The Upside of Irrationality

  • by Dan Ariely
  • Narrated by Simon Jones
  • 8 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The provocative follow-up to the New York Times best seller Predictably Irrational


Why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive?
How can confusing directions actually help us?
Why is revenge so important to us?
Why is there such a big difference between what we think will make us happy and what really makes us happy?
In his groundbreaking book Predictably Irrational, social scientist Dan Ariely revealed the multiple biases that lead us into making unwise decisions. Now, in The Upside of Irrationality, he exposes the surprising negative and positive effects irrationality can have on our lives. Focusing on our behaviors at work and in relationships, he offers new insights and eye-opening truths about what really motivates us on the job, how one unwise action can become a long-term habit, how we learn to love the ones we're with, and more.
Drawing on the same experimental methods that made Predictably Irrational one of the most talked-about bestsellers of the past few years, Ariely uses data from his own original and entertaining experiments to draw arresting conclusions about how and why we behave the way we do. From our office attitudes, to our romantic relationships, to our search for purpose in life, Ariely explains how to break through our negative patterns of thought and behavior to make better decisions. The Upside of Irrationality will change the way we see ourselves at work and at home and cast our irrational behaviors in a more nuanced light.

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What the Critics Say

"Self-deprecating humor, an enthusiasm for human eccentricities, and an affable and snappy style make this read an enriching and eye-opening pleasure." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not as good as the first

I gave 5 stars to Predictably Irrational also by this author. This current book is not nearly as good. The title is somewhat misleading, as after listening, I'm not sure what he believes the upside to irrationality is.

This book is shorter in length and seems to jump from one concept to another without much a clear connection or bridge between the chapters. On the plus side, he develops exceptionally clever experiments to test his theories. the difference between the original book and this, is there is lot more room for alternative explanations in this book.

For instance, he sets up experiments where behavior is measured by the amount of money the subjects keep, give away or are influenced by. However, in my mind, I would have reacted differently to the situations based on thee amount of money involved. For instance, my behavior if sharing parts of $5 would be very different from sharing parts of $5000. Also, in some 'games' he set up it would matter to me if knew we were going to play the game more than once. In some of his games, this would greatly influence my behavior. Last, the source of his subjects may influence the outcome. Many of his experiments involve MIT students, who you could argue are not the 'normal' population of people.


He also spends a great deal of the book talking about his own horrific experiences as a teen age burn victim. However, I am unsure of the purpose of providing painful, tortuous details of his suffering to the reader of this book.

The most interesting (to me) chapters deal with how long the consequences of emotional irrational decision making can haunt us. Also, he demonstrates how specific stimulus can increase the likelyhood of irrational decisions. I can't help but wonder if the author wasn't try to put us in a certain state of mind with his personal horror stories - perhaps to buy his next book?

You likely find more to like than dislike about this book but it's not as good as the first.
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- Stephen

Great Title!!!

Who cares what the title of the book is with respect to irrationality. The "Upside" is that you will be smarter for having read this book, even if you have already read "Predictably Irrational". (I have)

The point Ariely is trying to make is that the upside to being predictably irrational is that we can recognize and learn to modify our behaviors (to our benefit) if we can learn to question why we make the decisions, at the moment we have to, that we do. So yes, this book is very similar to his last. However, it illuminates how "knowing" that we are predictably irrational can help us recognize the moments at which these behaviors should be called into question. The result of which could be positively life changing.

My only disappointment is that Dan Ariely is not a cognitive behavioral neuroscientist. His experiments seem only to add evidence to the arguments made by Geoff Colvin (Talent is Overrated), Daniel Coyle (The Talent Code), and Winifred Gallagher (Rapt). Aierly implies that our answers to the questions that arise out of life are a result of learned thought processes (reinforced neural pathways) and not necessarily the process of momentarily perfect rational thought.

Dan seems to experimentally demonstrate that "reasoning" is not necessarily an accurate occupation of the brain, yet a result of the combination of previously hardwired pathways that dictate our individual answers. His point, we must overcome this glitch in order to more accurately asses the "real" in our own reality.
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- Rand

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-01-2010
  • Publisher: HarperAudio