The Top 5 Predictably Irrational Quotes

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you looking for Predictably Irrational quotes? What can Dan Ariely teach you about rational decision-making?

Predictably Irrational is a book about behavioral economics and how we all make frequent, irrational decisions. These quotes from author Dan Ariely highlight the most important topics explored in the book.

Keep reading for the best quotes from Predictably Irrational.

Predictably Irrational Quotes

Standard economic theory relies on the idea that humans use infallible logic when making decisions, and even when we make wrong decisions, we quickly realize and remedy them. On the other hand, behavioral economics argues that humans frequently act irrationally, and we often don’t realize our errors at all. Instead, we continue making the same mistakes—we’re not only irrational but predictably so. 

Here are five Predictably Irrational quotes from Dan Ariely:

“Giving up on our long-term goals for immediate gratification, my friends, is procrastination.”

It might not be obvious, but procrastination stems from this discrepancy between cool state decisions and aroused state decisions. Procrastination is simply the abandonment of rational plans in order to indulge in whatever will appease your aroused-state emotions. You set your goals with the best intentions—while in your rational cool state. When your emotions are triggered, you naturally act in ways that aren’t aligned with what you want to do. 

Because you can’t predict how you’ll act in an aroused state, you have to work against procrastination by creating natural guidelines toward rational decisions.

“The danger of expecting nothing is that, in the end, it might be all we’ll get.”

Your perception of events is heavily colored by your expectations and knowledge going into an experience. This doesn’t just influence your belief of what happened—your expectations can physically modify your sensory perceptions. 

“One percent of people will always be honest and never steal,” the locksmith said. “Another one percent will always be dishonest and always try to pick your lock and steal your television. And the rest will be honest as long as the conditions are right – but if they are tempted enough, they’ll be dishonest too. Locks won’t protect you from the thieves, who can get in your house if they really want to. They will only protect you from the mostly honest people who might be tempted to try your door if it had no lock”.”

We irrefutably think of ourselves as good and honest people, even though everyone is guilty of dishonest actions—like taking a roommate’s leftovers or swiping a few pens from work. Usually, your decisions about whether or not to act honestly depend on your conscience, which is essentially the internalization of social values. However, the influence of your conscience is only so strong—at times, the financial benefit of acting dishonestly can overpower your moral compass.

“…most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context.”

It’s human nature to make constant comparisons in an effort to find guidance toward the “right” choice. This is why, as a general rule, people can’t pinpoint what they want until they see someone else with it. For example, if you were asked to shop for headphones, it’s likely you wouldn’t know exactly what to look for because you don’t know what makes for “good” headphones. However, if you spotted someone wearing a really sleek pair of headphones, you’d likely want to buy similar ones. Because someone else has those headphones, we assume that they’re a good choice. 

“Money, as it turns out, is very often the most expensive way to motivate people. Social norms are not only cheaper, but often more effective as well.”

We all operate within two norms simultaneously. The first set of norms are social norms—requests are made and obliged because of the human need for connection and community. These social transactions have three key parts: they provide pleasure to both parties; there isn’t a need for immediate “compensation”; compensation isn’t monetary—it’s a reciprocal act of connection or community, such as inviting your neighbor for dinner to thank her for mowing your lawn. Introducing social norms to market relationships usually has a positive outcome. 

The Top 5 Predictably Irrational Quotes

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Here's what you'll find in our full Predictably Irrational summary:

  • How logic is failing you on a daily basis
  • How to identify your irrational behaviors
  • Why getting something for free can cause you to make bad decisions

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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