by William Poundstone ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 12, 2010
Readable and revealing.
Bright analysis of the psychology of pricing.
Poundstone (Gaming the Vote, 2008, etc.) immersed himself in the young field of behavioral decision theory to write this engaging book about the many irrational factors that influence the prices of things. Founded by University of Michigan psychologist Ward Edwards in the early 1960s, the field has produced insights that are now widely used by price consultants who help corporations “extract the maximum willingness to pay from each consumer.” Prices are simply made-up numbers, writes the author, and most people are clueless about them. Experiments by psychologists at the Oregon Research Institute and elsewhere reveal the many ways to sway people who are estimating monetary values. For example, setting an absurdly high initial, or “anchor,” price on an item (or demanding an exorbitant cash settlement from a jury) will generally lead people to pay more than they might have. In retail stores, obscenely high-priced items (such as a $7,000 handbag) make everything else (such as similar $2,000 handbags) look affordable. Similarly, in another exploitation of the “contrast effect” in prices, more $800 shoes will be sold when $1,200 shoes are displayed next to them. After describing the field’s major researchers and their work, Poundstone devotes most of the book to explaining how behavioral decision-making plays out in the real world, where price numbers are influenced by many irrelevant factors. He explains how supermarkets are able to charge premium prices for “organic” and “green” products; how restaurant menus are designed to draw attention to profitable dishes; how rebates cast a magic spell on consumers, many of whom never submit claims or cash the checks that are sent out; and why the sky’s-the-limit prices charged for text messages are “possibly the greatest ongoing con job of American capitalism.” Online shoppers will be dismayed to learn how background images on websites can affect product choices, and Poundstone provides plenty of useful information for negotiators, car and home buyers, investors and others trying to figure out what to pay.Readable and revealing.
Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2010
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009
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by Ryan Holiday ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 2019
A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.
An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.
Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: July 20, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019
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by Enrico Moretti ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2012
A welcome contribution from a newcomer who provides both a different view and balance in addressing one of the country's...
A fresh, provocative analysis of the debate on education and employment.
Up-and-coming economist Moretti (Economics/Univ. of California, Berkeley) takes issue with the “[w]idespread misconception…that the problem of inequality in the United States is all about the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99 percent.” The most important aspect of inequality today, he writes, is the widening gap between the 45 million workers with college degrees and the 80 million without—a difference he claims affects every area of peoples' lives. The college-educated part of the population underpins the growth of America's economy of innovation in life sciences, information technology, media and other areas of globally leading research work. Moretti studies the relationship among geographic concentration, innovation and workplace education levels to identify the direct and indirect benefits. He shows that this clustering favors the promotion of self-feeding processes of growth, directly affecting wage levels, both in the innovative industries as well as the sectors that service them. Indirect benefits also accrue from knowledge and other spillovers, which accompany clustering in innovation hubs. Moretti presents research-based evidence supporting his view that the public and private economic benefits of education and research are such that increased federal subsidies would more than pay for themselves. The author fears the development of geographic segregation and Balkanization along education lines if these issues of long-term economic benefits are left inadequately addressed.A welcome contribution from a newcomer who provides both a different view and balance in addressing one of the country's more profound problems.
Pub Date: May 5, 2012
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online: April 3, 2012
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012
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