The Irrational Game uses cartoon characters and behavioral science experiments to teach players about the decisions they make. The Irrational Game uses cartoon characters and behavioral science experiments to teach players about the decisions they make. The Irrational Game uses cartoon characters and behavioral science experiments to teach players about the decisions they make. (Photo: Miki Mottes)

America’s 'most irrational man' invents world’s most irrational game

Duke University professor’s new card game sheds light on everyday decision-making.

Dan Ariely is nothing if not a renaissance man. Known to many as America's most irrational person, the Duke University professor has become one of the world's leading experts in decision-making. Everyone from McDonald's to British royalty seeks out his opinion. He dishes advice for the rest of us in columns for the Wall Street Journal, numerous TED Talks, and a growing pantheon of books that are crowding up the bestseller lists.

Despite all of these accomplishments, his next trick surprised even us: The Israel-raised Ariely just invented a card game. And Ariely being Ariely, this isn't like solitaire, poker or bridge. Or any other game you've heard of, for that matter. He created a game based on years of behavioral science. Its name? The Irrational Game.

Hoping to see if there was any consumer interest (after all, he does study human behavior for a living), he launched a Kickstarter campaign. Figuring he'd raise enough money to simply hire a graphic designer, he set a modest goal of just $15,000. But this is Ariely, and nothing stays small for long. Within a month, more than 5,000 of his fans pledged $282,294.

So how does the game work? Here, we'll let Ariely explain in this video below:

https://youtu.be/hG5FvAxclLE

Following in the footsteps of his mentor, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and fellow Israeli Daniel Kahneman, Ariely's mission is to translate what could be a ho-hum topic like behavioral economics into mainstream morsels of wisdom. He studies everything from gift giving to restaurant etiquette.

So he's taken studies that he and others have conducted – whether it be about cheating on a test or how to lose weight – and turned them into trivia questions on playing cards. These, in turn, spur thoughtful group discussions.

"The hope is that the group setting would actually get people to reflect on it to a larger degree," Ariely told From The Grapevine when we reached him by phone. "All of a sudden the connections will become not just real, but more contextual."

With the successful Kickstarter campaign behind him, Ariely is now putting the finishing touches on the game, which he hopes to ship in March. Proceeds from the game will go to help further research.

The Israeli-born Ariely is known worldwide for his TED Talks and bestselling books.The Israeli-born Ariely is known worldwide for his TED Talks and bestselling books. (Photo: Courtesy Dan Ariely)

Ariely, who travels more than he sits still, admits that turning years of research and scientific papers into playing cards is harder than he expected. "Earlier this week, for example, it took me an hour to look at a study and reduce it to a card," he said. "But it's fun and it's interesting and it's new."

It seems he's also caught the gaming bug. He's now working on a smartphone app called The Fabulous, which uses games to help you build healthy rituals for your daily life. Ariely explains it like this: "How do we take bad habits that people have? How do we create good habits? What are the things that we can do to make good habits more interesting and more fun?"

As for next year, he hopes to continue to venture outside of academia to pursue fun side projects like a Truth Box he created. "I have to tell you, 2015 for me was really very special," he says. "I tried all kinds of things. I tried to do a startup. This was an amazing experience. We did a movie that came out this year. A lot of things have happened. It's so much fun to learn about new things like this."

MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:

Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows

Related Topics: Education, Science

comments powered by Disqus