Monday, November 30, 2009


After reading The Guinea Pig Diaries, I read a book that helped inspire an essay from it: Nudge. In The Guinea Pig Diaries, there is a chapter on thinking rationally. Since it's hard to explain, please enjoy this description directly from A.J. Jacobs' website:
The Rationality Project:
I tried to retrain my brain to be something more than an ad hoc collection of half-assed solutions that have built up over millions of years of evolution. I attempted to eliminate every irrational bias using the insights of behavioral economics. And in doing so, I permanently changed the way I make every decision, from the simplest (what toothpaste to buy) to the biggest (how to raise the kids).
Basically, it comes down to making decisions based on absolute logic, without letting your pesky brain get in the way. Quick example: saying that a certain surgical procedure results in "1 out of 10 patients dying" sounds worse than "9 out of 10 patients survive," even though they mean exactly the same thing.

Nudge is a book which explores behavioral economics, and how to basically "nudge" people into making the right decisions by changing how options are presented to them. It's very psychological. The first half of the book demonstrates the theories, but the second half got kind of boring. They described long case studies, such as one about companies' 401k programs: many employees are apathetic about joining such programs, but by making it easier for them to join and have the plan grow with them ("nudging"), more people would participate.

I wanted to mention it because it was very interesting overall, and really makes you think about how you actually think. I give it 3 1/2 things.

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