My immersive introduction to irrationality took place many years ago while I was overcoming injuries sustained in an explosion (here is a description of my experiences in the hospital). The range of treatments in the burn department, and particularly the daily “bath” made me face a variety of irrational behaviors that were immensely painful and persistent. Upon leaving the hospital, I wanted to understand how to better deliver painful and unavoidable treatments to patients so I began conducting research in this area (see picture below). After completing this initial research project, I became engrossed with the idea that we repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions in many aspects of our lives and that research could help change some of these patterns. A few years later, decision making and behavioral economics dramatically influenced my personal life when I found myself using all of the knowledge I’d accumulated in order to convince Sumi to marry me (a decision that was in my best interest but not necessarily in hers). After managing to convince her, I realized that if understanding decision-making could help me achieve this goal, it could help anyone in their daily life.
Predictably Irrational, and Perfectly Irrational are my attempt to take my research findings and describe them in non academic terms so that more people will learn about this type of research, discover the excitement of behavioral economics, and possibly use some of the insights to enrich their own lives. In terms of official positions, I am the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. (Click here for a short version of my bio, and click here for an extended version of my bio)
My free time is spent working on a guide to the kitchen and life—Dining Without Crumbs: The Art of Eating Over the Kitchen Sink—and of course, studying the irrational ways we all behave.
|Burningman is a fantastic experiment in creativity, community, and generosity. It is also an interesting gift exchange society where money is not allowed.
|Beehavioral economics is a complex and serious profession requiring focus and attention to details (this is also why I prefer the phone to video conferences)
|This is me, thinking very hard about how to get this stick out of my shirt. Much like a lot of things in life, once you see the answer it seems trivial, but without this knowledge, it is surpassingly complex.
|How would you ever know what works well and what does not, if you don’t experiment and try different things?
Here I model a “pain and pleasure suit.” I designed it to measure how we combine pain (caused by extreme cold or hot temperature) in part of our body, and pleasure in another (note the cool photo effects)
|Sometimes you can recognize fantastic decisions the moment you stumble upon them.