Do we behave rationally? You might be surprised how often our decision-making deviates from what is in our best interest. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely studies human behavior and decision-making. His experiments have led him to startling conclusions.

We repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions in many aspects of our lives.”

We may be rats in a maze for scientific study, but Dan Ariely puts a refreshingly human face on the scientific study of why we do the things we do. I was particularly interested in his explanation of how worldviews prevent Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. from agreeing on FACTS:

When we have an initial belief, reality doesn’t matter as much as we think. We have an illusion that we’re actually observing reality, but it’s filtered dramatically by what we’re experiencing in our brains, and our expectations.”

Dan ArielyHe had this to say about climate change: “If you were starting from scratch, and you said, ‘Let me create a problem that people would not care about,’ it would look very much like global warming.” Listen to our conversation to find out why!

This fun and fascinating conversation explores the decoy effect, inter-temporal choice, hedonic treadmill, identifiable victim effect, behavior substitution, the happiness conundrum, keeping up with the Joneses, and even being choosy about who you compare yourself too.

After reading his first book, Predictably Irrational, I was very excited to sit down with Dan and explore the nooks and crannies of the human mind. It’s a great read, and I’m putting his newer book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves, on my must-read list. I had this conversation with Dan in 2010 at a hotel in Boulder, Colorado, where he had a speaking engagement. It’s a fascinating journey into the human psyche.

This is the 14th in our series of podcasts and radio programs. We post a new podcast episode every Thursday (we jumped the gun this week to avoid Thanksgiving). Be sure to subscribe! You can find us at iTunesSoundCloud and Stitcher, or sign up to get an email every Thursday with the newest episode. If you like what you hear, please support this project with a tax-deductible donation. Your comments are invited below.  Do you think human beings might somehow be capable of overcoming the limitations Ariely described and behaving rationally enough to avoid our most critical existential crises?

More About Dan Ariely:
Ariely is Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. He wrote the popular Wall Street Journal advice column, Ask Ariely. Visit his website to further explore his work. His books have been bestsellers, and include:

Irrationally Yours (with William Haefeli)
The Honest Truth About Dishonesty

The Upside of Irrationality
Predictably Irrational

About The Author


  1. David Brooks wrote about the climate change dilemma with some of the same conclusions as Ariely about human behavior, in this column in the New York Times: I don’t share his faith in technology or his modest estimation of the negative impact of climate disruption. But he does raise good points about the hurdles in front of us, and seems to be in alignment with Ariely about “behavior substitution” as perhaps the only way through this.

  2. Dimming The Sun – Geoengineering Watch

  3. […] is why we’re not very good at saving for retirement or preventing catastrophic climate change – we take small pleasures now instead of bigger benefits in the […]

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