Irrational reading

Science writer Jonah Lehrer has a short but useful piece in the Wall Street Journal where he recommends five must-read books on irrational decision-making.

Lehrer is well placed to be making recommendations as he’s recently been completely immersed in the science of decision-making to write his newly released book How We Decide.

The five books he recommends are:

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay.

Judgment Under Uncertainty by Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic and Amos Tversky

How We Know What Isn’t So by Thomas Gilovich

The Winner’s Curse by Richard H. Thaler

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

All of which I can also heartily recommend, except The Winner’s Curse, but simply because I’m not familiar with it.

By the way, the first book that Lehrer recommends was published in 1841 and is freely available online.

Link to ‘Books on Irrational Decision-Making’ from the WSJ (via FC).


  1. Posted January 25, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the recommendations. This is an interesting area and a frustrating one when it comes to social policy in many areas. I even see it in myself. Like most parents, I street proof my kids and talk to them about internet safety even though stranger abduction/seduction is rare.

  2. Posted January 25, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    While these are all useful books, and I would include Scott Plous’s book The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, none of these books will adequately explain the particular mixture of irrationality and hope that brought about our current financial crisis.
    For that, I would read Kid Yellow’s Biography, the story of a financial con criminal, and Donald Dunn’s biography of Charles Ponzi.
    There is much to be learned from a careful reading of these two books.

  3. Posted January 27, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I have irrationally decided not to read any of these books.

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