Irrationality – Stuart Sutherland

This year there are exciting non-fiction books on my reading list. I liked all that I have read so far, and I can say that Irrationality The enemy within was a book that surprised me. In addition to being the first book I read on rationality, it now has a different place as it makes me curious about learning how we think.


Irrationality - Stuart Sutherland

Irrationality The enemy within surprised me with case studies the most. To be honest, I thought that what it tells about what, how and why we think in a certain way is very scary and a little ridiculous. In particular, the “availability error” has become something I will be aware of from now on. I can say that I learned more about what and how to calculate before making a decision. Most importantly, I saw very clearly who I should not listen to during the decision phase.

Irrationality explains why we make irrational decisions so well that it leaves no chance for anyone other than trying to prevent it. Regardless of your profession, read this book if you think that your life has become a bit irregular due to irrational decisions. You have nothing to lose. Enjoy!

Irrationality - Stuart Sutherland


Irrationality: New, 21st anniversary edition, with a new foreword by Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science and Bad Pharma, and an afterword by James Ball, covering developments in our understanding of irrationality over the last two decades.

Why do doctors, army generals, high-ranking government officials and other people in positions of power make bad decisions that cause harm to others? Why do prizes serve no useful function? Why are punishments so ineffective? Why is interviewing such an unsatisfactory method of selection?

Irrationality is a challenging and thought-provoking book that draws on statistical concepts, probability theory and a mass of intriguing research to expose the failings of human reasoning, judgement and intuition. The author explores the inconsistencies of human behaviour, and discovers why even the experts find it so hard to make rational and unbiased decisions.

Written with clarity and occasional flashes of wry humour, this classic volume ofIrrationality is just as relevant today as when it was first written twenty-one years ago.

Stuart Sutherland

(Norman) Stuart Sutherland (26 March 1927 – 8 November 1998) was a British psychologist and writer. Sutherland was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, before going to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he read Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology. He stayed at the University of Oxford for his PhD which was awarded in 1957 for research supervised by John Zachary Young.

Sutherland held a lecturing post at Oxford from 1960, and was elected a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford in March 1963, before moving the following year to the recently opened University of Sussex as the founding Professor and head of its Laboratory of Experimental Psychology; with the young colleagues he appointed, he rapidly built an international reputation for Sussex in this field.

Among psychologists, Sutherland is best known for his theoretical and empirical work in comparative psychology, particularly in relation to visual pattern recognition and discrimination learning. In the 1950s and 1960s he carried out numerous experiments on rats but also on other species such as octopus; the two-factor theory of discrimination learning that he developed with Nicholas Mackintosh was an important step in the rehabilitation of a cognitive approach to animal learning after the dominance of strict behaviourism in the first half of the twentieth century. He was also interested in human perception and cognition, and in 1992 he published Irrationality: The enemy within, a lay reader’s guide to the psychology of cognitive biases and common failures of human judgement.

Among a wider public, Sutherland is most famous for his 1976 autobiography Breakdown, detailing his struggles with manic depression. A second edition of Breakdown was published in 1995. Stuart Sutherland died from a heart attack in November 1998.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

A Non-Fiction a Month

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.