Dan Ariely

Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 15, 2016

Discussion

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. My books include Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, and Irrationally Yours. My new book Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations is out today. It deals with the mysteries and the forces that motivate us, and the ones that we think motivate us, that actually do not. Looking forward to your questions, Irrationally yours, Dan EDIT: - Thanks a lot for the questions -- it is hard for me to type, so I did not write as extensively as I wanted to, but I hope that the main points are clear. I have to run now -- but thanks again. Irrationally yours, Dan
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · Words @ProductHunt & @AngelList
Why does Snail #3 always win the Snail Race? 🤔 (people can't see the results before selecting)
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@nivo0o0 My guess is that this a kind of extreme aversion, where people don't want to pick the options on the extreme (1 and 4) so they pick the middle one. An experiment you can carry out to test this is to change the number of snails and see if they chosen one end us always being in the middle (more or less in the middle)
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@nivo0o0 There is similar effect when you ask people to pick a "random" number. They strongly prefer prime numbers, and almost never pick an even number.
M Snyder@msny_36 · Developer @DACC
Hi Dan, in your recent reddit AMA you brought up the fact that people will often reject a problem if the solution isn't compatible with their ideology, using Republicans and Global Warming as an example. Do you think the case of construction and manufacturing jobs in America is an example of this phenomenon. In that increased Government spending on infrastructure is an obvious way to create jobs, but it's antithetical to conservative views of reduced government spending. I'm also heading to Duke this weekend for a Hackathon, I'd love to say hi if you're around!
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@msny_36 I agree with the link you are making between hating a solution and thus denying the problem. In general Americans seem to have an aversion to government spending on infrastructure -- and I am not sure why. But, it is probably one of the things we now need the most (and the invisible infrastructure of water and energy is in the most need of help).
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
Dan, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Your book, 'Predictably Irrational' influenced much of my college life. 1. What cultural forces have you found to be most interesting to study and observe? 2. What role can behavioral economics play, at large, to inform decision-making at the policy level and possibly improve the laws we create? 3. On a personal front, could you have predicted the result of this year's election?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@charles_kunene (3) I did not predict the results. And I am also not yet sure how the pools missed the outcome by so much. Did they not approach a good sample? Did people not admit who they were going to vote for? Did people change their mind in the last minute? I am not sure but we need to figure this out if we want to learn how to conduct better surveys.
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@charles_kunene (1) In terms of social forces -- one of the most important ones, is what other people are viewing as OK. Is it OK to use your laptop in a meeting, is it OK to be rude to people.... Sadly I suspect that as a society, what we are going to see more and more of and what we are going to start looking at as normal behavior is not going to be what we hope to see.
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Dan! From your experience, what are 3 great ways to attract attention your product/create a community?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@theo_dimarhos Not sure I can answer this question as you have it, but if you want to create a community you need to give people a way to express themselves in ways that they are proud of and want to share with close ones.
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@theo_dimarhos 1) Know your narative -- your "Why?" Poeple will seek you out if you help them tell a compelling story. Here's a great TED talk about that:
2) when you are bigger, and the media is talking about you, know your counter-narative. What is the Mr Hyle to your Dr Jeckle? When movements/products are criticised in the media, the attacks that take off are the ones that highlight the dark side of the story you're telling. Google is trying to organize the worlds information. What's the darkside of that? Well now they have all of the worlds information and the unique power that comes from that. If you understand the counter narative that the media will tell about you, you can be alert to it and prepare. 3) Write a lot of helpful comments on ProductHunt . . . I hope --> https//:www.useDopamine.com
Alex Hardy@canthardywait · Former investment banker
Hi Dan, thank you so much for jumping into this AMA - I am a huge fan of Predictably Irrational and (Dis)Honesty, as well as a Duke Alum. What are 3 books (aside from your own) you'd recommend someone read who's interested in learning more about applications of behavioral economics
Alex Hardy@canthardywait · Former investment banker
@dan_ariely thank you!
Jenny Shalev@jennyshalev · CTO/Product@ThinkUp.me🌱
Hi Dan! I'm a co-founder of a positive mindset and motivation app. Many of our users say in reviews that the app is life-changing. Besides reviews, are there other criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of a behavior changing app? Thank you!
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@jennyshalev In general we find that what people say and what we do is not the same. This is why we like experiments about the behavior of people. If you can, think about what you would like to measure in terms of the ways people behave with your app. Maybe it is about the ways they interact with other people, confidence, sleep etc and try to measure these for the people using the app and for another group that is not. Ideally get a group of people to sign up for the study (maybe give them a free app for 3 months) and give 1/2 of them the app immediately and the other 1/2 6 weeks later and all along measure their outcomes (confidence, sleep, etc)
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@jennyshalev The question is always "effective compared to what?" My team and I think a lot about how to measure and improve the effectiveness of behavior change apps. One of the best ways to measure the effect of a treatment is to take small a random sample of your users and not give them the treatment. In the medical world that's called a RCT (randomized control trial), and in startup land it's called an A/B test. It's hard to compare your users to people who don't user your app, but you can at least test the iterative improvements you make by rolling the new feature out to only some of your users and see if their self reports of mindset improve. Then you can see what is *really* helping users. If You want to be especially bold, you could give some users a slightly degraded version of your app and compare how they do to the users that use the full version of the app.
ThinkUp@thinkupappteam · Jenny, CTO @ ThinkUp
@tdaltonc @jennyshalev Thanks for this comment! I wonder if you can trust self-report of users for the same reason @dan_ariely doesn't trust the reviews... Also there are apps (such as meditation) that it takes time to see any effect and it's hard to find what to measure, although these apps are widely known to be life-changing. I think maybe we can measure more unbiased metrics through the Apple Health app, like the number of steps for diet motivation.
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@thinkupappteam great follow up! @dan_ariely is right to be skeptical of self reports. Real behavior is always preferable. But real measures aren't always available in the real world. If you're making a diet app, for now you'll probably have to be satisfied with self reports of eating behavior - until we can automatically measure that. And to @jennyshalev specific question "positive mindset" and "motivation" especially hard to measure directly - even in a laboratory setting. Though he may be able to measure "productivity" as a proxy of motivation. Another real world consideration that can't be ignored: If a user doesn't *feel* a product working, they wont stick with it. A consumer app that isn't engaging, wont even get the chance to be effective.
Sunny Jain@sunny_jain1
How can i improve willpower ?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@sunny_jain1 Sadly we don't yet have good ways to increase willpower. Sorry. What we do know is that you can try to create good habits -- these by themselves don't improve willpower, but they make the need for will power lower. Basically, if you have a good habit you just follow your plan and you are not that tempted by all kinds of things around you.
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@sunny_jain1 The data on "willpower training" doesn't look good. But the good news is that by building the right habits into your life, you can consistently make the "right" choices. Some colleagues of mine recently showed that, with the right habit training, you can resist temptation. It looks like willpower, but it's just strong habits. https://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/...
Sunny Jain@sunny_jain1
What should i teach my 5 year old to be more successful in life ?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@sunny_jain1 How to deal with temptation. How to sometimes avoid it, and sometimes to distract himself / herself. And this is most likely also good for his mother ;)
oty@otymix · @oneTapVote | working on smthg new 🤐
Is behaviour strategy always a key factor of a product success ? or just a simple "nice to have" ?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@otymix Always! If you don't think about what you want to your users to do, what actions you want them to take, and in what ways you will improve their actions / decisions you are very unlikely to come up with anything useful.
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@otymix I strongly agree with Dan. Consumer apps are nothing but a collection of user actions and habits. If your app is going to be part of someones daily life, it needs to become a habit. You can ignore the science and hope you get lucky, or you can use the science and make your own luck: https://useDopamine.com
Abe Storey@abe_storey · Entrepreneur & Growth Marketer
What advice do you have for winning negotiations and/or persuading others in face to face conversations?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@abe_storey I would look people in the eye and make them promises (ones you intend to keep) that if things go wrong you will be there for them.
Abe Storey@abe_storey · Entrepreneur & Growth Marketer
@dan_ariely Thank you!
Sarim Haq@sarim_haq · AI Whisperer
Hey Dan, most of the successful people have a reality distortion field around them. In other words, they lie to themselves alot. Does that strategy works?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@sarim_haq being disconnected from reality can be good and bad. It is the characteristic of many successful people, but it can also backfire. Overall my guess is that it is useful to have a bit of overconfidence and to use this to drive us against common wisdom to try things, and to try them for a while before giving up.
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
Dear Dan, it is great having you here. Have you identified steps (or a process) that curious people take to find the information that they want without getting sidetracked?
Uhma@deleted-594972 · Brr
Hello Dan, Do you think it is still too early to take Artificial Psychology theory seriously? Thank you.
Stavros Kalfas@stavross · Entrepreneur
What questions would you ask someone on a first date?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@stavross it depends on what you goal is. But, if your goal is a romantic evening and maybe a romantic future I would ask them questions that tap complex emotional experiences from their own life. This would give us a chance to get closer, learn more about each other, in create an emotional environment to take the next steps.
Bruno Meneguiti@brunomeneguiti · Product Manager
Hi Dan, your film documentary is excellent! Which web product do you think works best on the psychological issue of consumers and why?
Susanna Avetisian@susanna_avetisian · I am Susanna Avetisian
Wwhere are you from?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@susanna_avetisian Born in New York, grew up in Israel
Sunny Jain@sunny_jain1
What tools/steps can i use to raise chances of user acquisition ?
oty@otymix · @oneTapVote | working on smthg new 🤐
Whats separates men from knowing and acting ? and keeping a habit ?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@otymix is you have indicated knowing is no recipe for acting. It is rather said but this is the truth. In one recent study they looked at all the research ever to be conducted on financial literacy. What they found was that when you teach people about financial literacy they learn and remember. But, did they act differently? No! In the US we spend between seven and $800 million dollars a year on financial literacy. And the estimated total improvement in financial outcome is 0.1% Not 0 but really really close. What all of this means is that if we want to create any behavioral changes we need to stop focusing on pure education and we need to help people make decisions in a better way
Jorge@jcx
How does one eliminate (or minimize) corporate politics?
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@jcx A lot of corporate politics comes from the belief that life is a zero sum game and that if you get more I necessarily get less. This of course is not always the case, and there are many cases where the size of the pie can get larger and everyone can benefit from better decisions. From this perspective we need to figure out how we get people to be in a mindset where we think about enlarging a pie and not fighting over it.
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@jcx Another answer to this question has to do with credit. It is rather shocking but we are very bad in giving credit to other people. I see this over and over in many organizations and I think that if we could give more people more credit and make the process more inclusive we would have less politics in companies.
Jorge@jcx
@dan_ariely thanks for taking the time to answer Dan - agree and unfortunately, the perception around credit is indeed zero-sum. I wonder what type of incentives would do both things well: maximize individual and team performance AND maximize collaboration and trust. Sometimes, internal politics are a bigger hindrance than external competition...
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@jcx I'm not Dan, but Ben Horowitz talks about this in "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," and one of his claims that I could super intriguing is that organization politics is fundamentally unavoidable but leaders can decide to either take on the politics themselves or (by inaction) push the politics out in to the rest of the organization. I'll build on that by saying that after years of studying behavioral economics and game theory, the best an company can hope for is to (1) understand what kind of political and behavioral "externalities" their organization and incentive you have would tend to create, (2) have a plan ready for when those externalities get out of hand, and (3) be vigilant in measuring how bad the externalities are getting. I think a politics free environment is unattainable and people often tie themselves in knots designing increasingly subtle incentives to try to achieve it -- They end up with a system that can't be understood. Keep it simple, and act decisively when things get out of hand. footnote: Sorry if I'm mischaracterizing "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," it's been a while since I read it.