Category: Uncategorized

Review of Irrationally yours (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

May 25

`IRRATIONALLY YOURS’ DELIVERS CLEVER ADVICE WRAPPED IN HUMOR
BY CHRISTINA LEDBETTER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

In his compilation of articles from his Wall Street Journal column, “Ask Ariely,” Dan Ariely wraps in a clever bow all the questions we’ve ever wanted answered concerning the behavioral intricacies that dictate the decisions we make.

He offers extremely practical advice, like babysitting friends’ children for an entire week to better estimate the costs and benefits of having children, in addition to brain-stretching teasers like how to choose the least used bathroom stall (it’s the one furthest from the door).

As always, Ariely’s intelligence is swathed in humility and charm. Bolstering his already likable writing style are cartoons by the talented William Haefeli, which help to humorously drive home Ariely’s points.

While “Irrationally Yours” offers some tangible steps on how one can stick to a diet or have a better time vacationing, it also offers something more. For example, in one piece we learn exactly why long commutes are so hard on us (in a word, unpredictability). In another, we learn how to feel better about ourselves in the midst of that traffic (in another word, altruism). On one page he offers concrete solutions, and on another, a different way to think about the problem in the first place, therefore minimizing our dissatisfaction.

Some answers are very insightful, with an added dose of humor. A few land solidly on the witty side and offer little sound advice. However, it’s this mix of academics and laughs that makes the book not only useful, but also enjoyable. Without the drawings and one-off jokey answers, “Irrationally Yours” could prove an information overload for someone seeking real decision-making help. But combine Ariely’s obvious intellect with funny quips and whip-smart cartoons, and you have a read that could lightheartedly change your life.

So for those less interested in a detailed write-up of lengthy experiments conducted using the scientific method and more interested in the conclusions those experiments deliver, Ariely’s words will offer high quality rationality with a quick pace. There is even a section providing insight about the best way to recommend a book. Taking a cue from Ariely himself, let’s just say heightened expectations are a safe bet this time.

Irrationally Yours is published today!

May 18

Dear Friends,

My new book — Irrationally Yours is out today.  The book is based on my “Ask Ariely” column with some amazing cartoons by William Haefeli.

Here is a sample of what you might learn from the book…..

  • What can you do to stay calm when you’re playing the volatile stock market?
  • What’s the best way to get someone to stop smoking?
  • How can you maximize the return on your investment at an all-you-can-eat buffet?
  • Is it possible to put a price on the human soul?
  • Can you ever rationally justify spending thousands of dollars on a Rolex?

And here are some extra kind words from a few individuals:

With 70% of his body burned, 3 years in hospital, and decades of experiments in social science, Dan views life from a unique perspective. In this thoroughly entertaining book Dan providing insightful advice to a vast range of human problems. I loved it.

Terry Jones, Monty Python member, director, actor and writer

 

Ariely is a master observer of human foibles. His advice is funny, thoughtful, and well-founded. Sometimes all three together. My advice: read it, enjoy it, think about it.

Al Roth, Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University, Nobel laureate in Economics.

 

From advice on relationships to insight on superstitions, Ask Ariely is as informative as it is witty. I really enjoyed reading it.

Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, Sex Therapist

 

The human brain is one of the largest mysteries in the world. Trying to understand its complexities and improve our behavior is one of the main challenges society deals with. In Irrationally Yours, Dan shares with us some of these mysteries and the tools for accomplishing this task.

Anthony “Tony” Robbins, life coach. Author of Unlimited Power, Unleash the Power Within and Awaken the Giant Within.

 

Dan is the most provocative, interesting, and to-the-point advice columnist you are likely to read, whether on your job, your love life, your kids or your disrespectful neighbors.

Tyler Cowen, Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University, Author of Average Is Over and blogger at marginalrevolution.com

 

There is nobody better placed to solve your problems than Dan Ariely. A master of both rationality and irrationality, he’s wise enough to know which to recommend in any situation. A funny, addictive, life-changing book.

Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back

 

And here are a few links:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/1yIGKcx

B&N: http://bit.ly/1GZ2oz1

Indiebound: http://bit.ly/1Jt1Wa8

iBooks: http://bit.ly/18k0Q3b

Books-a-Million: http://bit.ly/1yIGOcg

Announcing… CAH Startup Lab

May 08

Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University

Beginning with the 2015 academic year, the Center for Advanced Hindsight (CAH) at Duke University will invite promising startups to join its behavioral lab and leverage academic research in their business models. The Center is housed within the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University and is led by Professor Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. The Center studies how and why people make counterintuitive or irrational decisions and works to translate this academic research into easily applicable lessons that are accessible to all. A key goal of the Center is to explore new research directions and to translate academic research into accessible tools for better decision-making. To further this goal, the Center is looking for entrepreneurs and startups interested in applying social science research findings to their business in order to build decision-making tools primarily in the areas of financial decisions and health decisions.

The Startup Lab at CAH

Beginning in the fall of 2015, the Center will select several for-profit and/or not-profit startup companies interested in building digital solutions that address decision behavior in the health and finance fields. During an incubation period of 6-9 months, the Center’s researchers will help participants leverage social science research to test and bring to scale innovations aimed at substantially improving decision-making in the health and finance fields.

The Startup Lab will offer:

  • Technical Assistance – Participants will learn to apply a behavioral lens to the design of their products and services and will learn to rigorously test each phase of iteration using proven methods.
  • Mentorship – Participants will gain access to mentors from several schools at Duke University including the Fuqua School of Business and the Pratt School of Engineering.
  • Financial Assistance – Participants will be given office space/equipment and will be provided with an internal operating budget.
  • Networking Opportunities – Participants will gain access to Duke-connected resources such as the Duke Angel Network connecting alumni investors with Duke-affiliated startups. They will also become part of Durham’s growing entrepreneurial community, which has already established itself as a rich environment for accelerator and incubator programs.

Eligibility Requirements

We will select several domestic and/or international startups, consisting of about three or four participants each. Participants must be willing to relocate to our location in Durham, North Carolina for a period of 6-9 months beginning in the fall of 2015. Participants do not have to be U.S. citizens, however, non-US citizens that have participated in a J-Visa program within the 24 months preceding the start date of our program will be ineligible to apply.

Application Process

To apply, please provide a written summary of the problem you are addressing and how far along your startup currently is both in terms of development and funding. Please also describe what you hope to gain from the program and provide links to your LinkedIn profiles. Email your application to Rebecca Kelley at rrk9@duke.edu.

The application deadline is July 1, 2015, and offers will be extended in late July. The program will begin October 1, 2015 and run for 6-9 months depending upon the needs of the applicants.

Arming the Donkeys is Back!

Mar 18

Hello hello,

I’ll be starting a new round of my “Arming the Donkeys” podcast on Duke’s iTunes U site.

The first in the series, Handwashing and Healthcare, can be found here.

Handwashing and Healthcare
Handwashing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce the risk of infections in hospitals. Yet doctors and other healthcare workers still regularly fall short of compliance guidelines. Dan Ariely talks with David Hofmann of the University of North Carolina about the reasons for low handwashing rates in hospitals and what can be done to improve hand hygiene.

Some new studies on power and corruption

Sep 28

John Antonakis and his colleagues just came out with a new paper on power and corruption (and Testosterone). 

Important and fascinating — and for sure worth the 14 min of this video

My attempts to reduce email overload…

Sep 23

As some of you might know, in addition to the general problem we all have with email overload, my specific issues are exacerbated by my disability (mostly limitations to moving my hands and some pain). I am not pointing my disability out to complain, but I do think that sometimes disabilities can act as a magnifying glass, letting us focus with more intensity on a problem we all have.  And I think that email overload is one of these problems

One of the main reasons for email overload is that email has become the one gateway for many different types of communications. We get email that are quick questions from co-workers, communications with family members and friends, mass communications, things we need to act on now, things that just keep us informed, invitations, discussions, and of course a lot of things we are not interested in.

With these various types of communications flooding one place—our inbox—and often interrupting us throughout our workday, is it any wonder that we feel frustrated and unproductive? That we are developing a collective ADHD, and that people look forward to sitting in an uncomfortable chair for a long time during flights just because there is no internet and no source for distraction (of course more and more flights are losing this advantage).

While complaining about email one day over breakfast with Dominik Grolimund—we came up with one partial solution to this problem: Why not ask the people who write email to be a bit more explicit about the type of email that they are sending and use this classification to redirect the email at the client side?  This way email will will behave differently based on its purpose and origin.

We used me as a case study, Dominik created the system, and I started asking people to email me using http://shortwhale.com/danariely by linking to it on my website and using it in my email signature.

Using this system I inform people how I prefer to get my email, I provide links to my online schedule, and I answer some questions I am most often asked. Most importantly, this simple contact form asks those who write me to choose their request type from a menu, the timeframe they want a response by, and if they need a response at all. With this classification system on the front end, my own email makes more sense and is less distracting. In my email client (Apple Mail) I have filters that redirect the email based on these tags and their requested timeframe.  For example, urgent emails appear in red in my inbox, while email that require a response by the end of the week find their way into a folder with that name. This sorting procedure allows me to stop my workday only to deal with important and urgent requests, and keep the rest of the email for the evening, weekend, downtime, and flight delays.

What has been incredibly satisfying about using Shortwhale for a few months is that it improves my use of time and it helps me respond more effectively to more people. After using Shortwhale for a while it was interesting to discover that the number of emails that are tagged “no response necessary” is rather large, and on top of this, I have also learned that a lot of people are happy to wait a week or even a month for an answer. Another feature of Shortwhale is that it allows people to easily create multiple choices within the email, and I find that providing people with this opportunity helps them get right to the point and saves me time.

Underlying all of this is the idea that while we we call a lot of things email, there are, in fact, different types of email and they each serve different purposes. The different types of email have different levels of importance, and we need to figure out how to differentially interact with them if we don’t want to continuously stop everything to check our inbox.

It is true that as it stands now, Shortwhale puts more demands on the sender. However, I think that the gains on the receiver’s side, coupled with the ability to respond quickly more than compensate for this extra initial hassle.

And, if you are under heavy email load, I’d love to hear what you think about this. You can contact me on Shortwhale :)

Sports and Loss Aversion

Jul 12

I got this question about the World Cup and I can’t put it in my WSJ column, but I still think it is worth while answering, and particularly today.

 

 

Dear Dan,

You have mentioned many times the principle of loss aversion, where the pain of losing is much higher than the joy of winning. The recent world cup was most likely the largest spectator event in the history of the world, and fans from across the globe were clearly very involved in who would win. If indeed, as suggested by loss aversion, people suffer from losing more than they enjoy winning — why would anyone become a fan of a team? After all, as fans they have about equal chance of losing (which you claim is very painful) and for winning (which you claim does not provide the same extreme emotional impact) – so in total across many game the outcome is not a good deal. Am I missing something in my application of loss aversion? Is loss aversion not relevant to sports?

Fernando

Your description of the problem implies that people have a choice in the matter, and that they carefully consider the benefits vs the costs of becoming a fan of a particular team. Personally, I suspect that the choice of what team to root for is closer to religious convictions than to rational choice — which means that people don’t really make an active choice of what team to root for (at least not a deliberate informed one), and that they are “given” their team-affiliation by their surroundings, family and friends.

Another assumption that is implied in your question is that when people approach the choice of a team, that they consider the possible negative effects of losing relative to the emotional boost of winning. The problem with this part of your argument is that predicting our emotional reactions to losses is something we are not very good at, which means that we are not very likely to accurately take into account the full effect of loss aversion when we make choices.

In your question you also raised the possibility that loss aversion might not apply to sporting events. This is a very interesting possibility, and I would like to speculate why you are (partially) correct. Sporting events are not just about the outcome, and if anything, they are more about the ways in which we experience the games as they unfold over time (yes, even the 7-1 Germany vs Brazil game). Unlike monetary gambles, games take some time, and the time of the game itself is arguably what provide the largest part of the enjoyment. To illustrate this consider two individuals N (Not-caring) and F (Fan). What loss aversion implies is that N will end up with a neutral feeling with any outcome of the game, while F has about equal chance of being somewhat happy or very upset (and the expected value of these two potential outcomes is negative). But, this part of the analysis is taking into account only the outcome of the game. What about the enjoyment during the game itself? Here N is not going to get much emotional value watching the game (by definition he doesn’t care much, and he might even check his phone during the game or flip channels). F on the other hand is going to experience a lot of ups and downs and be emotionally engrossed and invested throughout the game. Now, if we take both the process of the game and the final outcome into account — we could argue that the serious fans are risking a large and painful disappointment at the end of each game, but that they are doing it for the benefit of extracting more enjoyment from the game itself — and this is likely to be a very wise tradeoff that maximizes their overall well-being.

This analysis by the way has another interesting implication — it suggests that the value of being die hard fans is higher for games that take more time, where the fans get to enjoy the process for longer. Maybe this is why so many sports take breaks for time outs and advertisements breaks — they are not only doing it to increase their revenues, but they are also trying to give us, the fans, more time to enjoy the whole experience.

The third annual StartupOnomics

Jul 12

I’m excited to announce our third annual StartupOnomics (August 23-25).

This is an opportunity for companies that are seeking to make world a better place to hang out with experts in behavioral economics. We’ll spend an intensive weekend at the end of August in San Francisco learning about how people make decisions so that your product can have a bigger impact.

In years past we’ve had great companies join us. LumoBack, Warby Parker, Etsy, LearnUp, Basis and more.

This year we’re keeping teams overnight at a beautiful location right under the Golden Gate bridge – Cavallo Point. Epic sunset pictures are all but guaranteed. We’re also excited to include follow up sessions this year, to ensure the learning sticks.

If you’re a company in health, finance, education or green, please apply here by July 25. 

Topics:

 

  •        Product adoption and growth
  •        Increasing active usage
  •        Building loyal customers that love you
  •        Payment strategies
  •        Building a team that loves what they do
  •        Measuring what matters
  •        Testing approaches and best practices

Looking forward to this

 

Dan

 

Arming the Donkeys’ new spot

May 04

Good news! Arming the Donkeys, my (almost!) weekly podcast, will now be available on Tunein Radio, a website and mobile app for music and radio broadcasts. If you’re unfamiliar with the podcast, as close to weekly as possible I interview a different researcher as we explore a topic connected to behavioral economics (self-deception, corruption, will power, you name it). And if you haven’t ventured into the world of Tunein, it’s a fantastic platform worth exploring—you can listen to local stations, broadcast shows, sports, news, and any music genre you could want (Polka, anyone?). And now, Arming the Donkeys! I’m excited to be joining the line up, and hope you’ll visit ATD’s new home.

Thoughts on Lance Armstrong

Jan 18

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