GROWING UP, I had a considerable amount of ‘emotional’ obstacles to overcome, many of which were daunting. At least they seemed that way to the teenaged me. To deaden the pain (and the ever-attendant humiliation), I adopted a form of protection from life’s daily barbs by holding my emotions at bay.
I got so good at this that for a while my nickname among my friend was “Mr. Spock.” The opening paragraph above is intended to personalize (so you don’t think I am just exercising my copying-and-pasting skills) my lead into the following:
“Consider an experiment economists call the ultimatum game: the experimenter gives one player, the sender, $20 to distribute between himself and another player, the receiver. An egalitarian sender might propose a split of $10 each. A more selfish sender might propose to give the receiver only $1, keeping $19 for himself. If the receiver accepts the deal, the two players collect their shares. If the receiver rejects the deal, both walk away with nothing.
Were humans perfectly rational, the receiver would accept whatever is offered: even a dollar is better than nothing, right? Instead, researchers find, receivers will reject an overly lopsided deal, gladly giving up their shares just to punish the stingy senders.
In The Upside Of Irrationality, Dan Ariely gives us a tour of the irrational side of human decision-making and the science of behavioral economics. When it comes to our motivations, he writes, we are less like ‘hyper-rational Mr. Spock’ and more like the ‘fallible, myopic, vindictive, emotional, biased Homer Simpson.’
Given these frailties, Ariely wants to help us ‘figure out how we can get the most good and least bad out of ourselves’ when making choices about our money, our relationships and our happiness.”
You had me at Spock and Simpson
The above paragraphs are from a review in The New York Times Sunday Book Review titled “What We Misunderstand” by Kyla Dunn (June 4, 2010). Ms Dunn is a science journalist and editor and is currently training as a genetic counselor at the Stanford School of Medicine.
I had stumbled over the book researching something entirely different (Grommett bless the vagaries of the search engines). I Googled the book and came across Ms. Dunn’s review, which made the book sound intriguing. I immediately ordered it from the library.
I discovered that Mr. Ariely has a previous book on the same topic, Predictably Irrational – The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. This had also been reviewed by TNYTSBR under the title “Economics” by David Berreby (March 16, 2008):
“For years, the ideology of free markets bestrode the world, bending politics as well as economics to its core assumption: market forces produce the best solution to any problem. But these days, even Bill Gates says capitalism’s work is unsatisfactory for one-third of humanity, and not even Hillary Clinton supports Bill Clinton’s 1990s trade pacts.
Another sign that times are changing is Predictably Irrational, a book that both exemplifies and explains this shift in the cultural winds. Here, Dan Ariely tells us that ‘life with fewer market norms and more social norms would be more satisfying, creative, fulfilling and fun.’
By the way, the conference where he had this insight wasn’t sponsored by the Federal Reserve, where he is a researcher. It came to him at Burning Man, the annual anarchist conclave where clothes are optional and money is banned. Ariely calls it ‘the most accepting, social and caring place I had ever been.’ Obviously, this sly and lucid book is not about your grandfather’s dismal science.”
You had me at Burning Man
Needless to say, I had to go back and order this book from the library! So, hopefully, a few weeks down the line I will be back with an addendum to this post that contains a review of one or both of these titles. (And perhaps explains why I titled this “The ever fallible myopic vindictive emotional biased me (and you).”