Friday, July 07, 2017

Predictable Irationality - Book Review

I asked for this book as a birthday present, in the hopes that it would help me figure out why I keep making irrational decisions in my life. I had just ended a 14 year relationship (9 of it married) and felt like I kept running myself into the same stupid wall over and over again. Surprised each time that it was there. I want(ed) to know why I was making those decisions and how to stop the cycle.

It isn't really that kind of book.

Don't get me wrong, it's fascinating! The author has numerous studies to measure how people will react under different situations. He looks at what kinds of circumstances will allow people to rationalize cheating, stealing or how much they are willing to pay for a particular item.

How supply and demand isn't as clear cut as we like to think. We really just have to BELIEVE a thing is rare and we are willing pay as if the item is valuable. Diamonds aren't actually all that rare and we didn't even use them in engagement rings until the 40's. That was when an amazing marketing program convinced us that it was the only way to tell the world a couple really loved each other. The same with pearls. We were told, in just the right way that we should want them, so we do.

The cost of FREE...How if  we get something thrown in for free, we'll change our purchasing decisions in order to get that extra bit free, even if it's something we don't really want.

How we over value what we own. How OUR houses are better than our neighbors. How our junk is beautiful and we just know someone will want it like we did.

Things like whether or not your group orders food out loud will affect what each member orders AND how satisfied each person will be with their selection.

How we're all cheaters, but only to a certain extent...and how that extent changes radically if there is a direct link to cash. We're more honest when there is cash involved, but less honest if there is even one additional step between the cheating and the cash.

The ability to undermine ourselves with our unwillingness to close doors and lose options, even when we KNOW that those options aren't good for us and that by using a little focus we would maximize our gains and get ahead. But we don't, because we want options. 

It doesn't speak well for us as humans. Reading about how irrational and how predictable humans are, and how easily our decisions are affected is unsettling. We (I) like to think I make my own decisions and that I'm "different" and not easily swayed...but in all of the experiments that the authored featured I could see myself and how I would react...and I'm not special.

While it wasn't the book I thought it was, and I did really enjoy it. I think the fact that I keep reading the titles of books and just deciding what they're about regardless of what I read in the back "blerb" really tells me more about why I keep making the same mistakes in my life more than any single "self help" book could. The reality of that really doesn't match my self-identity at all.  


George Mesias said...

Don't have to answer but have you considered psychodynamic therapy to help get the answers you seek? I'm clearly biased by my profession, but some have found it useful to help better understand their defenses and choices.

Also I've heard good things about Happiness Trap as a book. It's on my list to read

Bonnie said...

George: "ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) Made Simple," by the same author, Russ Harris, is a great way to integrate those principles into your practice. I'm a big fan of his work.
Terra: Sorry the book wasn't what you were looking for but thanks for the synopsis. None of us is as unique as we think, to ourselves, that we are. But always remember, to your Mom, you are always one of a kind, my Opus Magnus! Love you forever, and back again❤️

George Mesias said...

Bonnie :-) I have it. I'm a huge fan of ACT and have used it before. But I do think it's something a motivated and fairly well functioning person can learn and utilize without the help of a costly therapist despite being one :-P. Good Psychonalysis not so much but can also be hugely helpful

Bonnie said...


Terra said...

Psychology Nerds;)

George, I'll look Happiness Trap up and give it a read. I'm all for more knowledge!
I've gone in for counseling before, but haven't found a good fit yet.

Mom, I enjoyed it. It had a lot of really interesting information in it and you know I like to know "why" things happen:)
Love you too!

George Mesias said...

Well :-) there are worse things to be a nerd about. And better things... like being a running nerd! If that's not really a thing it totally should be

George Mesias said...

And yes, finding a good fit can be a challenge sometimes. Good thing you're blessed with a thirst for knowledge and great friends

Terra said...

I am!