The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

Last week I received a great book tip from a new friend and design thinker, Ahmed Acar. The still very new book is called “The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home“. The author is Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist who explores the effects of visual and other illusions on how we make “rational” decisions.


(thanks to Amazon for the grafic)

Dan Ariley’s first book “Predictably Irrational” was a big success. I’ve only just begun reading “The Upside” and have to say it is amazing.

Some short examples of irrational decision-making from a talk Dan Ariely gave:

  • The rate of organ donations within a country is very strongly influenced by the way the question concerning participation in the organ donor program is posed on the form at the department of motor vehicles. In countries where people have to check a box if they want to sign up for the organ donor program, the rate of donation lies between 4 and 30% (for example in Denmark, UK and Germany). When posed differently (i.e. check the box if you do not want to sign up for the organ donor program), the rate of signup is close to 100% (for example in countries such as Austria, France and Sweden). As Dan says, this means that our decision in this case actually resides with the person who designed the form and not with the person “making” the decision.
  • In another great example, Dan surveyed students on subscription purchases of “The Economist.” When presented with the three choices of (a) web edition for $59, (b) print edition for $125, and (c) print & web edition for $125, 16% chose web only, 0% chose print only and 84% chose to receive both. BUT when option (b) was removed, 68% chose web only and only 32% chose to purchase the combo-deal! What do we learn from this?: Although no one opted for option (b), it was in fact not useless but “helped” people with the purchasing decision.

Check out this TED talk here:

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