When: Mon., July 19, 7 p.m. 2010
Dan Ariely's bestselling book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, came out in February 2008, when the stock market was still riding high, five months removed from its all-time peak. The book was hardly the most serious blow to the gospel of market fundamentalism that year, but its premise—that the messy, emotive decision-making of actual human beings doesn't square with the rational, benefit-maximizing faculties attributed to homo economicus—has taken root.
Ariely is a Duke University Professor of Behavioral Economics, a fascinating field that embodies E.O. Wilson's ideal of consilience, bridging the realms of psychology and economics. His latest book, The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, is a user's guide to the consistently foible-prone human mind exposed by his research. Knowing the ways we fool ourselves when we make decisions "provides a starting point for improving our decision making and changing the way we live for the better," he writes. These lessons can apply equally well to crucial questions of public policy, or to where to put the food in your fridge, as one of his recent blog posts would have it. The reading and book signing starts at 7 p.m. —Marc Maximov