Book Review: The Upside of Irrationality

Do you consider yourself to be a rational person? I used to, until I read Dan Ariely’s book The Upside of Irrationality, The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home. This work builds on, but differs from his NY Times bestseller, Predictably Irrational.

In this work, the author shows how our decisions aren’t always as rational as we expect them to be. It includes a number of stories about how people react to different conditions that are very relevant to what we all deal with every day, and how those situations aren’t always as rational as you would think.

One experiment looked to see how people feel when doing work that has meaning vs. work that has no value after the fact. It may not surprise you, but even at the same pay and compensation, people are more likely to continue working, even when the pay is less.

Another section talks about our feelings about our ideas, and how our feelings about our ideas may not be just because we came up with them, but because they best fit our perception of the world. One example was about the question, “how to support happiness.” A religious person might prefer an idea including more church involvement, where an atheist might recommend not wasting time with religion and instead focus on diet an exercise. It’s not that either idea is better, but depending on your perception one may make a lot more sense than the other.

This is a well written “make you think” book. The research is interesting and the author clearly shows that the way we feel and act isn’t always intuitive or logical. If you understand what motivates people to act (i.e. meaninful work, ideas that fit their perception, or how putting someone in a calculating state of mind can reduce donations), then you can make better decisions for yourself and in how you deal with others. 

Beware, you may learn that you aren’t as rational as you thought you were.

Rob’s Rating system (bolded, the rating is)
Buy now at full price (although I checked it out from my library)
Buy if you get a discount
Wait for the paperback
Wait for someone else to be done with the paperback
If you’ve read my review, you got the jist of it

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