Predictably Irrational

February 12, 2011 by Joshua
in Blog

Do you want a better life? The book Predictably Irrational is a great entry point to one, and to my philosophy. It’s also a great book in its own right — informative and well-written. From my perspective it’s a great gateway to how to live a better life.

Its title describes its two-part thesis. First, humans react irrationally to many things. Using “irrational” this way presupposes a definition the book implies is ineffective, but it’s the usual economic definition — roughly speaking in one’s material interest.

Second, we react predictably. However counter to our interests or otherwise irrational our reactions appear, on average we react the same. He gives many examples from observations and experiment (what a dream psychology experiments seem like from a former particle and astro- physicist’s perspective. We used to work in teams of thousands in experiments with billion dollar budgets, and decade or longer time frames — more like being in an army. He and his handful of graduate students would do things like set up tables of beer in bars for a few nights).

The book is interesting, compelling, and educational. Dan Ariely, as a scientist, responsibly reports his results but not how they can help you change and improve your life.

Here’s what I mean. Our reactions being predictable means they are systematic. If they are systematic and predictable, we can bring about the outcomes we want.

What outcomes do we want? A better life, more rewarding emotions… things like that. The ability to improve one’s life systematically, not just to hope for the best or to rest one’s hopes in outside forces, is one of the best things one can hope for in life. Ariely’s book and research suggests it. I think it’s a great.

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