Articles & Tools

Recommendation: “Yours Irrationally” by Dan Ariely

Author: Alex Shillman
Dvir Publishing, 246 pages

Anyone who has looked for parking in a crowded urban area [did anyone say Tel Aviv?] knows the existential dilemma – should I wait patiently near the destination in the hope that someone will give way, or is it better to drive around in circles with the car and hunt for occasional parking? Well, the answer according to Dan Ariely lies at the airport. Airports are probably the most hated structures on Earth. Visiting them almost always involves standing in long lines and wandering endlessly through claustrophobic corridors guided by confusing signs. At the end of this exhausting journey, passengers will face the challenge of finding the conveyor belt into which their battered suitcases will be ejected. For years, there was no synchronization between the gate from which passengers emerge and the conveyor belt where their luggage will arrive, and tired passengers have had to cross the baggage halls lengthwise and wide without any logic. One day, an optimization engineer at one of the airlines decided to write a short code that would fit the conveyor belt to the departure gate so that the walking distance would be the shortest. And oddly enough, the passengers hated it! If in the past they would arrive at the conveyor belt with their luggage already waiting there, now that the route has become most efficient, passengers would find their way to their destination long before the luggage began to appear and had to stand idle and wait. It turned out that people prefer to spend a good few minutes searching for the conveyor belt as long as they do not have to stand idle. The airline was forced to restore the situation to normal and shelve the efficient algorithm. The next time you’re looking for parking – Arieli answers a frustrated questioner – avoid waiting and keep walking around in circles, we need too much illusion of doing and carry barely passive waits.

Professor Dan Ariely has long since exceeded the boundaries of the academic phenomenon and has become a powerful brand that carries on its back several successful books, a documentary, consulting to Google, senior positions in several startups, headed by the Israeli insurance initiative “Lemonade”, and a Kickstarter project that spawned a board game that is being released these very days. In short, what is not. All this in parallel with ongoing teaching at Duke University and extraordinarily fruitful research. As Arieli himself attests, his experience of severe injury in his youth, which condemned him to a long period of distance from ordinary life, forced him to observe life from the sidelines and gave him the budding of this unique thinking, which gradually developed into a research and applied perspective on the entire spectrum of human behavior, from the loss of socks to choosing the right partner.

The book is actually an excerpt from Dan’s regular column in Calcalist and The Wall Street Journal, in which he answers readers’ questions. As a result, some of the answers are quite amusing—such as the advice to sit on a washing machine to simulate a flight, or the idea that garlic benefits health because it simply keeps most harassers away—and some are very serious, such as the discussion of choosing a career where there is more room for advancement or one that maximizes one’s personal abilities. The answers are accompanied by William Hefley’s charming illustrations that can support an entire book in their own right. Even if you don’t find an answer to a burning question here, you’ll definitely adapt a little more to Dan’s special way of thinking, which with a lot of humor turns every behavior into a fun logic puzzle with an original and important lesson at the end. A pleasant leisure read, and a wonderful gift!

Happy reading!

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