The Upside of Irrationality

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The unexpected benefits of defying logic in daily life

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we will unlock the book The Upside of Irrationality.

We usually think humans are rational and that the decisions we make should conform to our best interests. So, can we be as rational as a machine that is sensitive and good at computing? For example, when we are sick, do we strictly follow the instructions the doctor give us? Or when trying to lose weight, do we stick to a nutritious diet and workout plan every day? Unfortunately, we don’t always succeed. What’s more, in many cases, we are irrational. For example, we will feel angry when treated rudely or when we are hurt. At this time, the rational approach would be to control our emotions because revenge would have negative consequences. However, in most cases, we are unable to control our emotions. We would choose to retaliate against the opposite side, and this behavior is irrational. In this case, we can see that rationality analyzes the pros and cons in order to find the optimal solution. Irrationality is the result of our instincts. There are many hidden irrational behaviors that exist in our lives. So, what impact will these irrationalities have on our work and life? This book will help us find the answer.

The irrational behavior of human beings belongs to the research field of behavioral economics. It is a relatively new subject that has evolved from some areas of psychology and economics. Conventional economics assumes that people are rational and can analyze advantages and disadvantages to make the most favorable decision by themselves. But behavioral economics studies the irrational behaviors of human beings and the decision-making process behind it.

This book was written by Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University in the US. He has Ph.D.s in both psychology and business. After publication, his Irrationality book series caused a resurgence in the study of “irrationality.” The series was highly praised by the Noble Economics Prize winners Akerlof and Chris Anderson, former editor in chief of WIRED magazine and author of the best-selling book The Long Tail. Top media outlets, including the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, and The Boston Globe all wrote reviews of recommendation.

The success Dan Ariely has achieved in the study of irrational behaviors was inspired by his personal experiences. At the age of 18, when Ariely was in Israel's compulsory military training, a bomb exploded near the arsenal. The explosion caused third-degree burns to 70 percent of his skin, and a part of his right hand was burned to the bone. On the third day after he was hospitalized, the attending doctor cut through the skin of Ariely's arms and fingers, performing a surgery without using anesthesia. The surgery was successful, but Ariely's arm was badly burned, so the doctor recommended amputation. Ariely refused the suggestion and insisted on keeping his arm, enduring the great pain of medical treatment. It's hard to say whether Ariely made the right decision to keep his arm. If he was a fully rational person, he would have listened to the advice of the doctor, installed an artificial limb, and eventually adapted to it. However, he was irrational in that moment, which resulted in more surgeries and more painful experiences. However, the experience he had in the hospital enabled him to observe the world from a different angle and gave him more time to think about human behavior. This thinking provided the initial inspiration for his later research and study in psychology and behavioral economics.

Next, we will discuss the main points of the book, The Upside of Irrationality, in three parts. We will learn how to understand the irrationality behind human behavior and learn how to make better decisions accordingly.

Part one: How to understand the irrationality of love and make better decisions?

Part Two: How to understand irrationality in life and make better decisions?

Part Three: How to understand irrationality at work and make better decisions?

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