Predictably irrational

I haven’t written in some time, I know. I haven’t done much worth blogging about. Just a new release of the Kiva World Loanmeter widget, and also a couple of things at work that I’ll be releasing soon (including a small tool for managing database changes and some Perl module to parse Debian .changes files).

However, recently I watched a really funny and interesting talk at TED, Are we in control of our own decisions?, by Dan Ariely. In the talk he mentions his book, Predictably Irrational, which funnily enough a friend had already mentioned to me.

Well, I just finished the book and I have to say it was very interesting and eye-opening. It’s interesting how it shows our minds are biased for certain kinds of decisions or behaviour, even though they are often not the best for us. Some of the experiments are truly brilliant and they show totally unexpected (at least before starting reading the book ;-P) outcomes. One of the experiments that got me thinking was this:

> > Research on stereotypes shows […] that stereotyped people themselves react differently when they are aware of the label that they are forced to wear […] One stereotype of Asian-Americans, for instance, is that they are especially gifted in mathematics and science. A common stereotype of females is that they are weak in mathematics […] In a remarkable experiment, […] asked Asian-American women to take an objective math exam. But first they divided the women into two groups. The women in one group were asked questions related to their gender […] The women in the second group were asked questions related to their race […] The performance of the two groups differed in a way that matched the stereotypes of both women and Asian-Americans. Those who had been reminded that they were women performed worse than those who had been reminded that they were Asian-American. > >

I can’t stop thinking about the implications this has to working conditions and productivity in different countries, and also to project management.