Last week I read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. This book was really interesting and I highly recommend it.
Dan Ariely is an economist at M.I.T., which initially made me wary of this book. I don't really "do" economics, other than in the context of books like Freakonomics, but this book sounded appealing. This book is about the predictably irrational behavior that people exhibit in their every day lives and when influenced by market forces. It was fascinating.
This book is basically a narrative borne out of a series of experiments that Ariely has conducted over the past few years. Among them was an experiment to see how arousal altered sexual attitudes, like whether or not to wear a condom. To get the data, Ariely's team asked men to answer some questions while in a "rational" state, and then again in an "irrational" state, which they attained by looking at internet porn sites. Isn't that wild?
Another interesting experiment: they shocked volunteers with electricity, and then sold them fake pain pills costing either 10 cents or $2.50. The more expensive pain pills had the effect of reducing pain far more effectively in the subjects than the cheap pain pills did, even though they were exactly the same in both cases.
This book really made me consider some of the "irrational" behaviors I'm sure I exhibit. I like to think that I am more rational than the average human, but of course I'm not. This is not Lake Wobegone, where everyone is above average and immune to market forces. We are all influenced every day. Reading this book will make you aware of that, and probably to take steps to change it.
I highly recommend it. Read this book and you'll start to see a bunch of ways in which you are also predictably irrational.