The Upside of Irrationality

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home ( 2010 ) by Dan Ariely continues on the themes from his book Predictably Irrational .

The book has more of Ariely’s life in it. Ariely suffered third degree burns to 70% of his body when he was in High School. The treatment of these burns and the continuing pain from them has clearly shaped his life. He injects what happened to him into his descriptions of irrational human behavior. It works well, it gives the book a narrative that runs through the story.

The book is divided into two parts, irrationality at work and at home.

In the first section Ariely looks at how big bonuses often don’t work. There is then a chapter on the meaning of labour, where Ariely looks at how if what we produce, even if we are paid, is ignored or useless we don’t work as hard. It’s a particularly interesting chapter that would be worth looking at for any boss. Ariely then talks about the IKEA effect where he points out that we value things we assemble more than things that arrive. Finally a chapter on how people seek revenge is included.

In the second part Ariely looks at dating in general and how people have strategies and how they behave. He also looks at online dating and how he believes it is a failed market and how it could be improved, his belief is that having a shared experience together improves the experience. Ariely looks at how we respond to individual cases of suffering more than general cases, which also provides an interesting look at the story of his own life that Ariely weaves into the book. There is then a chapter on long term effects of short term emotions which is fascinating. We remember our decisions but not our emotions that drive these decisions.

The final chapter rounds out the book and tries to suggest that our irrationalities have a strong positive side as well. This point is not made as well as most of the examples in the book are described. But it matters little, the book itself is another excellent read that chronicles human foibles and makes us aware to our own failings.


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