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Publisher's Summary

The provocative follow-up to the New York Times best seller Predictably Irrational

  • Why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive?
  • How can confusing directions actually help us?
  • Why is revenge so important to us?
  • Why is there such a big difference between what we think will make us happy and what really makes us happy?

In his groundbreaking book Predictably Irrational, social scientist Dan Ariely revealed the multiple biases that lead us into making unwise decisions. Now, in The Upside of Irrationality, he exposes the surprising negative and positive effects irrationality can have on our lives. Focusing on our behaviors at work and in relationships, he offers new insights and eye-opening truths about what really motivates us on the job, how one unwise action can become a long-term habit, how we learn to love the ones we're with, and more.

Drawing on the same experimental methods that made Predictably Irrational one of the most talked-about bestsellers of the past few years, Ariely uses data from his own original and entertaining experiments to draw arresting conclusions about how and why we behave the way we do. From our office attitudes, to our romantic relationships, to our search for purpose in life, Ariely explains how to break through our negative patterns of thought and behavior to make better decisions. The Upside of Irrationality will change the way we see ourselves at work and at home and cast our irrational behaviors in a more nuanced light.

©2010 Dan Ariely (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Self-deprecating humor, an enthusiasm for human eccentricities, and an affable and snappy style make this read an enriching and eye-opening pleasure." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Rand
  • Dallas, TX, USA
  • 07-02-10

Great Title!!!

Who cares what the title of the book is with respect to irrationality. The "Upside" is that you will be smarter for having read this book, even if you have already read "Predictably Irrational". (I have)

The point Ariely is trying to make is that the upside to being predictably irrational is that we can recognize and learn to modify our behaviors (to our benefit) if we can learn to question why we make the decisions, at the moment we have to, that we do. So yes, this book is very similar to his last. However, it illuminates how "knowing" that we are predictably irrational can help us recognize the moments at which these behaviors should be called into question. The result of which could be positively life changing.

My only disappointment is that Dan Ariely is not a cognitive behavioral neuroscientist. His experiments seem only to add evidence to the arguments made by Geoff Colvin (Talent is Overrated), Daniel Coyle (The Talent Code), and Winifred Gallagher (Rapt). Aierly implies that our answers to the questions that arise out of life are a result of learned thought processes (reinforced neural pathways) and not necessarily the process of momentarily perfect rational thought.

Dan seems to experimentally demonstrate that "reasoning" is not necessarily an accurate occupation of the brain, yet a result of the combination of previously hardwired pathways that dictate our individual answers. His point, we must overcome this glitch in order to more accurately asses the "real" in our own reality.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not as good as the first

I gave 5 stars to Predictably Irrational also by this author. This current book is not nearly as good. The title is somewhat misleading, as after listening, I'm not sure what he believes the upside to irrationality is.

This book is shorter in length and seems to jump from one concept to another without much a clear connection or bridge between the chapters. On the plus side, he develops exceptionally clever experiments to test his theories. the difference between the original book and this, is there is lot more room for alternative explanations in this book.

For instance, he sets up experiments where behavior is measured by the amount of money the subjects keep, give away or are influenced by. However, in my mind, I would have reacted differently to the situations based on thee amount of money involved. For instance, my behavior if sharing parts of $5 would be very different from sharing parts of $5000. Also, in some 'games' he set up it would matter to me if knew we were going to play the game more than once. In some of his games, this would greatly influence my behavior. Last, the source of his subjects may influence the outcome. Many of his experiments involve MIT students, who you could argue are not the 'normal' population of people.


He also spends a great deal of the book talking about his own horrific experiences as a teen age burn victim. However, I am unsure of the purpose of providing painful, tortuous details of his suffering to the reader of this book.

The most interesting (to me) chapters deal with how long the consequences of emotional irrational decision making can haunt us. Also, he demonstrates how specific stimulus can increase the likelyhood of irrational decisions. I can't help but wonder if the author wasn't try to put us in a certain state of mind with his personal horror stories - perhaps to buy his next book?

You likely find more to like than dislike about this book but it's not as good as the first.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Fairly good

Worth a listen to but not as good as the first book. Do not regret listening to though.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Just OK

I might be facing burnout on this type of book but I was not as gripped or stimulated by it as I was Predictably Irrational.

This seemed somewhat like "it worked once, let's put more of the same out there".

I generally like Dan's work but I wouldn't highly recommend this book. Sure, if you can't get enough of this irrational stuff, go for it. I personally think enough has been written on the subject.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not as rigorously scientific as the first book

I've read his first book "Predictably Irrational". In that he opens the window to human irrationality and in this book he explores various ways to take advantage of that irrationality. Enjoyable read as well as informative. But this book fell short of my expectations that he set with his first book.

He tried to extrapolate the results to unrelated groups under different conditions. For example, he proved in an experiment that under the "acute stress of high reward" an untrained group of individuals performed poorly compared to a similarly untrained group of people who were not pressured by the high reward. And then he goes on to argue that executives and professionals should be paid less. He in fact asks if you would rather be operated on by a well paid surgeon or less paid surgeon, arguing that a well paid surgeon will underperform because of the pressure of high reward (compensation). I guess I should disclose here that I am a physician. I'm in no way supporting the ridiculous pay of this generation of executives, bankers and even some physicians, but I believe this extrapolation is not scientific. I found a few similar misinterpretations.

At times, he described his ordeal of recovery from extensive burns in gory details. I am very sympathetic to his suffering and there are times I cried reading it (bear in mind that I'm not stranger to suffering). When looked at it objectively, though, the details were a little more than needed for the narrative. I felt that he invoked emotional reactions, unrelated to the book's narrative. Was he trying to harness the irrationality of the readers?

Most observations made in the book appear logical and insightful and his research is commendable. That's all the more reason for him to be as scientifically accurate as possible and not stray. In such a setting, even one unscientific conclusion will cast a shadow of doubt on the validity of the rest. How ever, I do highly recommend, but advise the reader to read it critically.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Rationally Irrational

I found myself nodding enthusiastically at the points mentioned in this book. I believe it's a must read for everybody who has ever wondered why "rational" approaches fall short, and what to do about that.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
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So Many Upsides

Great book. Much more personal than his first book, Predictably Irrational, the Upside of Irrationality helps us understand the benefits of our screwed up brains and illogical behaviors. Ariely is one of those truly inspiring people. His story of overcoming pain, of using pain to understand and explain the world, is an amazing motivator to all of us to stop whining about our own obstacles. I think Ariely is a genius in a very particular way - a genius in the construction of experiments to test ideas. A craftsperson of experimentation.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

I have become a big fan

some of the same stories that he has shared with new information that puts the stories in a new light.

  • Overall
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  • Story

Very educational and captivating reading<br />Enjoyed.

Excellent narration. Loved to listen to the audio book. The piece where people with past physical injuries compare notes about the pain and their altered perception of it is warm and memorable. I also liked the part about self herding and its different implications

  • Overall
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  • Story

Very eye opening

The great useful information were modulated on a lovely sense of humor, makes you never feel bored of reading the book! I couldn't stop wanting more...
I recommend it to everyone who wants to understand the irrationality of his or other people's behaviors, it will make you understand how to make correct decisions in your life.

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  • Story
  • John
  • 12-01-13

Warning: Once you start, you can't stop listening

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. This is a fascinating book.

What did you like best about this story?

An unfortunate life experience caused the author to be in a position where he was pretty much forced to observe human interaction as a third party. This led him to a career in behavioural science, and to conducting a series of experiments to understand human behaviour. This is Dan Ariely's first book and it is a fascinating insight into the way the human mind works, and how we appear to be hard wired to make similar mistakes over and over again. This is a bit like the Matrix. When Mr. Ariely's findings are revealed, it is difficult not to see them all around us. So, what's it going to be, the red pill or the blue pill? Go on, you'll enjoy this.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mr. R. D. Cox
  • 06-19-11

Builds on Predictably Irrational

Another winner - this does not repeat Predictably Irrational but adds and enhances.

One criticism is threat the promised 'Upside' is a framed subjectivity as far as humanity goes. But for me it point out my frailties so I can improve making this a real self-improvement book rather than just an interesting knowledge enhancer.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Tytler
  • 07-20-15

Brilliant book

Would you listen to The Upside of Irrationality again? Why?

Dan Ariely is a fatastic writer. This book was every bit as good as predictably irrational.

What does Simon Jones bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Simon Jones has a wonderful voice and his emphasis and delivery of humour is perfect. I enjoy his narrating so much I have added almost all the books he has narrated to my wishlist.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful