The Upside of Irrationality

An interesting article from the Boston Globe today about a new book by behavioural economist Dan Ariely called The Upside of Irrationality. Excerpt from the article:

On another work-related theme, Ariely shows that people overvalue things they help make themselves. In one experiment, Ariely asks subjects to make an origami animal and then say how much they would pay for it, comparing this price against what nonmakers offered. Makers offered five times the price that nonmakers did. Ariely finds the same “ownership/creator’’ bias in the realm of ideas, concluding that we overvalue our own ideas while focusing on the flaws in ideas generated by others. As Ariely summarizes this “my idea’’ bias: “Any solution [will do], as long as it’s mine.”

This is a fascinating (although not entirely surprising) phenomenon, because it clearly illustrates both why we need to have a sense of self, and the dangers of falling too much in love with our selves.  On the one hand, we need to have a sense that we are really contributing something – that our lives make a difference.  This sense that we can do something important is actually vital – without it, we would feel useless, and the life of heaven consists of being useful.  We need to have a sense that we act of ourselves.  We need to have a “proprium,” a sense of what is our own.

On the other hand, this is a good example of the way that a sense of self can get out of balance, and how pride in one’s own intelligence makes a person blind.  We tend to fall in love with our own ideas and value them above other ideas, even if the other ideas are better.  Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture n. 60 says, “Nothing blinds a person but his proprium and the confirmation of falsity. The proprium of a person is self-love and consequent pride of self-intelligence; and the confirmation of falsity is thick darkness counterfeiting light.”

It’s an interesting review, and I plan to read the book – I’ll update as I come across interesting things.

About Coleman Glenn

Rev. Coleman Glenn is a minister in the General Church of the New Jerusalem, a Swedenborgian denomination. He lives in Bryn Athyn, PA, with his wife and two young kids. He blogs on various issues from a New Church (i.e. Swedenborgian) perspective.