Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

What sparked your interest in economics?

Question: What sparked your interest in economics? 

\r\n

Dan Ariely: So the starting of . . . For me the starting of this journey on irrational behavior started from actually being in the hospital.  So quite a few years ago I got injured in an explosion.  I got burned in about 70 percent of my body.  And as a consequence I spent about three years in hospital.  The first few months in the burn department were particularly painful, and one of the particularly difficult things is what is called the “bath treatment”.  So everybody had the bandages on, and they took it off, and it’s always a little bit painful.  Imagine there was no skin whatsoever; and it’s not a small bandage, but it’s covering 70 percent of your body.  That’s a long process and incredibly painful.  So during the procedure the nurses would put me on a stretcher and would lower me into a bath full of iodine water that would sting to start with.  And then they would go ahead and rip the bandages off one by one for about an hour.  And during that process, I would have debates over weeks about what is the best way to do it.  Here I was experiencing this incredible pain, and what I wanted to do was to minimize it.  So I would have arguments with them about what was the right way to trade off the intensity at each moment and the duration.  So think about it.  Should you have a shorter experience with a high momentary intensity? Or should you have a lower momentary intensity – tearing the bandages slower, but having longer duration?  Should you start form the least painful and move to the most painful or do the opposite?  Does it matter?  Should you give people breaks or not breaks?  And I had my own intuitions about what’s the best way to give me the least pain.  And the nurses had a different intuition.  But given the fact that I was the patient and they were the nurses, they were deciding what to do.  And when I got out of the hospital and I learned a little bit about the experimental method, I decided to test what’s the right way.  So I created lab experiments in which I would bring people in, and I would hurt them for longer durations, and lower intensities, and higher intensities; decreasing, increasing; with breaks, without breaks.  And after each experience I would ask people how painful was this?  So which one of these two pains would you prefer to repeat again?  And so I would try to infer how people actually aggregate this pain.  If you had an experience that lasts over time and change the intensity, at the end of it how do you think about the whole experience?  And to my surprise the nurses were wrong.  What does it mean?  That their intuition . . . That having the treatment being relatively short – let’s say an hour – and tearing bandages one after the other was the right approach.  They thought that high spikes and high intensity until duration was the way to go.  It turns out that it was wrong.  It’s much better to have lower intensity and longer duration; not to have spikes.  It also turns out it would be better to start from the most painful part and go down (07:01) over time.  And it would have been good to have breaks.  And when I came back to present this to them, it struck me that these were really kind, wonderful people.  They gave their life to their patients.  I mean this is not something that you would . . . Unless you felt like it was your mission, this is not a job that you would choose.  And at the same time they were wrong.  And even though they had vast experience and the best intentions in the world, they were still very wrong.  And I started wondering about what other cases are there where people have experience and good intentions, but are still fundamentally wrong?  And that kind of opened my eyes to look at many things in which people are good, well meaning, but still fundamentally wrong.

\r\n

Recorded on: Feb 19 2008 

\r\n

 

Ariely's fascination with rationality started in the burn unit.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
Coronavirus
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift

The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.

Future of Learning
  • The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
  • Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
  • Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Keep reading Show less

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast