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Ask Ariely: Now on Twitter and Facebook

Mar 24

You will now be able to pose questions to me for my biweekly advice column through Twitter (rather than just by emailing AskAriely@wsj.com) and Facebook. This means that everyone will get to see your questions instead of just my email inbox.

To submit through twitter, just tweet to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely.

To submit through Facebook, post a comment on my new Ask Ariely page: https://www.facebook.com/AskAriely

Looking forward to seeing your tweets and comments!

Irrationally Yours,

Dan

Where are the students?

Mar 23

Watch this video about my online class on coursera, A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior. (And if you haven’t checked out the other short videos, they should also be pretty entertaining.)

If you haven’t signed up yet, do it now!

The Little Bank That Did.

Mar 23

Over the last few years, I’ve had some harsh words for bankers, banks, and the culture of the industry. In truth, I could have said worse, and it would have been justified.

That’s why the story of this bank—the Hancock Bank of Mississippi—deserves to be told, watched, and learned from. This is a case where banks play the role they are ideally meant to play, that is, they invest in the stabilization and growth of the community they’re part of, and wind up profiting in the long run from those investments.

It’s the way they did this that’s particularly remarkable—by literally laundering debris-covered dollar bills and handing them out to people in the days immediately following the Hurricane Katrina. How and why they did this is best left to the film clip; suffice it to say that Hancock gave out around $50 million in cash, with handwritten IOUs for contracts, and lost (only) about $200,000 of that when all was said and done. But in the 3 months following the storm, Hancock grew by $1.4 billion. It’s not hard to imagine that the kind of genuine investment they made in their community—both customers and not—earned so much loyalty.

Banks and their leadership have a long way to go to get out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves in the minds of most people. While disasters provide a great opportunity to show caring, I don’t think that banks need to wait for another hurricane to do something –there are many ways to show care and commitment to the community, and it’s in everyone’s interest that they start soon.

The IKEA Effect

Mar 22

Sign up for A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior. It’s not only FREE and open to everyone, but will surely keep you amused for the next six weeks.

Cash versus Credit

Mar 21

 

Sign up for A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior. It’s not only FREE and open to everyone, but will surely keep you amused for the next six weeks.

Distance from Money

Mar 20

 

Sign up for A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior. It’s not only FREE and open to everyone, but will surely keep you amused for the next six weeks.

The “What-the-Hell” Effect

Mar 19

Sign up for A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior. It’s not only FREE and open to everyone, but will surely keep you amused for the next six weeks.

In celebration of “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior”

Mar 18

Today is the day that my free online class on coursera, A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior, opens to the public.

And in honor of this class, my three books will be available as an e-bundle at a discount ($19.99 for all three) until the day after the class starts, March 26th — but only until that date.

You can purchase the e-bundle through KindleNookiBookstoreKobo, or Google.

Irrational Bundle

And if you haven’t already signed up for A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior, it’s the perfect time to do it now! It’s not only FREE and open to everyone, but will surely keep you amused for the next six weeks.

Irrationally Yours,

Dan

Ask Ariely: On Marriage, Restroom Stalls, and Twitter

Mar 16

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week — and if you have any questions for me, just email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

______________________________________________________

Dear Dan,

My boyfriend and I have been together for a while, and people ask us whether we’re going to get married. We get along great and love each other very much, but I just don’t see the point of marriage. Why not just live together in a civil union and be happy the way things are? Aside from the cost, is there any point to this elaborate ritual? 

—Janet

I have no research on this topic, but allow me to share a story that might help you to think about the question.

When I was 19 and spending time in a hospital in Israel, recovering from severe burns, I had a friend there named David, who had been badly injured in the army while disassembling a land mine. He lost one of his hands and an eye and also had injuries to his legs and some scars. When Rachel, his girlfriend of several months, broke up with him, the other patients in the department were furious with her. How could she be so disloyal and shallow? Did their love mean nothing to her? Interestingly, David was better able to see her side, and he was not as negative as the rest of us about her decision.

Think about Rachel in the story above. Does her behavior upset you? How might your feelings differ if it had been a longer-term relationship, if they were engaged or in a civil union, or if they were married? And how would you behave if you were in Rachel’s position in each of these relationships?

I suspect that your level of scorn for Rachel will depend to a large degree on the type of relationship she had with David. I also suspect that your predictions about your own decision to stick with a partner who just experienced an awful injury would similarly depend on the type of relationship. If your assessment changes when you stipulate that David and Rachel were married, this suggests that publicly saying “for better and for worse” really means something to you.

Obviously, marriage is not some magical superglue for relationships; the high divorce rate is no secret. But marriage can serve a very real purpose by bolstering commitment and feeling in long-term relationships, all of which inevitably hit rough patches. So while I wouldn’t advocate marriage in all situations, I do think it’s worth thinking about the ways in which it can strengthen the bond between people.

______________________________________________________

Dear Dan,

When I go to a public bathroom, I often think about which stall I should use. Any advice?

—Cathy

I assume that your practical aim is to figure out which bathroom stall is likely to have been used the least. But what you are really asking is what drives other peoples’ choices in this important domain.

If those who patronize public bathrooms usually choose a stall based on which toilet they think is used the least, they will all choose the one they think is used least—which as a result, ironically, would be that most of them would use the same toilet. Therefore, you would be advised to pick the opposite (i.e., the stall that people think gets the most traffic). Following this logic, if people expect the stall farthest from the entrance to be the most popular, they will avoid using it—leaving it relatively more clean and unused than the others.

But what happens if people are more sophisticated than that? What if they come to the restroom with this same understanding and as a consequence pick what they think is the opposite of what other people think, or the opposite of the opposite?

All of this boils down to a more essential question: How sophisticated do you think other people are?

Personally, I believe people generally take about one step in their logical thinking. So I would say: Choose the opposite of the opposite and select the stall that people think will be used the most.

______________________________________________________

Dear Dan,

I enjoy Twitter, but I find that some people tweet very frequently, sometime as often as a dozen times an hour. When their face shows up again and again, I begin ignoring their messages. By contrast, when people tweet just once a day, I’m more likely to pay attention to what they say. Is this just me or does it reflect a larger principle?

—Heidi

I suspect that this feeling is very common. I also imagine that very few people have dozens of interesting things to say a day, much less an hour. Perhaps Twitter is a place where a system based on limits and scarcity (maybe two tweets a day) would be better for everyone.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.

Wealth Inequality in Motion.

Mar 09

I recently came across this video that some talented person made of a study I conducted on wealth inequality a few years back with Mike Norton. It does a great job covering the main findings regarding the differences between what Americans think the distribution of wealth is (somewhat even), what they would prefer (more even than socialist Sweden), and how wealth is actually distributed (the bottom 40% of Americans possessing less than 0.3% of total wealth, the top 20% possessing 84%). The graphs, and a longer explanation, are also available here.

The only thing I wish he emphasized a little more is how similar the results were for Democrats and Republicans, which I found very hopeful. Even with all the ideological polarization in Washington, the moment we ask the question of ideal wealth distribution in a general and less self-interested way, we seem to be a country that cares a lot about each other.

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