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Reader Response: Day 7

May 16

In this video, Day 7 in the Reader Response series, a reader explains how Irrationally Yours helped her become a better decision maker.

Irrationally Yours,

Dan Ariely

Reader Response: Day 6

May 15

Yet another!

Check out all the Reader Responses in this album.

Irrationally Yours,

Dan Ariely

Reader Response: Day 5

May 14

This just in: Critics are calling Irrationally Yours the best behavioral economics book to come out this May!

Hear what one reader has to say below.

Irrationally Yours,

Dan Ariely

Reader Response: Day 4

May 13

Enjoy this video review from another loyal reader.

Irrationally Yours,

Dan Ariely

Reader Response: Day 3

May 12

Third in the Reader Response series, see what this generous reader has to say about my upcoming book Irrationally Yours.

Irrationally Yours,

Dan Ariely

Reader Response: Day 2

May 11

Another kind reader agreed to review my upcoming book.

Irrationally Yours,

Dan Ariely

“Irrationally Yours” Reader Response

May 10

Please enjoy the first of a series of reviews of my upcoming book “Irrationally Yours” that I will be posting for you.

Watch it here:

Irrationally Yours” is based on my “Ask Ariely” advice column in the Wall Street Journal, and is illustrated by cartoonist William Haefeli (who you will surely recognize from The New Yorker).

Irrationally Yours,

Dan Ariely

Ask Ariely: On Lasting Gifts, Pre-engagement, and Incentivizing Scientists

May 09

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to


Dear Dan,

What is the best gift to give my mom for Mother’s Day?


Mother’s Day comes once a year, but mothering is an everyday activity—which is why you should try to get your mother a gift that keeps giving in some way for the entire year. In general, transient things don’t make great gifts: flowers, gift certificates, cleaning supplies. Here are some better ideas: A special pillowcase, a nice case for her smartphone, a good wallet, an artistic keychain—or anything else that she’s likely to use daily, which will remind her of your gratitude. And of course, say something especially nice when you give it to her: The giving-ceremony and the accompanying words will define the way she will think about the gift and her relationship with you. And remember—you can’t be too mushy.


Dear Dan,

My partner and I have been together for a few years. At some point, I am sure we will get married. However, I’m not in any hurry to get engaged, let alone worry about a wedding date and all the planning that comes after. My partner, on the other hand, he is perfectly ready. What should I do?


First, let’s ask why your boyfriend is so keen to get engaged soon. Perhaps it’s because you’ve been dating for a long time, and he wants to feel that the relationship is moving forward. Or perhaps he isn’t sure that the two of you really are going to get married, and he wants to try to seal the deal.

Depending on his reasons, you might be able to help assuage the root cause of his concern without getting engaged. If his concern is just about moving forward, you can take some lessons from game designers. Right now, you are playing a three-step “game”—dating, engagement, marriage. You don’t want to move to level two or three yet, so maybe you can design a game with more levels—with several steps between dating and marriage. There’s dating, dating steadily, dating seriously, pre-engagement, engagement and post-engagement. By thinking in terms of these additional steps, your boyfriend could get a feeling of progress while you avoid a feeling of pressure.

On the other hand, if he’s looking for more certainty about where you two are headed, you can do all kinds of things to make clear that you intend to stay with him for a very long time. Maybe you could set up a joint bank account, make plans for things far in the future or buy a car together.

If you don’t know the real concern, use both approaches.

One last personal note: In my experience, whenever we face a decision about something good—and presumably, getting married is something good—delaying is rarely better. The one downside, of course, is that once you do decide to get married, your parents are going to start calling to ask when you are going to give them grandchildren.


Dear Dan,

How can I find scientists who will study people’s poop-pickup behaviors and help design campaigns to get more people to clean up after their dogs?


Offer them treats. Treats for scientists are a bit more complex than treats for pets, but if you were to announce a competition of ideas to solve the dog-poop problem, promise to try the different proposals in a scientific way and announce the winner publicly, that combination of ego and data would probably work nicely.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.

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

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.

Ask Ariely: On Justifying Gadgets, Job Satisfaction, and Just Flowers

Apr 25

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to


Dear Dan,

I’m thinking about buying the new Apple Watch, but I’m sure if it is worth it. Any advice?


I’m not sure I can be truly objective here: I just might want one, and if I suggest that you shouldn’t get one, how could I justify buying one for myself later?

So without wanting to limit my own future purchases, let’s more generally consider the question of how we figure out whether luxury items are worth the cost.

Let’s take a very different product, black pearls, as our example. When black pearls were first introduced to the market, nobody wanted them [for more about this story, see Predictably Irrational]. But then the famous jeweler Harry Winston placed black pearls in his display windows alongside his rubies, sapphires and diamonds. He set the price of black pearls high, and they have been very valuable ever since. An important lesson from this story is that people tend to make relative judgments and to use only objects that are easy to compare as the standard for appraisal (like those rubies, sapphires and diamonds).

This implies that when you’re examining future purchases, you should ensure that you don’t just compare the object of your desire to similar objects but to other, very different things that you might also want. As you expand your scope of comparison, you should be able to make more reasonable decisions.


Dear Dan,

I’m an air-traffic controller at a large airport. I don’t work in the tower but in a remote radar facility about 30 miles away, handling traffic within 50 miles of the airport. As a radar controller, everything is completely abstract. Would being able to actually see the planes I am guiding take off and land generate greater job satisfaction than just seeing targets on a screen?


Probably. In many different domains (including moral judgment and empathy), when we present information in increasingly abstract ways, emotions get suppressed, and we care less. So if you plan to stay in this type of job for a while, moving to a tower might well boost your motivation.

But even if you stay put, other changes might increase the perceived meaning of your labor. What if your screen showed how many passengers were on each plane? What if, at landing time, you were told that they were all healthy? What if you were shown some pictures of the people waiting for them at the airport? With such changes, the information you have about the passengers in your care would be more than just a dot, and both your caring and your motivation should increase.


Dear Dan,

I sometimes invite friends for dinner, and they usually ask me which dish they can bring. Actually, I really don’t want them to bring anything: It doesn’t help me out, and it might not fit with the meal I’ve got planned. But I’m not sure how I can politely reject their nice offer.


I’ve had the same problem. At one point, I Googled “most difficult recipes” and picked the one I liked most. The next person who asked me what dish they could make got that recipe. I’ve been using this approach ever since, while also telling people that it truly is fine not to bring a dish. They inevitably end up bringing wine or flowers.


See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.


By the way! “Irrationally Yours,” a book based on this column, will be published May 18 by HarperCollins (which, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp).

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