Predictably Irrational

As an aside, we’ve started a book club at andCulture. This is the second book we’ve read; the first being A Whole New Mind. Next is my choice and I am planning on suggesting the Paradoxes of Group Life. It’s a way for those of us practicing Experience Design and Strategy to continue to strengthen our knowledge base and discover new methods to apply. Now back to the book review…


Great content, but not great writing. The book contained some very interesting discoveries in behavioral economics, that were really focused around people’s ability to choose. Such as how the price of free, radically changes people’s responses to an offer, or that quantifying work with money can be detrimental. While these are gross oversimplifications, it’s easy to see that, assuming they are statistically significant findings, the discoveries are very applicable in certain areas of design. For that reason, I found this book valuable.

With that in mind, this book could have been a couple hundred pages shorter. There were two main problems, the storytelling and the conjecture. The storytelling felt campy and trite. At times I found myself making comments on the writing style instead of the content. It felt like the lab reports I used to write, but with too much of the “fun stuff” that would normally have to be left out. I would have preferred much more of a basic lab report format, more succinct.

I did appreciate the idea of setting it all up with the story. Reading them for a full understanding of the context of the tests was still important, so that the results presented later were more meaningful. They just weren’t executed well.

The conjecture though, I often simply skipped. These parts often followed the findings in the book and was where the author speculated on how his findings might be used in other applications. They weren’t completely useless, but a little goes a long way.

Overall, while I would still certainly recommend this book, I do so with the caveat that you would skip ahead judiciously.