Books on human decision making and irrationality

Things that are least important for survival are the things that make us human
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How We Decide

by Jonah Lehrer

About the book:  The first book to use the unexpected discoveries of neuroscience to help us make the best decisions Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate, or we “blink” and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind’s black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they’re discovering that this is not how the mind works. Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason—and the precise mix depends on the situation. When buying a house, for example, it’s best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we’re picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think. Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need, drawing on cutting-edge research as well as the real-world experiences of a wide range of “deciders”—from airplane pilots and hedge fund investors to serial killers and poker players. Lehrer shows how people are taking advantage of the new science to make better television shows, win more football games, and improve military intelligence. His goal is to answer two questions that are of interest to just about anyone, from CEOs to firefighters: How does the human mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisions better?


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On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not

by Robert A. Burton

About the book:  You recognize when you know something for certain, right? You "know" the sky is blue, or that the traffic light had turned green, or where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001--you know these things, well, because you just do.In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton shows that feeling certain―feeling that we know something--- is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. An increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. In other words, the feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen. Bringing together cutting-edge neuroscience, experimental data, and fascinating anecdotes, Robert Burton explores the inconsistent and sometimes paradoxical relationship between our thoughts and what we actually know. Provocative and groundbreaking, On Being Certain challenges what we know (or think we know) about the mind, knowledge, and reason.


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Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

by Dan Ariely

About the book:  Why do our headaches persist after we take a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a fifty-cent aspirin? Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup? When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we're making smart, rational choices. But are we? In this newly revised and expanded edition of the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They're systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.


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Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

by Richard H. Thaler,Cass R. Sunstein

About the book:  For fans of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, a revelatory new look at how we make decisions More than 750,000 copies sold A New York Times bestsellerAn Economist Best Book of the YearA Financial Times Best Book of the YearNudge is about choices—how we make them and how we can make better ones. Drawing on decades of research in the fields of behavioral science and economics, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions. In the tradition of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, Nudge is straightforward, informative, and entertaining—a must-read for anyone interested in our individual and collective well-being.


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Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics

by Richard H. Thaler

About the book:  Get ready to change the way you think about economics.Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans―predictable, error-prone individuals. Misbehaving is his arresting, frequently hilarious account of the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth―and change the way we think about economics, ourselves, and our world.Traditional economics assumes rational actors. Early in his research, Thaler realized these Spock-like automatons were nothing like real people. Whether buying a clock radio, selling basketball tickets, or applying for a mortgage, we all succumb to biases and make decisions that deviate from the standards of rationality assumed by economists. In other words, we misbehave. More importantly, our misbehavior has serious consequences. Dismissed at first by economists as an amusing sideshow, the study of human miscalculations and their effects on markets now drives efforts to make better decisions in our lives, our businesses, and our governments.Coupling recent discoveries in human psychology with a practical understanding of incentives and market behavior, Thaler enlightens readers about how to make smarter decisions in an increasingly mystifying world. He reveals how behavioral economic analysis opens up new ways to look at everything from household finance to assigning faculty offices in a new building, to TV game shows, the NFL draft, and businesses like Uber.Laced with antic stories of Thaler’s spirited battles with the bastions of traditional economic thinking, Misbehaving is a singular look into profound human foibles. When economics meets psychology, the implications for individuals, managers, and policy makers are both profound and entertaining.Shortlisted for the Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award


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Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions

by Gerd Gigerenzer

About the book:  A new eye-opener on how we can make better decisions—by the author of Gut FeelingsIn this age of big data we often trust that expert analysis—whether it’s about next year’s stock market or a person’s risk of getting cancer—is accurate. But, as risk expert Gerd Gigerenzer reveals in his latest book, Risk Savvy, most of us, including doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors, often misunderstand statistics, leaving us misinformed and vulnerable to exploitation.Yet there’s hope. In Risk Savvy, Gigerenzer gives us an essential guide to the science of good decision making, showing how ordinary people can make better decisions for their money, their health, and their families. Here, Gigerenzer delivers the surprising conclusion that the best results often come from considering less information and listening to your gut.


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Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious

by Gerd Gigerenzer

About the book:  Why is split second decision-making superior to deliberation? Gut Feelings delivers the science behind Malcolm Gladwell?s Blink Reflection and reason are overrated, according to renowned psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer. Much better qualified to help us make decisions is the cognitive, emotional, and social repertoire we call intuition?a suite of gut feelings that have evolved over the millennia specifically for making decisions. ?Gladwell drew heavily on Gigerenzer?s research. But Gigerenzer goes a step further by explaining just why our gut instincts are so often right. Intuition, it seems, is not some sort of mystical chemical reaction but a neurologically based behavior that evolved to ensure that we humans respond quickly when faced with a dilemma? (BusinessWeek).


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Stumbling on Happiness

by Daniel Gilbert

About the book:  • Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?• Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight? • Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they really want? • Why do pigeons seem to have such excellent aim; why can’t we remember one song while listening to another; and why does the line at the grocery store always slow down the moment we join it?In this brilliant, witty, and accessible book, renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions. Vividly bringing to life the latest scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, Gilbert reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. With penetrating insight and sparkling prose, Gilbert explains why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become.


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Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

by Ori Brafman

About the book:  A fascinating journey into the hidden psychological influences that derail our decision-making, Sway will change the way you think about the way you think.Why is it so difficult to sell a plummeting stock or end a doomed relationship? Why do we listen to advice just because it came from someone “important”? Why are we more likely to fall in love when there’s danger involved? In Sway, renowned organizational thinker Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Rom Brafman, answer all these questions and more.Drawing on cutting-edge research from the fields of social psychology, behavioral economics, and organizational behavior, Sway reveals dynamic forces that influence every aspect of our personal and business lives, including loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses), the diagnosis bias (our inability to reevaluate our initial diagnosis of a person or situation), and the “chameleon effect” (our tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us). Sway introduces us to the Harvard Business School professor who got his students to pay $204 for a $20 bill, the head of airline safety whose disregard for his years of training led to the transformation of an entire industry, and the football coach who turned conventional strategy on its head to lead his team to victory. We also learn the curse of the NBA draft, discover why interviews are a terrible way to gauge future job performance, and go inside a session with the Supreme Court to see how the world’s most powerful justices avoid the dangers of group dynamics.Every once in a while, a book comes along that not only challenges our views of the world but changes the way we think. In Sway, Ori and Rom Brafman not only uncover rational explanations for a wide variety of irrational behaviors but also point readers toward ways to avoid succumbing to their pull.


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Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy

by Martin Lindstrom

About the book:  How much do we know about why we buy? What truly influences our decisions in today's message-cluttered world? An eye-grabbing advertisement, a catchy slogan, an infectious jingle? Or do our buying decisions take place below the surface, so deep within our subconscious minds, we're barely aware of them?In BUYOLOGY, Lindstrom, who was voted one of Time Magazine's most influential people of 2009, presents the astonishing findings from his groundbreaking, three-year, seven-million-dollar neuromarketing study, a cutting-edge experiment that peered inside the brains of 2,000 volunteers from all around the world as they encountered various ads, logos, commercials, brands, and products. His startling results shatter much of what we have long believed about what seduces our interest and drives us to buy. Among the questions he explores:Does sex actually sell? To what extent do people in skimpy clothing and suggestive poses persuade us to buy products? Despite government bans, does subliminal advertising still surround us – from bars to highway billboards to supermarket shelves? Can "Cool" brands, like iPods, trigger our mating instincts? Can other senses – smell, touch, and sound - be so powerful as to physically arouse us when we see a product? Do companies copy from the world of religion and create rituals – like drinking a Corona with a lime – to capture our hard-earned dollars? Filled with entertaining inside stories about how we respond to such well-known brands as Marlboro, Nokia, Calvin Klein, Ford, and American Idol, BUYOLOGY is a fascinating and shocking journey into the mind of today's consumer that will captivate anyone who's been seduced – or turned off – by marketers' relentless attempts to win our loyalty, our money, and our minds.


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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

by Eureka Books

About the book:  World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea—the power of our mindset.   Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.   Praise for Mindset   “Everyone should read this book.”—Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Switch and Made to Stick   “Will prove to be one of the most influential books ever about motivation.”—Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock   “A good book is one whose advice you believe. A great book is one whose advice you follow. I have found Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets invaluable in my own life, and even life-changing in my attitudes toward the challenges that, over the years, become more demanding rather than less. This is a book that can change your life, as its ideas have changed mine.”—Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Education and Psychology at Yale University, director of the PACE Center of Yale University, and author of Successful Intelligence   “If you manage any people or if you are a parent (which is a form of managing people), drop everything and read Mindset.”—Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start and the blog How to Change the World   “Highly recommended . . . an essential read for parents, teachers [and] coaches . . . as well as for those who would like to increase their own feelings of success and fulfillment.”—Library Journal (starred review)   “A serious, practical book. Dweck’s overall assertion that rigid thinking benefits no one, least of all yourself, and that a change of mind is always possible, is welcome.”—Publishers Weekly   “A wonderfully elegant idea . . . It is a great book.”—Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., author of Delivered from DistractionFrom the Hardcover edition.


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Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices

by Paul R. Lawrence,Nitin Nohria

About the book:  A touchstone for understanding how we behave on the job "This is a stimulating and provocative book in bringing together important ideas from different fields, and, thereby, giving us a whole new slant on 'human nature.'" --Edgar H. Schein, Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and Senior Lecturer, MIT In this astonishing, provocative, and solidly researched book, two Harvard Business School professors synthesize 200 years of thought along with the latest research drawn from the biological and social sciences to propose a new theory, a unified synthesis of human nature. Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria have studied the way people behave in that most fascinating arena of human behavior-the workplace-and from their work they produce a book that examines the four separate and distinct emotive drives that guide human behavior and influence the choices people make: the drives to acquire, bond, learn, and defend. They ultimately show that, just as advances in information technology have spurred the New Economy in the last quarter of the twentieth century, current advances in biology will be the key to understanding humans and organizations in the new millennium.


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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

by Daniel H. Pink

About the book:  The New York Times bestseller that gives readers a paradigm—shattering new way to think about motivation.Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That's a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.


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The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic

by Dan Ariely

About the book:  “Dan Ariely is a genius at understanding human behavior: no economist does a better job of uncovering and explaining the hidden reasons for the weird ways we act.” — James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds Behavioral economist and New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational Dan Ariely returns to offer a much-needed take on the irrational decisions that influence our dating lives, our workplace experiences, and our temptation to cheat in any and all areas. Fans of Freakonomics, Survival of the Sickest, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and The Tipping Point will find many thought-provoking insights in The Upside of Irrationality.


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The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

by Daniel Simons

About the book:  Reading this book will make you less sure of yourself—and that’s a good thing. In The Invisible Gorilla, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, creators of one of psychology’s most famous experiments, use remarkable stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to demonstrate an important truth: Our minds don’t work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we’re actually missing a whole lot. Chabris and Simons combine the work of other researchers with their own findings on attention, perception, memory, and reasoning to reveal how faulty intuitions often get us into trouble. In the process, they explain: • Why a company would spend billions to launch a product that its own analysts know will fail• How a police officer could run right past a brutal assault without seeing it• Why award-winning movies are full of editing mistakes• What criminals have in common with chess masters• Why measles and other childhood diseases are making a comeback• Why money managers could learn a lot from weather forecasters Again and again, we think we experience and understand the world as it is, but our thoughts are beset by everyday illusions. We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We’re sure we know where we were on 9/11, falsely believing that vivid memories are seared into our minds with perfect fidelity. And as a society, we spend billions on devices to train our brains because we’re continually tempted by the lure of quick fixes and effortless self-improvement.  The Invisible Gorilla reveals the myriad ways that our intuitions can deceive us, but it’s much more than a catalog of human failings. Chabris and Simons explain why we succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects. Ultimately, the book provides a kind of x-ray vision into our own minds, making it possible to pierce the veil of illusions that clouds our thoughts and to think clearly for perhaps the first time. From the Hardcover edition.


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Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

by Madeleine L. Van Hecke

About the book:  A woman planning a dinner party calls a gourmet caterer and learns that "Chateaubriand" can be ordered. To which she responds, "No, thanks. We’re going to take care of the wine ourselves." The dead silence at the end of the phone is her first clue that something is amiss. A CEO attempts to put an end to complaints from employees about the demeaning behavior of certain managers by berating the managers before the staff — thus reinforcing the very behavior he’s trying to correct. We often criticize such incidents with remarks like "How dumb!" or "What was he thinking?" But psychologist Madeleine L. Van Hecke argues that much of what we label stupidity can better be explained as blind spots. Just as the blind spot in the driver’s side mirror can swallow up a passing car, patterns in the way we think can likewise become blind spots, sifting out information and observations that to other people seem obvious. Drawing on research in creativity, cognitive psychology, critical thinking, child development, education, and philosophy, Dr. Van Hecke shows how our assets as thinkers create the very blind spots that become our worst liabilities. She devotes a chapter to each of ten mental blind spots that afflict even the smartest people: not stopping to think, jumping to conclusions, my-side bias, getting trapped by categories, and much more. At the end of each chapter she offers tactics for overcoming that specific blind spot, so we can become more creative and competent thinkers.Full of funny, poignant stories about human foibles, Blind Spots offers many insights for improving our social and political lives while giving us fresh slants into the minds of people who are poles apart from ourselves.


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You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, an d 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself

by David McRaney

About the book:  An entertaining illumination of the stupid beliefs that make us feel wise, based on the popular blog of the same name.  Whether you’re deciding which smartphone to purchase or which politician to believe, you think you are a rational being whose every decision is based on cool, detached logic. But here’s the truth: You are not so smart. You’re just as deluded as the rest of us—but that’s okay, because being deluded is part of being human. Growing out of David McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart reveals that every decision we make, every thought we contemplate, and every emotion we feel comes with a story we tell ourselves to explain them. But often these stories aren’t true. Each short chapter—covering topics such as Learned Helplessness, Selling Out, and the Illusion of Transparency—is like a psychology course with all the boring parts taken out.Bringing together popular science and psychology with humor and wit, You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of our irrational, thoroughly human behavior.


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