Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions ハードカバー – ラフカット, 2008/2/1
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An upbeat cultural evaluation of the sources of illogical decisions explores the reasons why irrational thought often overcomes level-headed practices, offering insight into the structural patterns that cause people to make the same mistakes repeatedly. 150,000 first printing.
Dan Ariely is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT, where he holds a joint appointment between MIT's Media Laboratory and the Sloan School of Management. He is also a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and a visiting professor at Duke University. Ariely wrote this book while he was a fellow at the Institute for Advance Study at Princeton. His work has been featured in leading scholarly journals and a variety of popular media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Scientific American, and Science. Ariely has appeared on CNN and National Public Radio. He divides his time between Durham, North Carolina, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the rest of the world. -- Praise for Predictably Irrational
Sly and lucid. . . . PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL is a far more revolutionary book than its unthreatening manner lets on. -- New York Times Book Review
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I recommend this book to any layman who wants to understand what behavioral economics is about without excess detail. In that sense it's "Kahnemann Lite" (Thinking Fast and Slow), but really the two books are complements, not substitutes. I'm going to give both to my high school senior daughter who will likely major in psychology, sociology, or some combination of the two in college.
As a professional economist myself I would have like to have seen a nod to the real problems of modeling the effects of predictable irrationality on social behavior and especially markets. There's a bit in the best of behavioral finance, but not much. And it's important. The reason the best economists haven't given up on rationality isn't that they don't believe in irrational behavior. It's that getting predictions sharper than "anything might happen" when agents aren't rational is hard to do, and in fact economists have come up with some models that generate "plausibly irrational" behavior based on agents who lack information about constraints and preferences of other agents, but who are otherwise hyperrational.
The advantage of behavioral economics models is two-fold: (1) they are plausible, only slightly abstracted from thinking we all recognize from introspection, and (2) they can be tested quite directly by asking subjects what they're thinking under appropriately designed conditions. Yet this very attractive aspect contains a pitfall: it's tempting to stop here and congratulate ourselves on explaining the behavior we see in individuals, without going on to deal with the strategic calculations and strategic evolution that real people experience. It's way too easy to observe a market outcome and come up with a plausible behavioral model that explains that outcome. It's not at all easy to come up with generic principles of irrationality that help us to understand why /this/ market is so susceptible to /that/ bias, and why people don't either learn to avoid the bias, or find themselves driven out of that market.
Of course actually coming up with multi-decision-maker models isn't the job of this book. Ariely intends to explain individual behavior, and not only does that well, but also explains how researchers have scientifically backed up the intuitions (and occasionally surprised themselves, as in the discovery that people are less honest when the stakes are tokens exchangeable for currency than they are with either currency itself or with the goods currency buys). The book really shines here, and I'm considering how to work this into my undergraduate and graduate courses in economics and game theory as an exemplar of the way that good researchers think, that doesn't require extensive background in a particular field or an already-trained generic understanding of the scientific method.
I guess I can summarize it this way. Several decades ago Vernon Smith (who would win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics) enunciated (tongue in cheek) "Three Laws of Experimental Markets":
1. Subjects in experimental market don't even approximate the "marginal analysis" we teach in class.
2. We [economists] don't know what they do instead.
3. They get the right answer [as calculated by conventional economists] anyway.
Ariely shows accurately and persuasively how psychologists and behavioral economists have proved Law #1, and how they have made a really good start on #2 (ie, explaining what the subjects actually do). But one is left with the feeling that as strong as their criticism of conventional economics is, we still don't have a hint about calibrating #3 (that is when -- and why! -- the market would get things wrong, while also predicting correctly when the market should get things right after all). Great work, all in all, but there's still a bit more to do!
This book is very interesting and not so challenging to read even if you don’t know behavioral science. By citing a lot of actual evidence and experiments, I believe that he succeeded in getting his work easy to understand for readers. The followings are what I am impressed with from this book.
1. We are always looking at the things around us in relation to others. This holds true not only for physical things but for experiences and for ephemeral things as well: emotions, attitudes, and points of view.
・I think we always do so consciously or unconsciously.
2. Why do we have an irrational urge to jump for a FREE item, even when it is not what we really want? It’s because humans are intrinsically afraid of loss.
・That reminds me of what Daniel Kahneman shows in his 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' that humans are intrinsically sensitive and react to negatives more than positives and the media always report the news full of negative events.
3. People are willing to work free, and they are willing to work for a reasonable wage, but offer them just a small payment and they will walk away.
・That proves it’s apparent that volunteer works work.
4. Once market norms enter our considerations, the social norms depart. Once a social norm is trumped by a market norm, it will rarely return.
・This implies that financial crises repeat unless human nature changes.
5. Biased processes can influence how we experience other aspects of our world. The biased processes are in fact a major source of escalation in almost every conflict, whether Israeli-Palestinian, American-Iraqi, Serbian-Croatian, or Indian-Pakistani.
・While I believe those biased processes can generate a unique culture, practice, habit and custom in a region, the idea of multi-culturalism, and understanding and embracing different perspectives of others is becoming more and more important for world peace and development.
6. Expectations change the way we perceive and appreciate experiences. Positive expectations allow us to enjoy things more improve our perception of the world around us.
・This shows that positive phycology got the most popular course in Harvard amid the second Great Depression, and a positive mindset in a habitual way that invite positive events can create a virtuous circle, which allows us to be even happier.
7. Companies that want to be successful will realize that honesty, transparency, consciousness, and fair dealing should be bedrock corporate principles. Building trust is a must for companies.
・It’s not a novel idea which often be disregarded by many companies because of corporate greed. But I believe that basic principles will be more rewarding for companies where information technology lets societies know about what’s going on in the world much faster and more realistically.
8. We are all far less rational in our decision-making than standard economic theory assumes. Our irrational behaviors are neither random nor senseless ' they are systematic and predictable. We al make the same types of mistakes over and over again, because of the basic wiring of our brains. However, once we understand when and where we may make erroneous decisions, we can try to be more vigilant, force ourselves to think differently about these decisions, or use technology to overcome our inherent shortcomings.
・I realize that the author isn’t so optimistic about human behaviors, but positive about our abilities to improve life and society.