Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely

Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 15, 2016

Discussion

Dan Ariely
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
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
Why does Snail #3 always win the Snail Race? 🤔 (people can't see the results before selecting)
Dan Ariely
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
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
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@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@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@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@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
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@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
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
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
Alex Hardy@canthardywait · Former investment banker
@dan_ariely thank you!
Jenny Shalev
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@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
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
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
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 Jain@sunny_jain1
How can i improve willpower ?
Dan Ariely
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
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 Jain@sunny_jain1
What should i teach my 5 year old to be more successful in life ?
Dan Ariely
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
oty@otymix · @oneTapVote | WiProgress
Is behaviour strategy always a key factor of a product success ? or just a simple "nice to have" ?
Dan Ariely
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
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@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@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@abe_storey · Entrepreneur & Growth Marketer
@dan_ariely Thank you!
Sarim Haq
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@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
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
Uhma@deleted-594972 · Brr
Hello Dan, Do you think it is still too early to take Artificial Psychology theory seriously? Thank you.
Stavros Kalfas
Stavros Kalfas@stavross · Entrepreneur
What questions would you ask someone on a first date?
Dan Ariely
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
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@susanna_avetisian · I am Susanna Avetisian
Wwhere are you from?
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@susanna_avetisian Born in New York, grew up in Israel
Sunny Jain
Sunny Jain@sunny_jain1
What tools/steps can i use to raise chances of user acquisition ?
oty
oty@otymix · @oneTapVote | WiProgress
Whats separates men from knowing and acting ? and keeping a habit ?
Dan Ariely
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
Jorge@jcx
How does one eliminate (or minimize) corporate politics?
Dan Ariely
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@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
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
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.
Daniel Yubi
Daniel Yubi@danielyubi · Product Manager // Startup Evangelist
Dear namesake Daniel! I'm a huge fan your work. You inspire me in so many ways, but mainly to start researching and writing more about behavioral economics, forever thank you. Do you think our lives (politics, relationships, business, etc) are based more on the way how things are performed? saying the perception of facts matter more (on how irrationally we are), than actually the facts perse? THANK YOU!
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@danielyubi yes. Framing, the way things are presented to us, is often more influential on how we make decisions than their true essence. As an example see our recent elections.
Eric Stein
Eric Stein@ericjste
Hello Dan! I have been studying your work during my master's studies, particularly your paper on the "Ikea Effect." I was curious about your thoughts on how this co-creation attribute can be used in food service industries to create more satisfying customer experiences? For instance, how might a coffee shop better "co-create" with its customers? Perhaps by making customers feel as though they are involved in their selection by working "alongside" the barista to decide which particular beans are best based on their taste preferences? Or do you have any other suggestions based on your research or personal experience? Obviously this co-creation process fits more naturally into industries like craft beer or furniture, but I'm curious about how to create an innovative, motivating experience in this rather traditional interaction Really appreciate any insight you can offer and thanks for taking the time to host this live chat!
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@ericjste thanks for the kind words. I think that co-creation is possible in almost every industry. The extent of co-creation is going to be different for different domains, but the principle can be applied almost everywhere. In the domain of coffee for example we can ask people to pick the bean that they want to use, the temperature of milk, and maybe even the Latte -- art (I recently saw a new product that allows you to print different images on the top of a latte cappuccino),
Slavik Fokin
Slavik Fokin@slavio84 · Creative Director, Exuperi
What do you think about the role of intuition in decision making?
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@slavio84 in my mind intuition is what mostly gets us to make bad decisions. Think about the conditions that we need to develop good intuitions. We would need to do something many many times. We will need to get immediate inaccurate feedback. And we will need to learn from our mistakes. Most areas of life are not like this. We get to married very few times in life. We switch jobs few times in life. We make Lodge medical and financial decisions not too often. In most cases we also don't get immediate and accurate feedback about the quality of our decisions. This is why I think that in most areas of life we don't have the right ingredients to develop good intuitions. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that our intuitions are often flawed, we base our decisions on them.
Harsha Kalidindi
Harsha Kalidindi@harsha_kalidindi · Product - Digital Health
Hi Dan, what have you found to be the top contributors of workplace unhappiness ? Would love to know your thoughts on any differences you have seen based on company size - est. co.s vs startups ?
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@harsha_kalidindi I just published a book today about this ;) Well, the book is both about happiness and unhappiness. See: https://www.amazon.com/Payoff-Hi...
T. Dalton Combs
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@harsha_kalidindi A lot of happiness in work, like happiness in life, comes down to individual preferences. But there is one under-appreciated universal truth for a happy work life: have a short commute.
T. Dalton Combs
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@dan_ariely I didn't know it was a book launch day! Congratulations! Can't wait to get my copy from audible: http://www.audible.com/pd/Scienc...
Joshua Pinter
Joshua Pinter@joshuapinter · Product at CNTRAL. Maker of ntwrk.
Thanks for doing this, Dan. I've appreciated your work for years now. Some questions for ya, if any of them seem interesting to you: 1) What provides more happiness, promising to skip the chocolate cake and then eating it, or promising to skip the chocolate cake and following through with your promise? i.e. Is the joy of eating that sweet gold worth more "happiness units" than feeling good about adhering to your promise? 2) If we were able to remove or ignore underlying motivations and completely be in control of our actions, would that be the ideal world? And is that what artificial intelligence really is? Essentially, pure control of actions without these irrational motivations left over from millions of years ago? 3) Do you have any thoughts on, and the motivations behind, the "celibacy syndrome" going on in Japan, where a significant portion of their youth are just "not interested" in having sex? 4) If we get to a point where children are almost entirely created in a lab, either by law or by preference for better genetic results, do you think that it will dramatically change our motivations in life and in what ways, since a lot of what our lizard brain is wired for is survival and propagation. I also suppose it would differ greatly if the gametes are from the "parents" or not as well. (Inspired by my favourite movie, Gattaca.) Thanks, Dan! And congrats on the new book launch, ordering it from the local library right after this.
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@joshuapinter Too many choices of questions -- so I am just going to skip this and move to the next question ;)
William S Huxley
William S Huxley@williamshuxley · Multidisciplinary Designer
Much has been written about behavioural economics/psychology being in crisis. What's your view on reproducibility? Do we need to look beyond the sciences and their method, to consider alternate assessment criteria?
T. Dalton Combs
T. Dalton Combs@tdaltonc1
@williamshuxley I'm not Dan, but I know a bit about this one. Compared to psychology, behavioral economics is actually doing quite well on the reproducibility front [1]. But they could both be doing a lot better. I think that the problems lie with the incentives researchers find themselves under [2]. If you want a career in academic science is more important to have a bold thesis than it is to have a thesis supported by the facts. I think that if a fix is going to work, it needs to come from the funding agencies. If we make it possible to build a career by doing good science, scientist will gladly choose that route. But then the problem becomes defining and measuring "good science." [1] https://www.caltech.edu/news/exp... [2] https://www.economist.com/news/s...
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@williamshuxley there is of course a lot to say about this. My overall View is optimistic, and I think that overtime the corrective process of science will prevail and we will figure out what works and what doesn't work. At the same time, it is also clear that there's some bad incentives in science is they are in many areas of life, and we need to figure out how to improve the structure of science.
Francisco Martinez
Francisco Martinez@thefranc · Genius
@dan_ariely @williamshuxley I strongly agree Dan. We definitely have to improve the structure of science. Feel free to reach out. I look forward to your new book!
Alex Zalenskiy
Alex Zalenskiy@alexey_zalenskiy
Hi Dan, How products affect the stages of psychic activity? Can you recommend to read where are explained the phenomenon of Facebook for example? I mean the study of product popularity
Alex Zalenskiy
Alex Zalenskiy@alexey_zalenskiy
@dan_ariely Thank you!
Alex Hardy
Alex Hardy@canthardywait · Former investment banker
As someone who believes that learnings from behavioral economics can produce great policy outcomes, how can I have more of an impact or promote such learnings in the political sphere?
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@canthardywait I personally try to spend as much time as possible with governments. Every time I'm being asked to spend any time with any government around the world I jump on the opportunity. And overtime I think the field is making some progress. It is certainly not fast but it is in the right direction. My optimistic view point about this is that data eventually wins. If you have good data to support your point at some point policymakers would listen. So the question is how do we get good data and then how do we get into the hands of policymakers.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What advice would you give to founders who might be struggling to manage their own personal wellbeing, in favour of pushing forward with work?
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@ems_hodge start by thinking about life and how you want to spend your time in the long term and not in the short-term. Make your plans inline with your long-term goals and plans and then try to stick to this plan in the short term. Of course you will be tempted to deviate from your long-term strategy -- but if you write it down and be explicit about it -- it will be harder to override.
Francisco Martinez
Francisco Martinez@thefranc · Genius
Hi Dan, Thanks for your time here with us on Product Hunt. I understand you are involved with Lemonade the person to person insurance startup/service. If this is true, to what extent have you studied or analyzed that this will be a successful or extremely successful venture. Are there any tools or data analytical software or even key data (perhaps behavioral feedback) that you have used to suggest that Lemonade will be increasingly in demand?
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@thefranc I am in involved with lemonade, deeply involved. My goal in getting involved was to try and figure out how we can create a financial institution with no conflicts of interest. And indeed we have created the structure with no conflict of interest. Now we need to find out how excited people would be to use this kind of service, what would be the pattern over time, and to what degree we can build trust in a very untrusted domain (insurance)
What is your opinion on lying? Why do people lie and is it morally ok? (I really like the topic and i guess you cant answer these question here in short, but maybe you know a book on the topic)
Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely@dan_ariely
@hberdamm Have a look at my book on the topic, or the movie we have on Netflix. Check also http://thedishonestyproject.com
@dan_ariely Thank you very much! I didnt know about your work on the topic, but i will have a look into it!
Evan Mintz
Evan Mintz@vangelis_mintz
Could you provide me 3 words that answer the question "why people do things?"
Ben Bear
Ben Bear@benwbear · Co-founder, workgeni.us
Hi Dan - Based on anecdotal observation, it seems like people are getting much flakier. A much higher proportion of people seem to be losing the ability to focus, follow through on commitments, and focus on the long-term. Example 1: the show-up rate for scheduled job interviews is less than 50% for hourly job interviews (driver, housekeeper, front desk etc). The employers we work with say 85%+ used to show up at interviews. Another example 2: distracted driving has shot up dramatically in the last 2 years after 40+ steady years. Am I crazy? And if not, how worried should we be about society's inability to do what they say?
Luke Squire
Luke Squire@luke_squire · Product Manager
Hi Dan, You referenced some questions you think should be explored to understand how political polling was off this election cycle. What other underlying assumptions, beliefs, or hypothesis would you want to examine about how the political industry was wrong this election? Thank you!