About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#73: The Upside of Irrationality

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, by Dan Ariely (New York: Harper, 2010).

"Ariely (Predictably Irrational) expands his research on behavioral economics to offer a more positive and personal take on human irrationality's implications for life, business, and public policy. After a youthful accident left him badly scarred and facing grueling physical therapy, Ariely's treatment required him to accept temporary pain for long-term benefit -- a trade-off so antithetical to normal human behavior that it sparked the author's fascination with why we consistently fail to act in our own best interest. The author, professor of behavioral economics at Duke, leads us through experiments that reveal such idiosyncracies as the IKEA effect (if you build something, pride and sentimental attachment are likely to give you an inflated sense of its quality) and the Baby Jessica effect (why we respond to one person's suffering but not to the suffering of many). He concludes with prescriptions for how to make real personal and societal changes, and what behavior patterns we must identify to improve how we love, live, work, innovate, manage, and govern. Self-deprecating humor, an enthusiasm for human eccentricities, and an affable and snappy style make this read an enriching and eye-opening pleasure." -from Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents:
  • Introduction: Lessons from Procrastination and Medical Side Effects
Part I - The Unexpected Ways We Defy Logic at Work
  • Chapter 1 - Paying More for Less: Why Big Bonuses Don't Always Work
  • Chapter 2 - The Meaning of Labor: What Legos Can Teach Us about the Joy of Work
  • Chapter 3 - The IKEA Effect: Why We Overvalue What We Make
  • Chapter 4 - The Not-Invented-Here Bias: Why "My" Ideas Are Better than "Yours"
  • Chapter 5 - The Case for Revenge: What Makes Us Seek Justice?
Part II - The Unexpected Ways We Defy Logic at Home
  • Chapter 6 - On Adaptation: Why We Get Used to Things (but Not All Things, and Not Always)
  • Chapter 7 - Hot or Not? Adaptation, Assortative Mating, and the Beauty Market
  • Chapter 8 - When a Market Fails: An Example from Online Dating
  • Chapter 9 - On Empathy and Emotion: Why We Respond to One Person Who Needs Help but Not to Many
  • Chapter 10 - The Long-Term Effects of Short-Term Emotion: Why We Shouldn't Act on Our Negative Feelings
  • Chapter 11 - Lessons from Our Irrationalities: Why We Need to Test Everything
My Take:
Solid and interesting, but I dunno -- maybe I've just read too many behavioral econ books like this one for it to seem very new any more. Sad, in a way. Good book, but ... my socks are still on.

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