Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

Posted by nliakos on May 9, 2013

by Dan Ariely (Harper 2010)

The sequel to Predictably Irrational is similar to its predecessor but focuses more on the positive aspects of irrational behavior, as the title says. Part 1, “The Unexpected Ways We Defy Logic at Work,” covers why the larger the bonus, the worse we perform (especially at mental tasks); how we work not only for pay but also for meaning, and if our work is meaningless or unappreciated, our desire to do it dissipates; the IKEA Effect, or how we love what we create ourselves; the Not-Invented-Here Bias, which is basically the IKEA Effect of ideas and inventions; and revenge, which may be one of our more basic needs (when we get it, the pleasure/reward center of the brain becomes active). As with the first book, this is about the same things I am learning about in Professor Ariely’s MOOC, A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior, so it all seems very familiar when I read it. I am not totally sure why these things constitute the upside!

Part 2, “The Unexpected Ways We Defy Logic at Home,” focuses on the ways we adapt to both positive and negative things in our lives; whether the same people are attractive to everybody, and if so, how the “aesthetically challenged” among us (who, me??) deal with having to settle for someone possible less attractive than they would have liked; how online matchmaking works (and fails to work); why we are more likely to donate to a person than to a generic cause (a starving child vs. an organization that tries to help millions of starving (but faceless, nameless) people; and finally, how a decision made under the influence of positive or negative emotions can have a very long-lasting impact on our lives. In the closing chapter, Ariely reminds his readers that we are not the objective, rational, logical beings we like to think we are, and since our intuitions often fail us, we should “test everything”–not, perhaps, a very realistic piece of advice, but at least we should try to remember not to trust our gut feelings.

I’ve already begun the third book in the bundle, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. Look for a post about that one soon.

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