Hello reddit. I still remember the last time I had an AMA. And am looking forward to another joyful ride.

PROOF: http://imgur.com/RNjtK8B

In the meantime, to learn some tips & tricks to better manage your time, check out my Dan Moments presented by Timeful:

The Timeful App for iOS is also available now!


UPDATE: This has been really great, thanks to everyone so much for the questions! If you're interested in chatting more, keep up with me at @danariely or Timeful at @timefulapp on Twitter.

Comments: 112 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

gosamoki10 karma

Hi Dan, I love your work. I seem to continually suffer (or possibly be fueled by) the notion that the grass is always greener on the other side. Sometimes i think its a curse -- i never seem to appreciate the moment. Other times i think its a great motivator to keep on striving for improvement. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks

danariely19 karma

Let me use relationships as a metaphor for my answer. I think that looking constantly at other couples and other people and comparing yourself to them is certainly not a good way to find happiness. It is a way to maximize counterfactual thinking (thinking about what could have been).

On the other hand, looking at your own partner and focusing on the kinds of things you admire in them and the kinds of things they inspire you to strive to be better at is an incredibly motivating way of living and trying to improve.

In essence, I think that comparing yourself to outsiders in a negative light (downward comparison) can be damaging, but comparing yourself to people who are close to you in a positive way can be very beneficial.

LordLior7 karma

Hey Dan, fan of your work which made me fall in love with Behavioral Economics (and at one point of my life thinking to pursue that direction).

What do you think are good methods/tricks to be able to achieve your goals? overcoming doing quick gratification stuff instead of what will eventually be more important.

What do you know now, that you wished that your 20-30 years old self would know? (and will have impact on people who start to define themselves in life).

Thank you for doing this AMA.

danariely10 karma

When I was young, I thought that Physics & Math were more important than Statistics - but now I think the opposite.

The world has a lot of "randomness", and to make good decisions we have to understand the nature of Probability and Randomness.

Statistics is a little like poetry - its easy to be a bad poet, but you have to spend a lot of time to become a good poet or where poetry is in your nature.

In addition, when I was 20, I thought women were just as superficial as men. And because of that I thought no one would ever date me. Thankfully, life has shown me there are gender differences, and I've benefited from a happy and loving life because of those differences.

yroc006 karma

What are some must read books (other than yours) for the layperson looking to make better decisions in their lives?

danariely14 karma

Brian Wansink, "Slim by Design" - book about food, but its actually about the specific ways the environment influence what we end up doing. its also good to help us stop overeating, but its a metaphor for creating a better environment for decision making.

Also "Invisible Gorilla" & Robert Frank's "Darwin's Economy"

monkey_breeder6 karma

Fellow Dukie here, I really love the concept of Timeful and have started to use it on my computer, but I recently switched to Android on my phone. Any chance the app will be available on Android soon?

danariely6 karma

We're really excited to bring Timeful to Android. Just takes some time to get things right!

beernerd4 karma

If I started getting paid to spend time on reddit, would I start slacking off by doing tedious office work?

danariely9 karma

If you're like everybody else on Reddit - you're likely slacking off already. So the question is: will you slack off more or less? Given the fun nature of Reddit, and the quick feedback it provides, odds are you will do something that gives you a quick positive response over something that will pay off at the end of the year.

dragonfly19934 karma

What does a behavioral officer do?

danariely7 karma

It is a very good question, but the truth is that I don't want to tell anyone because then they will be able to hold me accountable to it.

Seriously (more seriously) one of the main challanges with thinking about time is the psychology of time and the mistakes we make when we make decisions about time (procrastination, wasting our most productive hours on non productive tasks, etc). My job as a behavioral officer is to figure out the mistakes people make, and the ways to overcome some of our personal biases.

It is a fun job, and it doesn't seem that I am going to run out of mistakes to look at any time soon ;)

LonesomeJoey4 karma

Hi Dan! I love your books. You always have a good topic for a dinner table.

In all of the studies you've conducted, what is the most outstanding fact you've come across that has constantly surprised you and gone against what you thought would happen?

danariely12 karma

Recently, we finished a study in a slum in Kenya where we tried to get very poor people to save a bit of money.

We gave some people financial incentives, some social pressure - but the thing that worked the best was creating a physical coin that represented their savings. That coin more than doubled their savings as compared to a 20% match.

The reason i think it worked so well was that we changed the environment in which they lived. We created a tangible representation of their savings and changed the discussion in the household.

I also find this incredibly optimistic because it means if we change the environment in which people operate, we can drive better behaviors.

jrmxrf3 karma

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your great work. Do you publish anywhere results of experiments that you were running on coursera's courses participants?

If not, maybe you can at least share some observations.

danariely5 karma

We had some serious problems with the IRB on this, but we are just getting all the data privacy issues and I will post these on my blog soon(ish)

And thanks for being in the class.

chrrrmaine3 karma

Hi Dan!

Just DL-ed the app after watching your video on Perils of Procrastination. I'm very guilty of it. What are you tips on avoiding this? Thanks!

danariely7 karma

Procrastination plagues us all, so you're not alone. There are lots of ways to think about it, but one recent interesting study emailed parents to let them know that their kids were facing a deadline or an upcoming exam.

By simply emailing them, creating an implicit social pressure and probably some explicit social pressure, the tasks were completed at a higher rate.

On top of that, because you don't have any immediate reward for completing the task, I'd recommend looking for one. You can look for positive rewards (praise or a good reputation) or you can think of "negative rewards" such as shame or humiliation.

For next year, think about the idea of "precommitment." With precommitment, you approach students at the beginning of the semester and you tell them to put $10 down. You tell them if they miss the deadline they will lose the money, and if they hit the deadline they will get the money back. This helps the students create a system of motivation for themselves. We've tested it numerous and it's proven to be very effective.

bloodybloom3 karma

Hey Dan, took your MOOC a while ago and totally loved it. Thank you for doing that!

What are your favorite ways of applying your knowledge of behaviorial economics, biases and irrationality in day-to-day life?

danariely10 karma

Probably the most fun is to look at the most irrational market of them all: the dating market. But the worlds I actually apply knowledge to more are those of overeating, medical mistakes, and of course the problems we all have with time management. One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of their day on things that don't require high cognitive capacity (like social media). If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want.

Zweifuss2 karma

what are those hours? I must know.

danariely9 karma

Generally people are most productive in the morning. The two hours after becoming fully awake are likely to be the best.

jcsarokin3 karma


I've been following your work for a very long time, you're awesome -- made all my interns read 'predictable irrationality' as their first assignment. So, thank you!


What would you say is/are the most basic motivational factors in humans?

Are these factors common to all animals, or unique to humans?

How do you think humans would behave in a system of abundance (unlimited food, water, gadgets, etc.)?

Any thoughts on Basic Minimum Income?

danariely7 karma

Maybe the most basic part of us that forces us to make mistakes is our emotions. Emotions are nature's way of executing a command. Imagine you're in the jungle and you see a tiger. What nature wants you to do is run as fast as possible without thinking.

And emotions have evolved as a way of getting us to behave in specific ways, even if not perfect or rational. We should acknowledge though that sometimes emotions are great. They're the impulse that gets us to help a stranger, and donate money, and care about others.

And finally, emotion is a mechanism that we do share to a very large degree with other animals. The emotional part of the brain is the most primitive part of the brain.

ColoradoBeer3 karma


danariely8 karma

There's a big difference between enjoying reading and enjoying doing! To figure out which you are, I'd recommend you go to some university lab and volunteer for a few hours every month. Try to figure out for yourself which type you are before moving forward.

Oshurer3 karma

It's 2 AM, I've done little of value this past year; and I'm not even sure if I know how to construct a sentence properly... Am I ever going to finish writing my book?

danariely6 karma

Not if you continue working at 2 am! :) Your "productive hours" are very important. Think about when those are, and then practice maniacal devotion to work during those hours. Some people are night hawks, but most are not.

xyderyx3 karma

Hi Dan, first of all I really love your talks! Always very inspiring and entertaining too. Id also love to use Timeful, looks very promising, but I am a bit old school and still own the first iPhone... Is there any older version available that works on iOS6?

danariely3 karma

Sorry about that. Unfortunately, the app currently has been developed to run on iOS 7 and above.

IAMAThatGuy2 karma

Except writing my feature, instead of being on reddit, what is a mistake I'm doing right now? what should I avoid/actively do?

Does money bring happiness? In my opinion it mostly helps limit sadness occurrences and help fix problems, brings happiness, but doesn't prevent for even being sad or depressed again. your thoughts on the subject? personal experience?

danariely4 karma

Does money bring happiness?

Yes -- but only if you spend it the right way, and what this means is:

1) Buy experiences and not things 2) Give more of it away as gifts to people you care about (there is a great book about this: http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Money-Science-Happier-Spending/dp/1451665075/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415408465&sr=8-1&keywords=happy+money)

Imagineallthepeeps2 karma

What are some of the major lessons or insights from your field that you think could apply to approaching inter nation conflicts?

danariely6 karma

I think one of the things we show is the extent to which people experience the reality they expect to experience.

As every sports fan knows, if the referee makes a call that goes against your team, you can't help but think of the referee as blind, stupid, evil, malicious. And this is because our motivation colors our experience. We don't experience reality in an objective way, we experience it in a way that is distorted by our motivation.

This of course is very sad for international conflict, because it means that the chance that people from two different sides will sit and agree on the facts is very low. But it does suggest that we need interventions from objective third parties. Sadly, the world is such right now that there are not many unbiased third parties [the UN could have been one]. But I think we need to build those reliable, accountable, objective third parties if we hope to bridge some of the deeper conflicts around the world.

Audifred62672 karma

If you can off till tomorrow things that can be completed today, does that mean that that thing will never be undertaken to completion in your life time?

danariely7 karma

There are some problems we could just delay forever (for some people these include quitting smoking, dieting, etc.). Other things have a deadline. When there's a deadline, at some point we have to deal with the issue - but if we procrastinate too much, we have to bunch large amounts of work into short periods of time. This leads to high stress, low-quality work.

bloodybloom2 karma

A few months ago, the German government was looking for behavioral economists to make "governing more efficient".

What do you think about the ethical implications of using research like yours in regard of policymaking and consumer marketing?

Of course it's nice that it could help to imcrease the number of willing organ donors, but how does one prevent getting screwed over by some manipulative government experts while trying to make good decisions?

danariely6 karma

I certainly think that governments in general have a lot of ways to make our life better (and worse of curse).

When thinking about your question we need to recognize that in reality governments already regulate base on their on model of human behavior -- only that if they think that people are perfectly rational, their regulations are likely to be misguided. So -- they already do it.

I am jut hoping that they will get to do it based on good information.

ann_l2 karma

You're amazing, Dan! Thanks for doing this! I recently read where you said the best advice you ever got was to do what would change you and improve you the most. What's the most valuable piece of advice you think you can give, or, alternatively, what's the second best piece of advice you've gotten?

danariely4 karma

Here is something from my last column in the WSJ --

Dear Dan,

Many years ago, I was badly burned, and since then, I carry many visible scars. Recently, at a Halloween party, somebody pointed to the scars on my face and told me what a wonderful costume I had. I tried to correct her and explained that I was really very badly burned, but she burst out laughing.

At this point, I had two choices: make her feel guilty or let it go. What should I have done? I must admit that it colored the Halloween party for me, and I no longer felt like I belonged.

—Dan (Ariely)

You should have let it go. The person pointing out your scars clearly had only good intentions, and trying to correct her once was sufficient. This was probably one of hundreds of comments that she made during the party, and while her remark was central for you, if you asked her in 48 hours about her memories from the party, she probably wouldn’t even remember you, your scars or her comment. You had already stopped enjoying the party after her comment; my guess is that having made her feel bad about her remark would only have intensified your negative feelings.

P.S. One more lesson from this unfortunate episode: Sometimes, putting yourself in the position of an external advisor and asking yourself what advice you’d give to someone else in the same situation can be a useful way to reason more calmly and make better decisions. Good luck using this approach next time.

DismalSci1 karma

Hi Dan, thanks for doing this AMA! I have two questions to ask: 1) What other opportunities do you see for fusing behavioral/psychological study and tech - similar to Timeful or others like Lumos Labs? 2) What advice would you give to someone with a horrible school track record but a successful stint doing data science for getting involved in behavioral economics research?

Thanks again!

danariely2 karma

I think that there are a lot of opportunities for social science in tech. Every time you want to change behavior, you want to understand what are the real drivers of behavior -- and what you can do about them. If you think about things this way, you can see why this applies to almost all tech.

As for advice for someone with a horrible record -- don't focus on things you can't fix, and instead this about what knowledge base you need to build and how best to try and acquire it. Thankfully the world is an interesting place with lots of ways to learn, and it is only getting more interesting in this way.

Good luck

SunshineSeeker1 karma

What's the best way to deal with social loafers in group work?

Can you recommend any good authors (researchers) who write about trust?

danariely4 karma

Maybe the best person to look at for research on trust is


He also has some interesting ways to think about punishment as a way to get people to collaborate and not "defect" from the group effort.

Brownielf1 karma

Dan! Loved Predictably Irrational! As a young marketing manager it has been an absolutely incredible resource in having a better understanding as to why we make the decisions we make.

Out of all the experiments you have conducted, which was your favorite, and which had the most surprising results?

danariely2 karma

Just got asked this earlier in the AMA, and its still my favorite:

"Recently, we finished a study in a slum in Kenya where we tried to get very poor people to save a bit of money. We gave some people financial incentives, some social pressure - but the thing that worked the best was creating a physical coin that represented their savings. That coin more than doubled their savings as compared to a 20% match.

The reason i think it worked so well was that we changed the environment in which they lived. We created a tangible representation of their savings and changed the discussion in the household.

I also find this incredibly optimistic because it means if we change the environment in which people operate, we can drive better behaviors."

3spddrft1 karma

What are the most important characteristics of an individual that are prerequisites for good habit forming? Alternatively, will you be doing studies on the effectiveness of your new app?

danariely3 karma

Yes, we're going to study inside and outside of the app. Outside, to bring learning about peoples' behaviors to influence what we do in the application. And inside, in aggregate to protect privacy, but to ensure that we are helping people live happy, productive and well-balanced lives.

So far, we've found that when we make suggestions about how to use your time, people are 150% more likely to act upon them than if people have to motivate themselves to remember and note the items.

This relates to habits, because people are not innately wired to take on and follow through with habits because "tomorrow is that magical day when everything can get done" and habits are most likely to be pushed off. If we are suggesting and putting habits in the environment of the person, we can help them keep good habit behaviors.

So the things we're finding is habits are about being reminded and committing to time, which is what Timeful is all about.

xyderyx1 karma

I was thinking a lot about the 'moral licensing effect' you were discussing on your blog a while ago. Do you know whether being mindful of time may actually spur more procrastination in the future, e.g. after completing a task on time?

danariely1 karma

A very good question. I don't know the real answer, but recently I bought this watch called the Happiness Watch. What it really is is a watch that counts backwards, to the end of your life. I ended up giving it away, because it was not making me happy. :)

But it did make me aware of the time, and I think I was actually more effective (or at least not less effective).

neogreat1 karma

Hi, Dan! Thanks for doing this.

When you write, does the voice in your head sound like Simon Jones?

danariely2 karma

After three books, it does :)

(Simon Jones read all three of my audiobooks. I chose him b.c. I loved his reading of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")

chuldah1 karma

Hi Dr. Ariely,

I've noticed when I procrastinate on completing a task I accomplish the task more decisively and with more focus, no "dawdling," and with less anxiety over "the process." When I was a senior at Duke, I took an overload of classes my final semester and my grades were higher than any other semester. Am I procrastinating, or am I just mentally planning my tasks and time efficiently?

Thank you for the app - and I enjoyed the Coursera "Irrational Behavior" quite a lot.

danariely3 karma

Lots of people think that they get an extra boost of focusing and productivity when they are close to the deadline -- but it turns out that this is an illusion and in reality they are not getting any better.

I am sure this doesn't apply to you, but in general delaying things to the last moment has no benefits.

dizzoknows1 karma

First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to listen to my product idea a few months ago. Your comments and questions were insightful and inspired me to go deeper into the idea. I'll let you know if I get funding for the project.

In my experience, recognizing, acknowledging, and evaluating the instances in which I am irrational helps me to buck that irrational behavior. Do you think there is category / type of irrational behavior, though, that isn't helped by recognizing, acknowledging, and evaluating it?


danariely3 karma

Happy it was helpful!

Think of two extreme categories (and of course there many in the middle). One is big purchases - something we do very rarely that is not urgent. Things like buying a house, a car, getting married, going for a grad degree. These are instances in which understanding our biases can allow us to overcome them. You can simply sit down, think about it, realize where the mistakes are, and try to overcome them.

For example, you might be infatuated with somebody - thinking to yourself that it's going to last a long time. But if you ask your mother what she thinks, your mother is unlikely to take your short term perspective into account. She will think about the long term and might give you solid advice.

On the other hand, if you think about something like attention, or distractions from email and notifications, it's something that happens in the moment. It's very hard to not get distracted by knowing that you have email waiting for you, for example.

Of course you could take email notifications and just turn them off, but that puts you back in the first category of thinking about something for a long time and then overriding the mistakes in principle (but not at the moment).

Blanchild1 karma

Hi Dan, I follow your work since you first started your irrationality module on coursera, and I've been keen on the behavioral/experimental path in my degree since.

I'm a third year student in Political Economy at King's College London, focusing mostly on economics. My dissertation proposal is in two months and I would really love to conduct an experiment for it, rather than a quantitative/econometric analysis. My experiment would ideally focus on whether better educated people give systematically different responses to political/economic questions than the population at large, and why. What are your suggestions on the logistics of the experiment? Do you think it is feasible for an undergraduate project? How do I recruit people in the most unbiased way? How do I make sure response is unbiased if I don't have the funding to pay the subjects?

Thank you in advance, and keep up the great work!

danariely2 karma

You should do an experiment. it is fun and you will learn a lot. But, I am not sure this is a good experiment. Too many things are different between educated and uneducated people.

keep on thinking about interesting questions -- there are a lot of them

And good luck

SA1L1 karma

Dan, huge fan here. Have you given any thought to writing about consumer healthcare decisions and how we make them (Americans anyway) As you know, the US healthcare system has been trending towards 'consumerism' under these high-deductible health plans. Trouble is, there's no information available to buyers on quality and price.

Even if there was, can people truly make healthcare decisions that would improve efficiency in healthcare markets? When it comes to our health, do we make decisions that would promote an efficient free market in healthcare?

Detractors will say that the consumer decision is made 'at the kitchen table', when they buy the insurance plan, but the complexities of healthcare payment and plan benefit design confuse most people.

Love your work, thank you for posting here. I now get to read all your other responses.

danariely3 karma

I think that it is unreasonable to suspect that people could make good medical decisions, particularly when they are just given bad news and have serious decisions to make.

So -- I think that we need to figure out how to help people make better decisions in such situations, and not expect everyone to be an expert.

Motivate_Me_1230 karma

How do I stop myself from sending lottery tickets?

What can we encourage to be more happy?

danariely4 karma

For lots of undesirable behaviors it helps to have a rule. Think about something like "no drinking," "no dessert unless it is the weekend," etc.

Rules help us figure out when we are doing the right thing and when we are not, and this way it helps us behave better.

So -- pick a rule and good luck.

Dereklop0 karma

Hey dan. I'm Derek, me and my friend have a very important macro economics test tomorrow.!!! Can you be willing to answer me this little question? I'm in despair : " in the Mundell- Fleming context, as a consequence of an increase in the interest rate of the foreign economy: under a fix currency exchange, why does the central bank need to increase domestic interest by 4% to protect its coin.

Suppose you have i-i* +((Ee-E)/E))= -4 and perfect capital mobility.

Sorry for bad English I'm translating from Spanish

danariely4 karma

My question to you is -- why are you here if you have an exam tomorrow?

Ayangar-5 karma

How often do you go back to your homeland of occupied Palestine?

danariely5 karma

I try to go once a year, but I also have a rule that every time I get invited to a muslim country I go. I meet people, give talks etc and try to remind people that we are in fact very similar and we should focus on working together to make the world better rather than worse.

So -- altogether I spend more time in Muslim countries than in Israel.