from this book suddenly able to achieve everything you wanted in life, but you will have a much better understanding of where you may have gone wrong and why other people are acting the way they are.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kirana
Dan Ariely's "The Upside of Irrationality" is subtitled "The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home." A more apt title would have been "Predictably Irrational--the Sequel," since this book comes across more as a follow-up to Ariely's first book ("Predictably Irrational--The Hidden forces that Shape Our Decisions") than a presentation of completely new material. The author, who is a behavioral economist, recounts a series of experiments that he and his colleagues conducted to explore such questions as: What makes work meaningful and, conversely, what can make it dull and unsatisfying? Why do people procrastinate? How does a person's self-image influence whom he chooses to date? Why is revenge so sweet even though it "has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst"? In what ways do our emotions impel us to make self-destructive decisions?

In Chapter Eleven, "Lessons from Our Irrationalities," Ariely sums up his thesis succinctly: "Our cognitive biases often lead us astray, particularly when we have to make, big, difficult, [and] painful choices." The author brings his point home in a poignant manner when he discusses what happened after he incurred third degree burns in an accident. In order to reduce his pain and the number of surgeries he would have to undergo, his doctor recommended the amputation of his hand and forearm. Dan says, "I decided to hold on to my poor, limited, eviscerated limb and make the best of things." Now he wonders if he made a mistake: "I was not so rational, and I kept my arm--resulting in more operations, reduced flexibility, and frequent pain."

Although this book breaks little new ground in a popular field crowded with similar works, Ariely's personal account of his ordeal, including the excruciating physical and occupational therapy that he endured, make for compelling reading. When Dan admits that he agonized over his ability to find a woman to love as well as a satisfying job, we cannot help but empathize. "The Upside of Irrationality" offers a much-needed reminder that we can never totally eliminate our subconscious biases. At best, we can remain cognizant of our irrationality, and make use of our self-knowledge to optimize our chances for success and happiness.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
sora90
The set was stage in the beginning about how common sense prevailing knowledge might be untrue. The example provided was so called misconception that high bonuses will inspire high performance. There on, there were bunch of experimentation and analysis in the book, that added nothing new to my thinking at all. On the other hand, explanation of experiments conducted were somewhat interesting.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
yasser almutiri
A behavioural science book similar to the books written by Malcolm Gladwell, on the mind and society. Ariely uses personal anecdotes (like his previous book) combined with social science studies to make a rational case that we all have to deal with our own irrational behaviour. The book is particularly relevant for policy makers, but since everyone makes decisions everyone will find the material personally relevant. Overall this is a smart book that talks about the good parts of our irrationality. The author used experiences from his own life, research of his own, and the research of others to show ways that being irrational is good. My personal opinion - the book is entertaining and readable, but too many personal and empirical anecdotes and not enough science.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
shirin
Overall, this is a good book. However, I find it more predictable and not as surprising and entertaining compared to author's first book (Predictably Irrational)

Since the experiments are designed and carried out by Dan Ariely, you get a good understanding on the design and the rationale behind the experiment. Sometimes I wonder whether the results are interpreted in a certain way to justify the "irrationality" but I am sure that is not the case due to academic integrity.

The description of the subject's participation can be lengthy at times; you don't need descriptions on many participants to get the point. I enjoy more from reading Part I - "The Unexpected Ways We Defy Logic At Work".

It is touching that Dan shares his personal ordeal throughout the book. On the front of human spirits and acadamic achievement, Professor Ariely deserves a round of applause. As in the first book, Dan shows a good sense of humor.

Through his writing, I can feel author's passion in research and teaching. It must be a great learning experience to have Dan Ariely as a professor.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
deanna s
Dr. Ariely is a captivating author. His previous book Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions was enlightening about our irrationalities in daily life.

The title of this book is really an oxymoron: if the behavior has has an upside, is it irrational? Or is Dr. Ariely being predictably irrational? Conundrum, is't it?

I really take an issue with his use of the word irrational. Then he over extrapolates the results of experiments. To give you an example, with performance on x-axis and reward on y, the relationship between performance and reward is an inverted U shaped curve when the experiment is done on Indian students. As the rewards increase really high, the performance goes down after the peak. Although Wall Street barrons refused to participate in his study, Dr. Ariely extrapolates those results to conclude that very high bonuses to executives results in poor performance. is't that irrational?

The experiments about taking ownership of your work are not really irrational at all and I really failed to grasp as to why is he calling them irrational.

On several occasions, I have seen Dr. Ariely on PBS Newshour or heard him on NPR. In one of those appearances he said that he is afraid to log on to his investment account because he is afraid of finding what he'll see there. So, even if you are a behavioral economist and understand the irrationality of your behavior, it does't mean you can control it!

My impression is that Dr. Ariely is basically cashing in on his name recognition from the first book "Predictably Irrational". This book is very predictable for Dr. Ariely, and his irrationality is pointed above. This book really does not add much to your understanding of human behaviour if you have read that book. And if you have not read Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions then buy that one.

Or am I being just unpredictably rational?
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
heatherlynn
Dan Ariely treads familiar ground in this best-selling sequel to "Predictably Irrational." There were some startling and counter-intuitive insights in "Predictably Irrational" (the importance of comparison to understanding, how we can be "primed" to think a certain way, etc.), but, because behavioral economics is now so established in the mainstream and because Ariely has just run out of insights, this book is a bit too obvious and a bit too silly. According to Ariely, we as humans are concerned with fairness, and we find pleasure in taking revenge against those who we feel have done us wrong. Well, d-uh!

The subtitle "The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home" is misleading because Ariely doesn't quite believe there are benefits to defying logic -- he just believes that such irrationality can be channeled constructively instead of destructively.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
camn
Ariely has a conversational writing style that I found very readable and I found the mixture of research findings and personal anecdotes entertaining. Though there are some confounding factors in his explanations that are ignored, it is certainly a book that will make you think about your motivations and those of others.

I haven't read author's book Predictably Irrational, but states he attempts to show the benefits of irrational behaviour described in that. So, if you have read his other book you may not find too much new to read and suffer from hedonic adaption :).
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
vi nna
While many of his experiments and conclusions drawn are interesting I found them of little practical value. Even more useless was his auto-biological references to a difficult injury he suffered as a teenager.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amy whipple
I rated his first book Predictably Irrational PI a five star and put it in one of my Listmania! lists. However, I dont see any reason for the existence of this UI, which just primarily repeated what had been covered in its predecessor PI. Hope you had read this review before you buy and read UI. Just go directly to PI! It's a great read. In case you had already read PI, Sway, Outliers, Superfeakonomics, Yes! 50 scientifically proven ways....are much better choices.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lynette
This is the sequel to Predictably Irrational and was written by a behavioral economics researcher. The book has the same elements of statistical results of psychological testing followed by discussions of how the results might be applied to the reader's lifestyle. In this book, the mix is heavier on personal advice and lighter on experimental results, so I did not enjoy it as much as I did the original. The author spends much more time in this book discussing the topics of physical handicaps and dating for unattractive adults -- both topics that are dear to the author, since he was a victim of an explosive device in his late teenage years.

Once again, the Audible book was narrated by Simon Jones, who is my favorite audiobook narrator.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
gege
The premise is interesting - how do economists explain all the mysteries of life, such as, why a bigger paycheck doesn't always result in better results. These mysteries are examined through experiments, such as inviting people off the street in India to perform different tasks for differing compensation.

Problem is, the experiments are described in excruciating detail. Admittedly this may be necessary in order to give credence to the "findings", which are of varying credibility nevertheless, since it's hard to analogize multi-million dollar payouts with one-to-ten dollar payouts. But after a few of these exercises in mind-numbing detail, it's easy to tune out. And the ones you did get through ... again, it's hard to agree with the conclusions, since the relationship of the experiments to reality is questionable, sometimes even silly. People value things they created themselves more than someone else's? Wow. Really? To be fair, it's something we would guess, but perhaps there is value in seeing it happen in an experimental setting. Or perhaps not.

The other problem is that the author keeps bringing in irrelevant personal details about his travel, his accident, etc. etc. It's quite annoying. I've seen others praise his writing, but between overlong descriptions of experiment design and personal data serving as filler, I'm not so sure.

The author has obviously overcome (or is dealing with) a lot of personal hardship. I applaud his drive to move on, but an editor was badly needed. For example, Freakonomics was a better-paced book in a similar genre.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
billy alguire
I have trouble with Ariely's concept of "irrationality," in particular with the notion that it is irrational to regard another's interests as much as your own, or to trust others, or to do what you love doing, or to adapt.

Otherwise, this book is filled with interesting information and insights. Perhaps most important is his emphasis on the importance of experimentation, rather than relying on assumptions, when it comes to important decisions, whether personal, public or business.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessica anderson
I heard of Dan Ariely from watching a TED presentation he put on. If you are thinking of reading this book, watch his presentation and you will get a great glimpse into his style and expertise. If you enjoy his TED presentation, you will enjoy this book. Regarding the book, the examples and stories are well written and fascinating. It is a great reminder of how imperfect we are and how important it is to think before we make decisions. My favorite part of book is Ariely's personal accounts and experiences he writes about. He has been through a lot of trials and ties these events directly into his findings. He is humble and does not write in a arrogant way of being smarter than most in this subject. I couldn't put this book down and really enjoyed it.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
donna jones
The book lists out some experiments conducted by the author and his team that prove that human beings in general are irrational. But there isn't much in the book that tells how this irrational behavior can be used to one's benefit, except for one instance where the author mentions Dreamworks. Overall, catchy title that gets you hooked but not much new to learn.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
milan
After a relatively interesting start ( The value of bonuses to CEOs, the meaning of work..) the book quickly settles down to a boring level.
In addition, as one continues to read, it becomes more and more of a "guide to better decisions and better living..." instead of describing and explaining human behaviour. Also, as the book progresses, the experiments to prove the statements become thinner and thinner.
It seems the author ran out of things to say, but still wanted to fill about 300 pages (large print)
If you stop reading after part I, the book is good.
If you read part II, too, it is simply boring.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bob sipes
This is one of the best books I've read recently! The writing style is incredibly engaging, and made me want to keep reading until the last page. There is a perfect balance between anecdotes, explaining experimental results, and making overarching claims about human nature. There is some repetition with "Predictably Irrational," but both of the books are so excellent that I actually did not mind. I've studied some cog sci, so some of the ideas were ones I've heard before (ultimatum game again?), but others were totally new (self-herding? Interesting...). I highly recommend this book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mollyirenez
As a teacher, I found many insights particularly valuable. Motivating students will be more effective when I use some of these techniques, especially just simply "noticing" that the student has accomplished something.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
tolles
I had read the 1 star reviews before buying it, but I did not want to believe some of the harsh comments... I had enjoyed too much Predictably Irrational to believe the nay sayers. Now, after finishing the book, I can say that I concur. I would not recommend it -- if nothing else, you'd spoil your good impression of the author if you had one...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
diah handayani
I enjoyed reading Dan Ariely's first book, Predictably Irrational, as it made me look at life and decisions through a difference set of lenses. It challenged many of the assumptions I had about logical and practical decision-making. I find that his new book, The Upside of Irrationality, continues to challenge many of my assumptions about behavior - rational and irrational. I was a bit hesitant to read the book as I knew it would contain significant personal reflections of Dan's life. I was surprised how well Dan melded his personal experience with research and findings. Thanks for another great book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
seema
Dan Ariely once again hits a home run. The research is smart, clearly presented, and useful. I love the way he backs his observations and assertions with evidence derived from research and testing-- this is how all books in this genre should be written. I'm already looking forward to his next one.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
anoop singh
Que Seinfeld music as two scientists with time to kill enter a restaurant. One asks, "What if our waitress makes a mistake on our bill and undercharges us?" This conversation goes on and on, yada yada yada. I could almost hear the laugh track. (Page 144.) All comedy is a recycle of old ideas. So is this book, I'm afraid. In Book 1 of Plato's "The Republic", Socrates notes that those who make their own poems (as wells as their own money) are more attached to their own poems, not others. Do we really need a new chart on this? Also, the book dances all around the Genovese Effect but never mentions it as if he were talking about something entirely new. I know Ariely means well with these experiments, but his view of the world seems too innocent. Most bank's motivation is not to HELP us little people. Also, the Ad world is not here to HELP us either. They want to create more attachment to their product for PROFIT. Ariely is, in effect, helping them avoid pitfalls and giving them more ammunition for manipulation of our "irrationality." Hence the "upside" of irrationality (the title which really makes sense -- for the manipulators, not us little people).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matei
I find Dan's books to be the best self help books ever. No nonsense, direct to the point, every chapter contains excellent practical advice for
our daily lives. Even if you adopt one or two points only from each book the lessons are priceless. I personally know of several people and large companies that adopted
Dan's findings and applied them to daily behavior and to the market place.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
colleenpa
I agree with the other reviewers that this book ismore like a sequel to Predictably Irrational, without adding much that's new. In short:
1. The book doesn't fulfill the promise in the title and discuss the upside.
2. I feel like most of it was either covered already, or kind of obvious.

Thus is was pretty uneventful, and I felt like I kept waiting for him to get to something good. Never happened.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
joni stiling
As with his previous book, this book is recommended for the general public, but may also be of interest to economists, marketers or business people working in retail or consumer goods. The nature of it is more anecdotal, but the book is entertaining.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
roophy
Written in an easy-to-read, conversational style that is entertaining and easy to pick up and put down, "The Upside of Irrationality" is good, but not great book. We learn that animals (except for cats) like to work to "earn" their food (such as figuring out puzzles) and that bonuses make employees focus on the bonus instead of the work and therefore not produce the best work result, among other tidbits. Neither of these were "oh my gosh, I'd never thought of that!" moments. But they were entertaining to read about and the author's "voice" is an easy one to read.

Will this book change your life? No. But it might make an airplane ride a little faster or waiting at the doctor's office go a little quicker.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shaina
Great repartee. A pretty easy read. I did have to re-read the parts of the book with special attention to the passages I had marked. What I like best about this, It made me think. I highly recommend this book.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jillyberger
Behavioral Economics has been an expanding section of bookstores for a few years now, and a lot of the books coming out are thought-provoking and intelligent. This one makes the others look better by comparison.

I have global complaints, like the plodding pace of the writing, the confusing way in which some of the experiments are presented, the odd withholding of information (at one point the author declines to explain the difference between two different auction styles, citing the complexity, but they must have been able to explain each style to the participants in order for the experiment to work), and such. Even if the experiments themselves were done well, this would be a major reason to avoid this book, even for someone doing a thorough reading of the lay-literature of Behavioral Economics.

Then there's some nitpickier complaints, like how the author feels compelled to mention the horrible injury, and arduous healing process, that he suffered years before. While i do understand that this was a major life event for him, and in fact got him started in the field, it's unclear what it adds to the book to mention it every chapter. He's also compelled to mention his other book repeatedly, just in case we missed the fact that this is his second book, even though this one doesn't build on the last one directly.

The major failing of this book, though, is the experiments themselves. And, for reasons of sensationalism and piling on the bandwagon of complaining about the 2008 financial crisis, one of the most flawed experiments leads the book. In short, in an attempt to show that paying financial experts huge bonuses actually harms their efficacy, they show that paying random passers-by huge bonuses for tasks totally unrelated to their actual profession harms their efficacy. There are several marked differences between the experimental subjects and the bankers to whom the author would like to generalize the results (no, i'm not arguing that bankers are 'special' as the author claims his banker friends often do, just that they're businesspeople and random people on the street in India probably aren't, if they're wandering down the street in the middle of the day and have the time to stop and do the experiment). There are several marked differences in the way the bonuses were offered, whether they were expected, how the bonuses related to the tasks, etc. Basically, either the author totally failed to convey how the experiment was actually related to his conclusion, or he took an experiment only tangentially related to the topic and claimed it was related in order to lead his book with a chapter about the 2008 financial crisis.

Other experiments, while less flawed, are just pointless. For example, he showed that if someone's rude to you, you're more likely to take an opportunity to punish them than you would be if they weren't rude to you. (Shocking, i know, but he has the data to back up the claim.)

Another great sin is that the author only rarely follows through on the promise of the subtitle. There are dribs and drabs of comments on how being irrational can be beneficial, but more often it's simply observations that humans aren't, in fact, machines of pure reason that always seek the greatest gain for the least effort. After a few requisite digs at how Rational Economists totally fail to actually predict human behavior, this 'oh, and check that out, people aren't perfectly rational!' mantra gets redundant.

If you like books on Behavioral Economics, read Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics. They are better written, with better data and better analysis. And if you've already read those two, stay well clear of this one, as you'll find it vapid, slow, frustrating, and poorly written when compared to those.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
ryan schmidt
This book was on the top of my wish list to read on my new Kindle, but after reading the sample excerpt I was so disappointed that I changed my mind and decided not to buy it.

Right out of the bat the author commits a fallacy of equivocation by equating the incentives of a CEO working for a bigger bonus (a reward) to those of a lab rat trying to navigate a maze while avoiding big electrical shocks (a punishment). He really goes out of his way to equate the two, at some point saying that the rat's "reward" increases as the intensity of the shock goes up. Come up! That's like saying a horse's incentive is exactly the same whatever end you stick the carrot at. Then he proceeds to describe this contrived experiment from which he will extrapolate that higher bonus checks don't result in better work, which may as well be the general case, yet I didn't buy how that particular experiment can satisfactorily yield the conclusion given it fails to consider many important differences from real life scenarios.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
high priestess kang
Only didn't give it 5 stars because it's like a movie sequel- the 2nd is never as good as the first. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kevin walsh
I'll admit. I didn't read the entire book, but that's because I couldn't get past the shoddy logic presented in the first chapter.

First he claims that people aren't as rational as we'd expect, and then he provides specific examples of people allegedly acting irrational. For instance, he cites cigarette smoking as irrational. Roughly paraphrased he says that smokers know smoking is bad yet they still do it.

This is a too overgeneralized conclusion about the alleged "irrationality" of smoking. If a smoker deems the benefits received from smoking outweigh the negative health consequences, then that can be perfectly viewed as rational within the hierarchy of that person's values. . .I don't mean to get unnecessarily philosophic here, but the author clearly failed when he didn't even explain what the hell makes something rational, and what doesn't. To assume that just because something is bad for your health makes it irrational is giggleable. Of course health is important, but there are other factors too. What's flabbergasting is that he's a fricken professor and he doesn't start his book with a definition and framework for rationality. But perhaps that was discussed in one of his previous books, I don't know.

His logic also failed when he tried to "replicate" the giving of "bonuses" to CEOs by testing Indian workers on various mental games. First, the type of games they were given are not what CEOs do. Sorry. If that was the case, HR would simply give those games to prospective CEOs and the one scoring the highest would get the job. Secondly, (and correct me if I'm wrong), but bonuses are AFTER THE FACT. In his replication, he told the Indians that they would receive X dollars IF they performed at a certain level. That ain't how it's done in CEO world. Bonuses come UNEXPECTEDLY AFTER performance. Lawl. Thirdly, by telling the Indian participant that he or she would gain X amount of money if they performed at a certain level, you are screwing up the analogousness of the experiment to the "CEO world," because CEOs generally aren't told by bonus givers that they will get such-and-such amount if they met such-and-such performance level. Fourthly, I think there were like only 6 or something Indians in his test. Wtf kind of participant pool is that!?

He also claims that since people are irrational that it would make sense to provide some sort of regulation to deter them from making irrational decisions, or to at least buffer the negative effects of their irrational decisions. For instance, he says cars are made with seat belts, anti-lock brakes, etc, to help "save" us from our irrationality. Wonderful. Again, WHAT IS RATIONALITY!? If all humans are so prone it irrationality, HOW CAN WE EVER KNOW IF WE ARE ACTING RATIONAL TO BEGIN WITH? How do we know what is rational and what isn't? The problem is is that the author seems to implicitly assume that we all know what "rationality" is and that we all define it the same. Well we don't.

On the flipside, I see this book got a crap load of positive reviews, which perhaps proves the book's thesis. So damn. But I swear to god that if the first chapter is at all indicative of pages to comes, that this book really effing sucks.

But to be fair to anyone reading this critique, I suppose I should provide some healthy alternative to this economic witchcraft. If you want to read REAL economics, based in FACT without bizarre and embarrassingly inadequate experiments, check out "Economics in One Lesson," or something like that. It's a MUCH better read.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kammy
Much has already been said by other reviewers, I just mention a few points I especially disliked. Most importantly, I think that Ariely presents science in a bad way. He often starts with what "people think" just to show that he found out that it's different. There's nothing wrong in showing in a controlled experiment that people behave as expected, but it is bad science to make it look as a completely unexpected finding.

For example, he starts by telling the reader that top-bankers get so much paid because people think they work better the more they get, and his finding that some people perform less well when they get paid more guides the whole first part of the book. I have however never heard that above a certain threshold output and salary correlate. High salaries were justified because otherwise people would just change to a better paying company.

This goes on and on, and reaches a ridiculous level in the second part, for example when Ariely claims that "people think" that nothing feels better than taking a short brake from an annoying task. Am I the only one who thinks that the moment after finishing the task feels much better?

Another point, despite pointing out in the introduction that seemingly irrational behaviour can also have benefits and its understanding thus is important, he never elaborates on that. For example, he just mentions that taking revenge (despite costs) can be important in certain situations in society, but he does not give us examples (compare e.g. Malcom Gladwell's `Outliers' for some interesting thoughts on that).

Finally, the constant mention that he can talk to top bankers (so he must be a top scientist!) and that people who do experiments with him are just great (so he must also be great!) is just annoying.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
catarina
In 06-JUN-2010 NYT, Kyla Dunn offers an interesting book review of The Upside of Irrationality. After reading the review, What We Misunderstand, my impression is that a more appropriate title for a review of Dr. Ariely's research might be: What Economists Misunderstand. An excerpt from Ms. Dunn's review illustrates what economists call "the ultimate game", which is not really a game at all but an experiment conducted under rigorously controlled circumstances, with strict, simple rules, and interpreted within the confines of carefully defined measurement criteria and assumptions. Here Ms. Dunn describes the ultimate game:

"The experimenter gives one player, the sender, $20 to distribute between himself and another player, the receiver. An egalitarian sender might propose a split of $10 each. A more selfish sender might propose to give the receiver only $1, keeping $19 for himself. If the receiver accepts the deal, the two players collect their shares. If the receiver rejects the deal, both walk away with nothing. Were humans perfectly rational, the receiver would accept whatever is offered: even a dollar is better than nothing, right? Instead, researchers find, receivers will reject an overly lopsided deal, gladly giving up their shares just to punish the stingy senders."

Dr. Ariely's conclusion, that humans are not rational and that "both [participants] walk away with nothing" when the receiver rejects an unfair deal is faulty. A better interpretation of the observed outcome is, when the receiver rejects the deal both participants walk away with no money. Note that no money does not equal nothing. In reality, the capital being negotiated in this experiment is personal power and the payoff is meaningful relationship. However the researchers are not trained to observe or measure personal power as a form of capital and they completely discount meaningful interpersonal relationship as a payoff. These critical explanatory factors have been cropped out of the experimental model by assuming that (1) if a person is rational any amount of money is better than no money at all, regardless of access to other forms of capital, such as personal power and (2) the investigators have assumed that their guinea pigs are following their rules, which state that the only relevant payoff is money. Econometricians would evaluate this model as faulty due to the dreaded missing variable bias.

An alternative interpretation of the ultimate game outcome is: if the receiver rejects the deal, she walks away preserving her option to find someone else to play games with, someone who won't abuse power. She chooses this option because she knows that playing games with fair rules is far more satisfying than playing games with unequal access to the payoff. In the language of economics, the marginal utility of, or preference for, playing fairly is greater than the marginal utility of a short-run, unfair monetary gain (that has no impact on real life anyway because it's an experiment). Does this dynamic seem like it might apply to personal relationships? I think it explains a lot.

There are valid forms of capital other than dollars. However, most classically trained economists don't know this secret of real life. People behave rationally according to perceived assets, monetary and otherwise. Sometimes economists don't know what should be measured to tell a useful story. What surprises me is that a behavioral economist missed the point. The Upside of Irrationality should be filed under fiction.
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