Predictably Irrational: Why People Do What They Do

Predictably Irrational Summary Notes Print

The first book recommended to me by an advertising mentor was “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” by Dan Ariely. Ariely’s backstory is incredibly interesting and worth researching, but it’s best to know he’s become a keen observer of people’s behavior and has written several books covering his experiments. Within a year after listening to this book during bike commutes to work, it’s arisen in numerous conversations and has given reason to why I and others behave the way they do.

Yes, these tactics can be used in advertising, but they can also be used by the consumer. For example, if you understand the concept of the anchor and how your first experience with a product (ex. – your first car) becomes your measuring stick for the next product, you won’t settle for anything less than your first car. Following your second purchase, you’ll then want an equivalent or better car, and so on. Thus, it’s important to remember the reason you made your first decision. If that was three cars ago and you’re now with a newer, nicer car, chances are your standards have changed even though you claim you’re the same person deep down inside. Each point can help you understand why you’re about to make a decision, and perhaps help you reconsider if the motive behind your choice is why you truly want what you do.

Many of these concepts should be familiar: Fear of Loss, Sex Appeal, The Price of Free, and perhaps a few more. One fascinating point about the price of free is that people are more willing to do something for free when the effort is exchanged for something related to social norms and cannot be defined by monetary value. For example, your friend says he’ll help you paint your house if you help him move this weekend. The answer is most likely yes. But if the friend says he’ll give you pizza and beer for helping him move, you then associate the pizza & beer with a cost of $20. Compared to a the salary of a moving company, $20 for a day’s work leaves a sour taste in your mouth and leaves your friend to find another mover. To make things even more interesting, a friend is more likely to help by treating it as a goodwill / friendship deed than offering to pay them less than a) what they make at work or b) what movers make, which would be their anchors.

I could go on about the others, but the one that’s changed me the most is the point about perception. I’ve thought that if something’s overly described as positive, it will end in letdown because it did not live up to the hype. And that may be true when taken to the extreme. But when you continuously focus on the positives and what’s going to be great about something, you convince yourself to make it great. Based on a get-together or two throughout the year, I can attest that this notion does indeed work.

Predictably Irrational Summary Notes

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