My immersive introduction to irrationality took place many years ago while I was overcoming injuries sustained in an explosion (here is a description of my experiences in the hospital). The range of treatments in the burn department, and particularly the daily “bath” made me face a variety of irrational behaviors that were immensely painful and persistent. Upon leaving the hospital, I wanted to understand how to better deliver painful and unavoidable treatments to patients so I began conducting research in this area (see picture below).
After completing this initial research project, I became engrossed with the idea that we repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions in many aspects of our lives and that research could help change some of these patterns. A few years later, decision making and behavioral economics dramatically influenced my personal life when I found myself using all of the knowledge I’d accumulated in order to convince Sumi to marry me (a decision that was in my best interest but not necessarily in hers). After managing to convince her, I realized that if understanding decision-making could help me achieve this goal, it could help anyone in their daily life.
Predictably Irrational, is my attempt to take research findings in behavioral economics and describe them in non academic terms so that more people will learn about this type of research, discover the excitement of this field, and possibly use some of the insights to enrich their own lives. In terms of official positions, I am the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, a visiting professor at MIT’s Media Laboratory, and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. (Click here for a short version of my bio, and click here for an extended version of my bio)
My free time is spent working on a guide to the kitchen and life—Dining Without Crumbs: The Art of Eating Over the Kitchen Sink—and of course, studying the irrational ways we all behave.