It's become increasingly obvious that the dismal science of economics is not as firmly grounded in actual behavior as was once supposed. In "Predictably Irrational," Dan Ariely tells us why.

Why you should listen

Despite our best efforts, bad or inexplicable decisions are as inevitable as death and taxes and the grocery store running out of your favorite flavor of ice cream. They're also just as predictable. Why, for instance, are we convinced that "sizing up" at our favorite burger joint is a good idea, even when we're not that hungry? Why are our phone lists cluttered with numbers we never call? Dan Ariely, behavioral economist, has based his career on figuring out the answers to these questions, and in his bestselling book Predictably Irrational (re-released in expanded form in May 2009), he describes many unorthodox and often downright odd experiments used in the quest to answer this question.

Ariely has long been fascinated with how emotional states, moral codes and peer pressure affect our ability to make rational and often extremely important decisions in our daily lives -- across a spectrum of our interests, from economic choices (how should I invest?) to personal (who should I marry?). At Duke, he's aligned with three departments (business, economics and cognitive neuroscience); he's also a visiting professor in MIT's Program in Media Arts and Sciences and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. His hope that studying and understanding the decision-making process can help people lead better, more sensible daily lives.

He produces a weekly podcast, Arming the Donkeys, featuring chats with researchers in the social and natural sciences.

What others say

"If you want to know why you always buy a bigger television than you intended, or why you think it's perfectly fine to spend a few dollars on a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or why people feel better after taking a 50-cent aspirin but continue to complain of a throbbing skull when they're told the pill they took just cost one penny, Ariely has the answer." — Daniel Gross, Newsweek

Dan Ariely’s TED talks

Dan Ariely on the TED Blog
See all
Design

A visual look at 7 things that make us feel good about work

April 19, 2013

Last week, Dan Ariely asked an interesting question in a TED Talk: “What makes us feel good about our work?” The TED Blog responded with the post “7 fascinating studies about what motivates us at work,” rounding up research — from both Ariely and other psychologists — that speaks to some of the surprising factors […]

Continue reading
Business

What motivates us at work? 7 fascinating studies that give insights

April 10, 2013

“When we think about how people work, the naïve intuition we have is that people are like rats in a maze,” says behavioral economist Dan Ariely in today’s talk, given at TEDxRiodelaPlata. “We really have this incredibly simplistic view of why people work and what the labor market looks like.” When you look carefully at […]

Continue reading

Dan Ariely asks, What is the right amount to pay bankers?

May 31, 2010

Dan Ariely’s new book, The Upside of Irrationality, debuts tomorrow — he sends us this teaser, based on research that’s described in much more detail in Chapter 1 of the new book: Recently there has been a public outcry against astronomical executive salaries. The basic public sentiment is that it seems unfair that people make […]

Continue reading

Quotes from Dan Ariely

We have very strong intuitions about all kinds of things — our own ability, how the economy works, how we should pay school teachers. But unless we start testing those intuitions, we’re not going to do better.
Dan Ariely
TED2009 • 1.9M views Mar 2009
Fascinating, Informative
If you ever go bar hopping, who do you want to take with you? You want a slightly uglier version of yourself. Similar … but slightly uglier.
Dan Ariely
EG 2008 • 3M views May 2009
Fascinating, Informative
When it comes to the mental world, when we design things like health care and retirement and stock markets, we somehow forget the idea that we are limited. I think that if we understood our cognitive limitations in the same way that we understand our physical limitations … we could design a better world.
Dan Ariely
EG 2008 • 3M views May 2009
Fascinating, Informative