Predictably Irrational

Books by on February 27, 2008 at 9:38 pm

I just returned from a great talk by Dan Ariely, MIT professor and author of Predictably Irrational. Dan walked through a number of different aspects of our decision making process that are far from rational, yet in predictable ways.

I love behavioral economics and particularly enjoy learning about the patterns that we all fall victim to. He didn’t touch on many new concepts, but he did provide additional color around concepts such as our (in)ability to make decisions when faced with overwhelming choice.

Supermarket jam tasting (example from his talk)

A supermarket set up two jam tasting stations. One with 6 jams and one with 24 jams. People could taste as many jams as they wanted. They were then given a coupon and could buy jam. Here are the results of the experiment

6 Jam Table24 Jam Table
Number of jams tasted1.41.5
% of tasters that bought jam30%3%

The people that visited the 24 jam table were overwhelmed by choice.

Count the Passes
Here was a fun challenge from his presentation:

People apparently have a very hard time counting continuously for 30 seconds. So, the challenge is to see if you can count the number of times that the people wearing white shirts in this video pass the basketball (answer in the comments):

While this challenge wasn’t as directly tied to his research, he used it to show how there are predictable ways that our mind tricks us.

While I haven’t read his book yet (I will), I would expect it to be a very enjoyable read.

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