Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Response: "The Upside Of Irrationality"

I finished reading "The Upside Of Irrationality", by Dan Ariely. I was hesitant to write about it, because I didn't want to take away any thunder from the book. I changed my mind, because I feel that my thoughts about his thoughts would help people to look into the issues further, and perhaps my thoughts might encourage you to consider reading his book.

You might be interested in his previous book, "Predictably Irrational, Revised And Expanded Edition". This book came before "The Upside Of Irrationality", and is very similar, in that he helps us to understand the decision making processes.

Keep reading my blog entry to see my response to the author, but please bear in mind that you probably won't understand all that I am saying, because I don't want to give away what he wrote in the book. Also, I don't want to try to explain things, since I probably would explain it incorrectly.

Greetings, Dan Ariely.

Honestly, I like your book, and I think that it was well written. I really appreciated the way that you shared your life with me. I'm still amazed at your struggles. You provided me with much inspiration.

Unfortunately, it makes me second guess myself. Maybe that's a good thing. :^) Every time I need to make a decision, I'll start wondering if I need to take more pleasure in the work that I do, or if I am basing my view on experiences and not logic, or if I'm not happy, or what.

You wrote about women choosing the $3:$3 ratio. That sounds great, but it can have negative consequences. If a bad guy knows that every person will offer back a $3:$3 ratio or accept the $7.5:$2.5 offer, then his gain will be $3 or $7.5, as opposed to $0; guaranteed. This will give him every incentive he needs to give selfish offers. I think that some people really do the community a favour when they offer back $0:$3. This forces a punishment, and forces that bad guy to realize that a possible outcome could lead him to gain nothing, while others profit.

I think that in this example, we should only think of each possible offer only as 1 of many tools available for dealing with bad behaviour.

You wrote about the long term effects of emotions and the decisions occurring at the time of those emotions. I honestly think that many of us, myself included, haven't truly thought about the long term consequences of day to day decisions. That is why I get very angry inside and sad inside, when people ask, "What could possibly happen?", in response to suggestions of restraint or abstinence to certain activities. In the book, watching violence really did cause people to behave differently. A lot of us will say that violence on TV doesn't make us want to kill, but we fail to believe that it causes other problems as well.

You wrote about giving. It also made me ill to think that I might have been too selfish in the past. About a week ago, my parents said that I was abusive throughout my life, and that I am still abusive. This caught me off guard. That actually hurt a lot. I still don't know if they are right at all. Maybe I was too cold and calculated, which didn't allow me to give to those in need. Maybe my lack of people skills exasperated the problem. What if my parents are wrong? What does that say about them, if they consider me abusive? It wasn't just a fleeting thought. They really believed it. I'm 36, and I discover this only last week? The strange thing is that no matter what research and results will prove, I will probably never like my parents ever again. That's irrational. I don't blame anybody. I'm just disappointed because they said it, and because it's hard to properly deal with that information. I guess my question is, can being calculated and focused on making good decisions cause us to lose relationships? Should we go with the crowd, if we know that the crowd has already made up its mind to do something not ideal?

Another thing I wonder about is how we can prime ourselves to be open minded about new ideas. When we accept a new idea, are we being open minded or are we being impulsive and carefree? I guess the rational thing to do is not lose sleep over it.

Those are my thoughts on the book. I'm going through a lot of struggles right now, so your book really made me think. Dan, I'd really appreciate your feed back. I remember that your wrist hurts when you type a lot, so I wouldn't expect a long response. No matter what, thanks for all your time!

Sincerely, and with thanks,
Eugene T.S. Wong

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