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Run-on Sentence Summary

The famous Behavioral Economics professor, Dan Ariely, explains his research on different quirks of human psychology, such as getting better pain relief from brand name drugs than identical generic versions.

Impressions

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years. I am not totally sure if behavioral economics has been a huge literary fad, or if I was just exposed to a lot of it when I was in school. Dan Ariely is one of the most famous professors at Duke, and many of my friends studied psychology there and took his classes. Thanks to them, I was generally familiar with most of the basic concepts in this book.

Ariely has an incredible personal story. When he was young, he was in an accident that caused him to get severe 3rd degree burns over most of his body, and his long, painful recovery is what turned him on to perception and psychology. Specifically, he was curious if it is true that it is better to rip off a band aid all at once or slowly. As it turns out, it is measurably better to do it slowly, because people don’t usually remember the duration of an unpleasant experience as vividly as the most unpleasant moment.

Frustratingly, the book didn’t tell me, now that I understand that brand name drugs are just a placebo, if I should still be buying them or not! The ideas and experiments in this book give a great broad overview of some of the basic concepts in behavioral economics, but it wasn’t as novel as it would have been if I read it when it first came out.

Final Thoughts

Behavioral Economics, as presented in this book, doesn’t have anything to do with economics. It is one of the big trend of popular psychology books including Freakanomics and Gladwell. They are popular for a reason: if you have avoided the subject until now, this book is interesting and entertaining and worth the quick read.

Favorite Quote

“We usually think of ourselves as sitting the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we made and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires-with how we want to view ourselves-than with reality”