An interesting, illustrated way into the science of behavioural economics.
I read and reviewed “Amazing Decisions: The Illustrated Guide to Improving Business Deals and Family Meals” written by Dan Ariely and illustrated by Matt R. Trower.
Here is a video outlining my thoughts on the book:
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It is a book that continues and applies Dan Ariely’s work in behavioral economics. He is fighting the idea from classical economics that we are all perfectly rational actors who only seek to increase our own wealth and wellbeing.
This book is unique. It is jam-packed with science and real-world advice, but that content is conveyed through a fictional story illustrated in a comic book style. It defies the conventions of business books, self-help books, and comic books.
The book is interesting, and I recommend it. There is a lot of actionable advice in here and helped me consider using social norms to help shape behavior as opposed to making everything a transaction.
The book has a clear thesis: both social norms and market forces can be powerful motivators/deterrents but never should the two mix, or you will get unexpected and strange results. You might end up promoting a behavior you are trying to deter. People often use market tools like costs, fees, and penalties when building and relying on relationships may be cheaper and more effective.
It’s not a perfect book. In the first third of the book, the protagonist fumbles through his life, trying to apply market tools to his personal life. This is meant to motivate you to consider the social motivators all around us. But the main character is so socially inept that he is hard to empathize with. It just doesn’t ring true.
Also, there is a constant dynamic where the “social norms fairy” argues with the “market norms fairy,” and social norms always wins. I take the point of the book, but it would be nice to see a study or two where market tools were the appropriate option. Let the “market norms fairy” win once and a while!
On the whole, it is a good book and worth a read, especially because the barrier to entry is so low. The book is relatively inexpensive, very approachable, and readable in one sitting. It is an excellent way into science literature for someone who has a hard time with science books and scientific papers.