Dan Ariely

Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics & best selling author

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 08, 2015


Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
Despite our intentions, why do we so often fail to act in our own best interest? Why do we promise to skip the chocolate cake, only to find ourselves drooling our way into temptation when the dessert tray rolls around? Why do we overvalue things that we’ve worked to put together? What are the forces that influence our behavior? My name is Dan Ariely, and officially I am the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics at Duke University. Most of my time is dedicated to answering these questions and others in order to help people live more sensible – if not rational – lives. I am also the founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, co-creator of the film documentary (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies, and a three-time New York Times bestselling author. His books include Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, and Irrationally Yours. Irrationally yours, Dan. --------------------- Thanks a lot for the questions and time. Irrationally yours, Dan
Ovi Negrean@ovinegrean · Founder @SocialBeeHQ
Hey @danariely, I've first found out about your video course and then became a fan of your books as well. So much so that we've nuggetized two of your books: Irrationally Yours - http://www.getnugget.co/dan-arie... Predictably Irrational - http://www.getnugget.co/fight-ba... I am curious - what do you think is the top bias that start-ups can use in their favour?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@ovinegrean Thanks. I'm not sure about the top bias, but a very interesting bias that I think that more startups can use is the IKEA effect. This is basically a bias where the moment we are involved in something, we create something, we start loving it to a higher degree. This means, for example, that if you design the colors on your shoes or pick the type of sticker that goes on your laptop, you will appreciate these products to a higher degree.
Ovi Negrean@ovinegrean · Founder @SocialBeeHQ
@danariely Thanks Dan. In fact it's something we can incorporate in nugget as well, when people will be able to add their own quotes they like from books and design their own nuggets! :-)
dave_sloan@dave_sloan · Founder
@danariely Thanks, Dan. Regarding the IKEA effect, while it can be powerful I would caution startups from building design-your-own experiences unless you're confident it will drive conversions for your specific product. Often the product customization experience leads to MORE work on the customers behalf, which puts more friction in the user experience - leading to abandons and churn. I wrote about it in more detail here: https://medium.com/@dave_sloan/w...
Vitaliy Hamuha@vitaliy_hamuha
@danariely thats the reason product hunt added Live Q&A.
AKA@carryonabramson · Software Engineer, Learnist
Where have you seen behavioral econ techniques fail in practice?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@carryonabramson Every time we're trying to convince somebody working for a government to do anything.
Avish Rana@avishrana
Hi @danariely Would you be conducting the course titled "Beginner's Guide to Irrationality" on Coursera ever again? I missed it and would love to attend it once.
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@avishrana Teaching on Coursera was certainly a very interesting experience. It was very time consuming to create the material, and I kind of anticipated that. But, what did I did not anticipate correctly was how much time it would take to run the class. And, the biggest surprise for me was that there were a few individuals in the class that simply made it their job to make my life more difficult. I'm not sure what their goal was. But, they made the whole process unbelievably time consuming. When I think about doing this class again, I worry that somebody like this will show up again, and I have no idea how I will manage my time if that happens. So, the answer is that unless Coursera changes how they do things, I will not be able to teach it again. This problem also raises another issue about openness and democracy. I can see the value of having a platform that is open to everyone, but what if some people pee into the pool that everybody is drinking from? Should we have a way to turn them away? I think we have to find some form of governance that would value the public good and not allow a few individuals to spoil it for everyone. P.S. As you can see, I am still very emotional about this.
Duane Morin@shakespearegeek
@danariely Hi Dan! I'm curious. My coworkers and I are in the online learning space and fascinated by the behind-the-scenes look at being a content creator for Coursera. Could you elaborate on the "made it their goal to make my life miserable" people? Are you referring just to the students who required way more than their share of your time, or are you saying that there was something malicious afoot and that there are people who go out of their way to just basically cause trouble?
@danariely "This problem also raises another issue about openness and democracy. I can see the value of having a platform that is open to everyone, but what if some people pee into the pool that everybody is drinking from? Should we have a way to turn them away? I think we have to find some form of governance that would value the public good and not allow a few individuals to spoil it for everyone." Perhaps the public good is better served by replacing the value of Inclusivity with the value of Freedom of Association (which is the same as Freedom of DISassociation). It may help to distinguish between Public and Society.
Jay Mutzafi@jaymutzafi · iOS Developer
@danariely Hi Dan, your work is absolutely fascinating. You've given some examples in marketing and sales on how we can guide buyers towards a particular purchase option by positioning it relatively to other offers (and other similar ways to guide purchase behavior). Now I am not sure if this is getting outside of your wheelhouse but I was wondering if you have any thoughts about the aspects of marketing such as this that uses our cognitive biases and tendencies and should they be considered unethical in any way. If so, what might honest (yet still effective) marketing look like? Thanks!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
I've been a fan of Dan since reading his book, Predictably Irrational, years ago. What's something you've learned that's had the most significant impact on your life, Dan?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@rrhoover I think that one of the most important lessons for me has to do with loss aversion and the extra negative effect we get from any kind of loss. In my mind this limits people from trying more things -- and it is something that I actively try to manage. It is still painful to fail, but I try to see it as part of a portfolio of trying new things.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@danariely Hey Dan! Thanks for joining us today. I know you did a lot of work with Ashley Madison - What do you make of the recent leak of Ashley Madison data?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@eriktorenberg Lots of things about Ashley Madison are very troubling. A while ago, we got some data from them, and our analyses so far don't match some of the findings in the popular press. Beyond that, I think it provides interesting questions about what is appropriate and inappropriate web behavior. How do we get companies to stick to their promises? How do we get people to behave morally? And, to what extent do we allow ideology to dictate what services will and will not be allowed to function?
Pablo Artee@arteepa · Product @ RocketJourney
Do you think it’s possible to change people’s behaviour with apps? (If a specific topic is needed take Fitness)
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@arteepablo For sure. I don't think it's easy, but I think we can change lots of behaviors. For one, we have seen how we can decrease the quality of driving with apps. We have also seen how we can get students to stop paying attention in class. On the positive side, I think we can do similar things. I'm a fan of the health tracking apps. In particular, I love the 10,000 steps. Now, my understanding is that 10,000 is not really the right number, and we should aim for something more like 16,000. But, the reason I like the 10,000 steps is that it provides a very simple recipe for behavior. Think about it: if you measure your cholesterol, and you find that the number is 122, what should you do next? How should you eat differently tonight? But if you find that your steps have been 8,725, and it is 6:00 in the evening, you know what you can do to make things right. This simple example also tells you that what we should think about is not just about apps that give people information, but apps that give people simple recipes for how to behave next.
Agent 009co@agent009co · agent 009
@danariely I think this is very important line of questioning especially if scope is increased to include leveraging "AI" or machine learning to broadly apply your "predictably irrational" observations to monitor and advise an individual. Can the "predictably irrational" be categorized into patterns of behaviour, inputs, outcomes, or something unique about them that could be a trigger that is used to prompt / advise or at least alert individual that they have hit this "predictably irrational" trigger? You describe some potential specific triggers eg cholesterol / food intake / steps. The idea would be to fill behaviour, inputs, outcomes, unique patterns into trigger "observational slots" and variation from norm becomes the alert, which could be dynamically attached to advise, etc. Do you envisage this is possible, can it be atomized this way? Thx!
Morgan Beller@beller · Corporate Development, Facebook
Hey @DanAriely! Thanks for AMA-ing in - I've been a huge fan since my advisor in school (Jeff Hancock @ Cornell) sung your praises...and made us read all of your books :) (we happily complied) Building on this...what is one vertical (aside from fitness) where you think mobile could be an effective tool for behavior change?
إبراهيم أبوحجلة@abuhijleh90 · program manager
Hello Dan, thanks for doing this, I enjoyed your book, the honest truth about dishonesty, but so u think that the results of your expirements would be different if it's done in other cultures or parts of the world??
Renaud Guerin@renaudguerin · Senior DevOps engineer
@danariely Hi Dan. Timeful has made a difference in my daily life and I'm desperate to find a replacement before you guys shut it down at the end of this month after the Google acquisition. I wish this could have been delayed until your work had been integrated into a released Google Product. Can you share anything at all ?
Oded Vakrat@ovakrat · CEO at Earny
Hey @danariely. One of the biggest problems in the online dating world is our behaviour. Do you think there is a place to change the way we are looking for relationships online and the way we expose ourselves in our profiles?
Hey @danariely I saw your list of your favorite app's and was wondering, what are your favorite books?
Brent Summers@brentsum · Founder, Code-Free Startup
What's your favorite cognitive bias?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@brentsum My favorite cognitive bias is probably the placebo effect (although there's a steep competition). And the reason I love the placebo effect is that it demonstrates very nicely the complexity of the human mind and it brings to the foreground some interesting questions about the links between our bodies and our minds.
BitchMank@bitchmank · President, Nestify
I was just reading "Predictably Irrational" this weekend and love it! I was wondering what is the most surprising discovery you have made regarding our irrationality as humans?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@bitchmank After years of doing research on human irrationality, the thing that surprised me the most is that so many people still insist that people behave rationally. And, it's particularly interesting because it is very easy to convince people that they have made mistakes from time to time. And, it's even easier to convince them that their spouses and kids make a lot of mistakes. But the moment you ask people to think more generally about human behavior, the belief in rationality seems to pop up. Not sure how to fix it.
Pablo Artee@arteepa · Product @ RocketJourney
Why is it so difficult to achieve a fitness habit?
Srivatsan Laxman@srivatsanlaxman
@arteepablo Somehow I feel the rewards are not immediately apparent. Like a lot of other things, enjoying the activity, is one of the few positive reinforcements that can be experienced instantaneously. So if you enjoy the activity, you are likely to do it, regardless of future consequences.
Vinicius Ribeiro@viniciusfr84 · Negotiator and PhD Student, Petrobras
At what extent do we really have the chance to choose what to do? Do you think we have the free will? How does it operate in the the want x should dilemma?
Joseph Chan@jochan34 · Product & Growth Guy
@danariely Hello Dan, thanks for taking the time to doing this AMA. I want to know how your working relationship with Daniel Kahneman has evolved since your days as a PhD student at Duke. Obviously he was a huge mentor before but are there examples in which the direction of your work changed because of him afterwards?
David Glover@davidglover · Founder, BadVoter.org
Have you heard any new effective ways to increase voter turnout/registration?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@davidglover One interesting approach is to get people to put voting on their schedule. We know that the moment people put something on their schedule, they're much more likely to act accordingly, and voting is no exception. Another interesting direction is the use of lotteries. There have been some interesting experiments where people were offered a small probability of a high reward if they showed up to vote. And this turned out to increase turnout. Now, you could ask whether you want the people who come because of the lottery. But, if your goal is to get more people out, this is one good approach.
Steven De Blieck@brainvolve · Founder Brainvolve
I have noticed that to a lot of people, their intuition is like a magical superpower. Even when I explain about biases and how they work, a lot of people still hold on to the "being always right" of their intuition. Maybe because without it, it would mean for themselves that they are less capable. Have you experience with tackling this?
Vinicius Ribeiro@viniciusfr84 · Negotiator and PhD Student, Petrobras
Have you ever had experienced failure in replicating experiments' results? Or has anybody informed you that they could not replicate one of your experiment findings?