Friday, January 22, 2016

Predictably Irrational (by Dan Ariely)

This is a book on behavioral economics that I was assigned to read for an upcoming work conference. The subtitle is "the hidden forces that shape our decisions" and it has some interesting insights about our reluctance to rule out options, the efficacy of placebos, our inability to predict our behavior rationally, etc.

Overall I found it disappointing. There wasn't a lot of truly actionable practical advice in here for me, and much of what I did find relevant was stuff I already knew.  I definitely noted some insights and I look forward to discussing it with my colleagues, but overall I was expecting more depth and detail than I ultimately got, and more examples of how to apply the knowledge professionally and personally.

Also I found the casual sexism in here very grating. All of Ariely's examples seemed to be male-centric and heteronormative, assuming the reader is a male and basically defaulting to men for everything. There are examples of spending a lot of money on your date and expecting sex, bringing wine to your mother-in-law's house on Thanksgiving since she cooked everything, women being crazed shoppers, you (the reader) watching football with your (male) roommates. There are references to congressmen, doctors (all presumed male), hackers (all presumed male). I would have thrown the book across the room by the end of it if it hadn't been assigned reading.

I'm having fun preparing my upcoming feminist rant though. I'm sure my colleagues will appreciate it.



Blogger Unknown said...

I realize this initial post was 2 years ago, but I had to read this for a class in Public Health Behavior last week and was SO GLAD to find someone else who found this as sexist as I did!
I even Googled this as sexist propaganda to see what came up. Thank you for posting this and helping me confirm my outright indignation regarding this book.

Furthermore, it appears he chose his long-winded narratives specifically in accordance with his research to help the average consumer confirm that 'his' bad choices and mistakes in life were not his fault. Rather having an expert tell the guy that it was expected that he not wear a condom because that's just the way his brain is wired during arousal or that being paralyzed by too many choices and stagnating for years was just the way humans are... He used the irrationality of consumers to choose the topics for the book and then sold it to them based upon the same research. He must have thought it was hilarious.

6:57 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Thank you for your comment! The sexism was so obvious to me I'm surprise more of us haven't called him out on it. In hindsight I'm even more mad about it... hahah.

10:25 AM  

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