Thursday, June 9, 2011

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

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at HomeThe Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

    My take: Dan Ariely has the coolest job EVER. Best as I can tell, he's a social psychologist. He studies social behavior and creates questionnaires to determine why a person does what s/he does. So he teaches his classes at Duke University, probably wearing his tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, has an idea, presents it to whoever pays for it, writes his hypotheses, makes up a questionnaire, then lures unsuspecting citizens into his lair for experimentation.

    I absolutely loved how he used every day toys to test his theories on the value of work. Using Legos, he has his candidates build a toy with the understanding the toys will be dismantled. One group watched the toys being dismantled then used the same pieces for the same project. The other group watched the assembled project placed out of eyesight while they continued their building. One group (guess which one) gave up much sooner than the other.

    The first half of the book covers the world of work. The second half covers the workings of assortative mating, adaptation, online "dating" and determines success rate, and the overall use of questioning our "gut" reactions and feelings. This also clarified why I chose my husband rather than another person I was dating. Assortative mating is a skill we use to whittle down prospective mates. So interesting!

    Reading this book was kind of like sitting in a social psychology class, drinking in all of the information without having to show up for class. The author includes his own dose of humor and is brave enough to disclose how some of his discoveries put his own injuries into perspective. Ariely was badly burned as a teenager and spent 3 years hospitalized and in intense therapy. He believes this is the reason he chose the scholarly route.

    I love social psychology. In another life, I'd love to BE a social psychologist. I just don't want to do a dissertation.
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