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Predictably Irrational

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Predictably Irrational

The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Revealing exposé of decision making based on anecdotes and insights from experiments in behavioral economics.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This is surely one of the decade’s best books on decision making, economics, psychology and behavior – because it touches all of those topics. Author Dan Ariely is a distinguished academician, but his style is so clear, accessible and straightforward that he does not seem to belong to academia at all. Although he recounts numerous experimental procedures and discoveries, he never bogs the reader down in technical minutiae or jargon. Moreover, he provides a clear connection to the reader’s life with every account. The book is eminently practical and stretches beyond the boundaries even of the several sciences in his research. At times, themes from spiritual and philosophical literature resonate in the text. getAbstract believes reading this book can help anyone make more conscious decisions – no matter what those decisions are about, from setting a corporate strategy to finding a date to just choosing what brand of soda to buy.


Lessons in Irrationality

Author Dan Ariely was 18 when an explosion burned him so severely that he was confined to a hospital for three years. Cut off from friends and normal routines, he began to observe and reflect upon behavior – his own and that of others. He suffered extreme pain from his burns and from the regimen of therapy. Nurses bathed him daily in disinfectant, first tearing off his bandages as quickly as possible. He felt that the pain might have been less if they removed the bandages slowly. The nurses insisted that there was no difference. After he left the hospital, he conducted research at Tel Aviv University that proved his point.

Although his research did not cause a widespread change in patient treatment, it led him to a lifetime of studying why people misjudge the ramifications of their behavior and persist doing unreasonable things. Traditional economic theory dealt with what people should do, and fundamentally assumed that people are rational. Behavioral economics examines what people actually do; in that endeavor, it has discovered the depth and breadth of human irrationality.

Relativity and Choice

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About the Author

Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, with appointments at the Fuqua School of Business, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Department of Economics. He is a visiting professor at MIT’s Media Lab.

Comment on this summary

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    S. S. 1 decade ago
    Why can't I listen on iOS?
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    L. t. 1 decade ago
    It is crazy how the mind can impact our performance. I wonder if watching a professional tennis player right before playing will increase my game? Or does this theory only apply to characteristics already inherent within me?
    Also, Ariely suggests that the gap between your expectations and your perceptions is what affects how much you like/dislike something. Does this mean we should always have low expectations in order to be happy with whatever we get?

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      1 decade ago
      Give it a try, Laura, I would say. If after a year you're still a poor tennis player, and totally unhappy about it, you will have proved Ariely wrong. At least something to be proud of, then!
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    D. C. getAbstract 1 decade ago
    As Nietzsche said, "In everything one thing is impossible: rationality." This excellent, thought-provoking book examines the intricacies of rationality. Just why is it so difficult to achieve? Does it exist at all? I found myself smiling and nodding at each anecdote in this enjoyable summary. I'm looking forward to getAbstract's summary of Ariely's next book, The Upside of Irrationality.