The Romans said nosce te ipsum – “know thyself” and in this excellent new book, Dan Ariely, describes experiments that illuminate aspects of human behaviour that are, in turns, surprising, delightful, amusing and yes, even disturbing. Subtitled “The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions”, the author who is a professor at MIT says that we are not only irrational, but predictably so.
The book seeks to answer questions such as why we overpay for a fancy cup of coffee, why CEO compensation has skyrocketed, how choices distract us from our goals, why we fail to save, why we should beware of “trial offers”, why a little cheating is so common etc. Prof. Ariely encourages readers to “pause at the end of each chapter, spend some time thinking about how the principles of human behavior identified in the experiments apply to your life”. For instance, take the TD Bank iPod offer I blogged about rather excitedly last year. When I really stop and think about it, I rarely listen to music on a portable player. In the basement somewhere we have a Walkman, a Discman and a tiny SanDisk MP3 player that were used a couple of times and now gather dust. So, it’s a good bet that the iPod would have met the same fate and it’s irrational that I would be ready to jump through hoops to get one. But, hey, when something is FREE!, we simply go nuts over it.
Prof. Ariely is an excellent story teller and his writing is charming, witty and funny. He is also a very clever guy with a mischievous streak and his experiments (and that of his colleagues) in the book are very ingenious. If this book is available at your local library, try and get it. If you liked Freakonomics, you’ll like this book as well. You may also want to check out Prof. Ariely’s Predictably Irrational website, featuring a blog, YouTube videos and links to his research websites.
Rating: 9 out of 10