Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational

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For years, conventional economists have argued that consumers are rational and will always make logical decisions. Theoretically, humans will conduct a cost-benefit analysis prior to each decision. However, as Dan Ariely, a Professor of Behavioural Economics at Duke University, indicates in his book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, consumers cannot be relied upon to act rationally. Viewing the field of economics from the perspective of “how people [do] behave, instead of how they should behave” (Ariely, 2008, p. 239), Ariely argues that consumers are not rational actors but rather irrational reactors. Through detailed experiments and witty anecdotes, Predictably Irrational inspires readers to re-evaluate…show more content…
The very content of the book often contradicts its theme. Ariely argues that we are “far less rational than standard economic theory assumes” (Ariely, 2008, p. xx) and that we should “modify standard economics, to move it away from naïve psychology” (Ariely, 2008, p. xx). Undoubtedly, the findings he presents indicate that humans are indeed irrational and that “these irrational behaviours…are systematic” (Ariely, 2008, p. 239). However, while reflecting upon his findings, Ariely consistently advises the reader on how these irrationalities can be avoided. For example, after discussing the Hershey’s chocolate experiment, Ariely develops a system of calculating “pleasure units” (Ariely, 2008, p. 64) which could have been used to rationally decide which chocolate to eat. Therefore, despite implying that standard economics is flawed, Ariely attempts to train readers to become the rational humans who “compute the value of all the options [they] face and then follow the best possible path of action” (Ariely, 2008, p. xx) described by standard economics originally. Instead of encouraging economics to adapt to consumers, as suggested by the theme of the book, Ariely encourages readers to conform to the assumptions of standard…show more content…
At the end of the book, Ariely distills two “main lessons” (Ariely, 2008, p. 243). First, he states that “we are pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend” (Ariely, 2008, p. 243). Without defining “we,” Ariely implies self-inclusion, meaning he too is a pawn. If Ariely fails to understand these forces, how can we trust his opinion? Furthermore, if humans are pawns, then who is playing the game? Again, Ariely restrains from fully developing his ideas, resulting in ambiguity. Further engaging in self-contradiction, his second lesson is that “although irrationality is commonplace, it does not necessarily mean that we are helpless” (Ariely, 2008, p. 243). Again, if the main takeaway from Ariely’s decades of research is that we are merely puppets of unintelligible forces, how are we not helpless? Ariely not only fails to expand the main ideas of his book, but they fundamentally contradict each other. Furthermore, Ariely concludes Predictably Irrational by stating that humans are “limited to the tools nature has given us” (Ariely, 2008, p. 243) and that we require “businesses and policy makers…to design their policies and products so as to provide free lunches” (Ariely, 2008, p. 243). Throughout his writing, Ariely preaches that consumers need to train themselves to recognise their irrationalities in order to gain power over the market. However, his conclusion contradicts this central theme by limiting the power of

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