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The Upside of Irrationality

The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic

Dan Ariely

Studied way rewards work. Testing idea that moderate rewards motivate extra effort, but excessive rewards actually counter-productive. Outsourced his studies to India, where the rupee goes a lot further. Found that a bonus equivalent to a day's wages got similar performance to a 2 week's pay bonus, but a huge bonus - equivalent to 5 months pay - paralysed the players and their performance dropped dramatically. What they did was give the guy the money first, and then if he didn't meet the standard, he had to give it all back. But the second guy they tried it on didn't play by their rules - he ran away with all the money. They didn't have the heart to chase him.

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As you might expect, if ask people how to fix a problem, they much prefer solutions that they have come up with themselves. But if you give them your solution in a jumbled up sentence, that gives them ownership of the idea and they now like it better than ideas you give them.

Version of Ultimatum Game where experimenter gives 2 people $10 each. If you give the other guy your $10, the experimenter triples it, so other guy now has $50. He can now choose to keep the $50 or send $25 back to you. If he keeps the money, you get a chance to punish him. For every dollar of your own money that you give the experimenter, he will take back $2 from the other guy. Almost everyone who'd been 'cheated', paid out $25 to take revenge.

You get more pleasure out of spending if you do it a little bit at a time, waiting until the glow from buying the dress fades away before you buy the shoes. Conversely, if you have to downsize your life, you should get it all over and done with in one hit, and then get used to it.

Tried a speed-dating events for seniors 65 and older. First ones failed because whereas young ones know they've got 5 mins to impress a prospective romantic partner, oldies weren't as outgoing. So organizers got everyon eto bring a personally impt object - a photo or a souvenir - as a discussion starter. This time they couldn't get people to shut up.

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Dating websites treat people as a product - a checklist of qualities. But most people see dating as an experience - dining rather than buying a toaster.

We have great sensitivity to the suffering of an individual, but great apathy to the suffering of the many. Stalin: "One man's death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic." Mother Theresa: "If I look at the masses I will never act. But if I look at one, I will."

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