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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Ariely, Dan: Predicatably Irrational

  Amazon  

4 stars

In Predictably Irrational Dan Ariely, a professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT, explains that--contrary to the assumption that underlies standard economics--people routinely act irrationally. Our decisions are based on factors that we're very often not even aware of. Our purchasing decisions, for example, may be influenced by an item's price (more expensive must be better) or its popularity or by the context in which we see it (surrounded by high-end condiments and displayed on fine china, for example, versus slapped in a styrofoam container). Our behavior toward others may be altered more than we would anticipate by sexual arousal. The likelihood that we'll steal depends on whether the item in question is cold hard cash or just something that could be turned into cash. (One is more likely to steal a Coke from a communal refrigerator than its equivalent in change.)

Ariely explores a host of interesting questions related to decision-making. In each case Ariely describes, in very accessible prose, the experiments he and his colleagues conducted while researching the question. (In many cases the experiments involved students at MIT or Harvard, who were asked to answer questionnaires or look at pornographic images or buy beer or eat chocolate.) The purport of the book is that, while people do behave irrationally, they do so (as the book's title indicates) in predictable ways, because of the way our brains our wired. And if we understand more accurately how people behave in fact, rather than in theory, we can force ourselves to think differently or we can put tools in place that will result in more positive outcomes. (For example, studies show that students who take an honor pledge prior to taking a test are less likely to cheat, so requiring an honor code may be a cheap and easy way for a school to decrease cheating. Or, if you're ordering food at a restaurant without knowing what the people you're with are ordering, you're more likely to order something you really want and are thus more likely to enjoy the meal. Restaurants could improve their patrons' dining experience by introducing "blind," private ordering.) It's an interesting and well-written book that should appeal to readers who've enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's titles, for example, or Chris Anderson's recent Free (which rehashes much of what Ariely writes in his third chapter).

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