Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Book Review: Freakonomics

A study was conducted on ten day-care centres in Haifa, Israel. Economists kept track of the number of parents who came late to pick up their children.
After four weeks, a fine was introduced. Any parent who picked up their children late had to pay an extra $3 on top of their monthly bill.

After the fine was put up, the number of late pickups promptly... went up.

When I read this in the introducing chapter of Freakonomics, I said - what da? Surely nobody wants to pay an extra three bucks. You can (almost) buy a burger with that! But as it turns out - by introducing such a dismal fine (on top of the $380 monthly fee), it allowed a channel for parents to feel not so guilty when they are late in picking up their children.

Before they introduced the fine, parents picked up their children because they felt guilty about leaving their child in the day-care centre. The $3 penalty vented that guilt and thus parents were a lot more relaxed (and late) in picking up their children.

Last year I failed to read a single book.
Lots of magazines (with lots of pictures), but no books. Nadda.

This year, I told myself 'I should at least read one book'. Doesn't matter if it’s thin, thick or pink or gold covered (thou shall not judge a book by its cover!!) as long as I read a book. That was my new year's resolution.

I finished my second book this year and I'm glad I've gotten back to reading.

I think I was just being stubborn from all the Harry Potter attention that's why I've stayed away from books. Or maybe because I didn't make time to read books. But who was I kidding. My brain needed a work out just as much as my body did. So off to Borders I went.

Freakonomics was a non-themed book which was dry in some parts and interesting in others. I say non-themed because it was really hard to put a finger on what the authors were trying to say.

But I'm glad I read it. Now I'm walking away with some pearls of wisdom on why drug-dealers still live with their mom and why claiming to be single, tall and wanting to be in a long-term relationship will maximise my hits in Yahoo! Personals.

The message I took home from this book was that people are driven by incentives. Be it economic, social or moral. Positive or negative - rewards determine who we are.

And although that may sound trivial, it made me realise the type of people around me by looking into what their goals are. I could have figured that out. But it took a book for me to think it.

No comments: