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The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home Hardcover – Deckle Edge, 1 June 2010
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The provocative follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational
- Why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive?
- How can confusing directions actually help us?
- Why is revenge so important to us?
- Why is there such a big difference between what we think will make us happy and what really makes us happy?
In his groundbreaking book Predictably Irrational, social scientist Dan Ariely revealed the multiple biases that lead us into making unwise decisions. Now, in The Upside of Irrationality, he exposes the surprising negative and positive effects irrationality can have on our lives. Focusing on our behaviors at work and in relationships, he offers new insights and eye-opening truths about what really motivates us on the job, how one unwise action can become a long-term habit, how we learn to love the ones we're with, and more.
Drawing on the same experimental methods that made Predictably Irrational one of the most talked-about bestsellers of the past few years, Ariely uses data from his own original and entertaining experiments to draw arresting conclusions about how—and why—we behave the way we do. From our office attitudes, to our romantic relationships, to our search for purpose in life, Ariely explains how to break through our negative patterns of thought and behavior to make better decisions. The Upside of Irrationality will change the way we see ourselves at work and at home—and cast our irrational behaviors in a more nuanced light.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Behavioral Economics is a fascinating subject to me. Why do humans act the way they do, and why do they act in ways that often seem counter-intuitive or just plain wrong? I find the design of experiments to show these foibles to be fascinating and enjoyable reading.
But not this book. For starters, the writing style seemed bit long-winded and overly complicated. It always seemed like it took far more words to explain things than was actually needed.
My biggest complaint, though, was the stretch made in applying the results of the experiments. I am not a trained statistician or economist, but every time I read the results of one of the experiments and the conclusions generated, there seemed to be an obvious flaw.
For example, in one experiment, the author attempts to quantify the effects of large financial bonuses (the kinds paid to investment bankers) on their performance. As a substitute, he uses relatively poor paid workers (low wage earners in India), and offers them "bonuses" equal to several month's pay. He does this because several month's pay for these individuals is a relatively small amount of money (less that $100), so his research budget can afford it.
The problem is that while the relative sizes of the bonus might be similar, the effects they have on the wage earner can hardly be the same. If the investment banker misses his bonus, the net result might be a two day Disneyland vacation instead of two weeks in Europe--different, but hardly life changing. However, a few month's salary to an Indian wage earner, making subsistence wages, might be the difference between medical treatment versus no medical treatment for a sick child.
Obviously the motivations and consequences of these will be different. And yet the author makes no attempts to explain or control for these conditions while drawing conclusions about high wage earners based on subsistence wage earners.
A second example is a study quantifying the effects of employee motivation by an experiment performed on "workers" hired to assemble Lego toys for a dollar or so. But the type of person who signs up for an experiment to assemble Lego toys for an afternoon and a person holding a 9-5 job for years may be quite different. Again, no attempt to explain or control. But again, the author makes conclusions about the second group based on the first.
Every one of the studies I read seemed to have some flaw which was either not explained or not controlled for. After a while I stopped reading and just skimmed the last half of the book.
Very disappointed, and I would say skip this book.
-The book is broken down into two sections, one that has more to do with business related issues and the other, with issues that are more of a personal nature. The basic format is to come up with an idea that is being questioned and then to either support that idea or negate it by some sort of experiment. For example, we consider it an automatic and not to be questioned idea that the more pay that you offer someone, the more they could be motivated. Motivation for pay, though, has a limit, and after reaching that limit, increased pay has a negative effect on performance. The rationale is that the person is so fixated on the prize, that the actual job being done suffers.
-Some of the chapters cover ideas that may be related strongly, but the ideas have some sort of twist to them, so that they truly are different. Personal relationships is something that’s of interest to everyone, and new light is shed on certain facets of relationships and dating. For example, he delves into the on line dating world and give criticisms of why it isn’t set up as it should be. The human mind works in a certain way, and relationships are sparked by spontaneity. The dryness of the descriptions of each person in dating sites, inhibit the release of that spark which causes two people to relate to each other. But it’s the detail that he goes into, and recommendations for improvement, that makes this all the more interesting.
-There is also a lot of personal experience that he reveals here, which adds to the interest, and he injects personal tales throughout the book.
-All in all, there are very good and thought provoking ideas presented that can’t all be digested with just one reading. Very good for its presentation as well. Though the ideas it presents are not what you would expect, it’s an easy read, and you’ll find yourself going through the book very quickly while highlighting at least a third of what’s written.
The first half of the book covers motivation and incentives at work. Description of experiments is vivid, often presented from the perspective of the subjects in the experiments (ie rats and humans). The findings indeed provide useful lessons for employers, supervisors, as well as government. It is also a joy to read.
The second half covers the author's personal reflection and observation, as well as experiments to look into a mishmash of issues, such as revenge, online dating, adaptation to change, etc. The discussion is still interesting and enlightening. However, there is a tendency to be too brief on the statistical outcome of experiments. For example, instead of stating the proportion of subjects who responded in a certain manner, the author strays into using 'most' or 'many' in describing such proportions. I suspect that some of the experiments were performed some time ago, and it may be too cumbersome for the author to look up the actual data of these dated experiments. As such, his discussion appears rather less convincing.
In all, the book provides important lessons on the psychology of decisions. It also gives a reflective account of the personal pain that the author has suffered since sustaining horrific injuries as a teenager. A touching and instructive book.