Learn the key ideas of the book by Rory Sutherland


Understanding when logic isn't the best choice

In this book, the author presents a relatively new branch of economic science: the study of human behaviour that challenges any logical explanation. Through the analysis of some successful products and advertising campaigns,  we look at the evolutionary, non-psychological and contextual factors that influence human behaviour and produce actions that, if observed through the lens of logic, seem to be completely meaningless. We will discover how the rational method is often completely wrong when applied to market analysis and how all too often even clients themselves can not explain the exact reasons behind their choices. The solution is a little alchemy, meaning the magical manipulation of perception to indirectly guide the behavioural response.

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Why logic is not always the best choice and why human behaviour is very often irrational

Thought and logical approach  are naturally very successful in the field of physics, however it seems that the certainty that comes with logical rules has enchanted us to a point where we have decided to apply logic to all areas of our lives so that we can enjoy a false sense of mastery over a world that is actually incredibly complex. Logical thinking certainly has its benefits but these benefits come at a cost: in a completely logical world there is no room for those “magical” solutions that come from intuition and appear not to make any sense. In real life, logic does not dominate and human behaviour is based on two factors: a logical reason and a real reason. Learning to decipher the cryptic reason behind most human behaviour and untangling it from basic logical reason is the key to understanding how behavioural mechanisms work. 

Sometimes the first step towards understanding a certain behaviour is to ask oneself “stupid” (or basic) questions, for example if someone is trying to invent a successful advert for toothpaste, the first thing to do is not an analysis of generic data of past sales but to ask oneself “why do people brush their teeth?”, trying to go deeper than the logical answer. The reason that we don’t ask simple questions is because once our brain has found the logical answer it stops looking for other, better solutions; with a touch of “alchemy” or “magic” we can always come up with more suitable answers.


The key ideas of "Alchemy"

Why logic is not always the best choice and why human behaviour is very often irrational
Human beings make decisions for psycho-logical reasons, not based on reason or logic
Is human behaviour really illogical or does it just look that way when it is studied in the context of logical methods?
Data, percentiles and mathematical averages can be misleading
The reason why human behaviour often strays from logical reasoning
Take-home message

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