Predictably Irrational


The human mind, and the way we react to things, is an area that has long been under study. There’s always more to discover though, probably because the subject is so complex.

This book sets out to explore how we make irrational decisions in many circumstances. Examples include how we react when presented with the offer of something for free, or how the offer of money affects things (we’ll happily help people out for a gift, or a feeling of doing good, but are insulted if someone offers us a small amount of money instead).

Some of the experiments and results will probably surprise you, and yet will probably ring true too.

There were a couple I would take umbrage with, and I suspect some of that may come down to the testing methodology (Ben Goldacre strikes again). Most of the testing seems to be done on students at some of the top universities in the U.S. As such, you’re getting the results of a very limited pool speaking economically, intellectually, socially and culturally.

It would have been far more interesting to compare some of these results with students from a different country, or pensioners, or criminals, or those in a developing nation, to see if there are actually a reflection of the human psyche or just the reaction of that group.

The book is read by Simon Jones, which threw me to start with, and made it hard to take seriously, as he also reads The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He does a good job though, and aside from some dodgy music as chapter dividers, and a advert at the end of the book (the first time I’ve come across that), the production is good.

All in all, it’s an interesting and thought-provoking book, that will make you question how you make decisions, just don’t rely on the scientific underpinning too much.

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This was an copy of the book

Reviewed: 26th May 2014