The one-sentence summary

Defying logic can have unexpected benefits, and ‘living irrationally’ can lead us to better decision-making and ultimately a happier, more contented life.


  • It is subtitled the Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
  • As with so many Behavioural Economics books, it grapples with a range of questions including why we need to take revenge, why higher bonuses can lead to lower productivity, and why things we think will make us happy rarely do.
  • The central message is that being aware of the hidden forces of emotions, meaning and ownership can lead us to better decision-making and ultimately a happier, more contented life – “living irrationally”.
  • The real goal of Behavioural Economics is to try to understand the way we really operate so we can more readily observe our biases, be aware of our influences and make better decisions.
  • Work findings include:

1.      Big bonuses don’t always work (higher ones just mean worse, more nervous decisions)

2.     You are what you do: decent labour helps your sense of identity

3.     Equally the effort we put in changes the way we evaluate things, so we overvalue what we make

4.     My ideas are always better than yours (anything you can do I can do better). This is the Toothbrush Theory: everyone wants one, needs one, and has one, but no one wants to borrow anyone else’s.

5.     We seek revenge because we enjoy it (someone must pay for mistakes)


  • Contrafreeloading is an interesting concept, in which many animals prefer to earn their food rather than just be given it.
  • Apologies work: 1 annoyance + 1 apology = 0 annoyance
  • Decisions influenced by an emotional state create an Emotional Cascade, in which the decision remains a hostage to the emotion long after the feeling has passed.


  • This book is different from Predictably Irrational in that it is highly personal, concentrating in detail on the author’s experience as a burns victim. This frequently deflects from the main point.
  • The endless experiments can invoke a so what? reaction – either because the answers are often predictable, or because the questions weren’t that remarkable in the first place.
  • The author loves telling stories, but often they simply mean it just takes longer to reach the point.