Stories & Reflections
By Paulo Coelho
Recently I read in an article by David Mehegan in The Boston Globe about the release of the book “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at MIT.
This book seemed very appealing to me because the author proves, by a series of behavioural experiments, that humans tend to act much more irrationally than rationally.
Indeed, as the journalist puts it:
“Ariely’s book explores the varieties of nonsensical economic thinking, such as:
We value things more when we pay a higher price for them. The Bayer aspirin and the Rolex watch
seem valuable because of how much they cost, not because they’re better in practical terms than a generic aspirin or a Timex.
Relativity distorts reality. We might be earning 10 times more money than we earned for the same work a decade ago, but we’re convinced that we’re underpaid if the people around us are earning more.
Easy choices make decisions difficult. The more nearly equal two alternative products, jobs, or presidential candidates are, the more agonizing the choice between them.
We’re hopeless suckers for the word “free” on an item for sale, even if there’s a hidden cost and the product is something we don’t need or even like.”
Indeed, how many times the power of the word “free” plunges us into an unnecessary buying spree of things that as soon as we leave the store we already regret?
Why do we keep on postponing decisions and most importantly let ourselves be guided by this illusion of abundance?
If the reasons of this irrationality are impossible for us to see, at least, Ariely’s book seem to give some sort of comfort.
We can learn from our mistakes and refrain from making the same irrational gestures that we afterwards we feel bad about.
The solution then lies in our ability to bypass our “wired-in tendencies”.
Ariely’s book is interesting in the realm of economics. It not only reveals that much of our “rational” decisions are actually irrational, but also that our rationality can guide us to step away from a vicious circle.
I believe nevertheless that when one gets away from this economic perspective – this tendency is reversed.
Sometimes it is by letting our irrationality take over that we actually manage to see our true path.
What’s your take on that?
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