Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Upside Of Irrationality: Chapter 11

Through a series of experiments, Dan Ariely documents the many ways in which humans behave irrationally. By understanding these human tendencies, we can both learn to behave more rationally when it is to our benefit, and better understand why those around us are behaving in the way they are.

In this final chapter of the book, Ariely pleads with the reader to test the reader's own intuitions. Every day, we are faced with many decisions, some large and some small, and in almost all cases we assume that we made the right decision. But our biases (as discussed in the book) have likely influenced us without our even knowing it, and so it is imperative that we question why we do what we do.

Ariely takes the reader through the history of one profession that has traditionally only done things through intuition and through what has been passed down (i.e. "it's the way we've always done it"): that of medical doctors. Today, the FDA requires the testing of medication to ensure the benefits are higher than the risks, but in how many other professions does this kind of test take place? Ariely argues that poorly understood, intuitive and "that's the way we've always done it" methods continue to dominate the business and personal lives of everyone.

Finally, the author discusses a personal story of his own to demonstrate just how much certain biases have affected his decision-making in the past, and how that has affected his current situation.

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