No Retreat

Dan Ariely tells the story of the Chinese general who decided to get his troops focused on moving forward by burning their ships after they disembarked. The radical “no retreat” move was successful and offers a lesson in social science research. It’s fleshed out in Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational.

The MIT prof of behavioral economics says we keep too many options open, afraid we’ll miss something. While many of our decisions are irrational, even against our best interest, Ariely says these moves tend to happen in predictable patterns and his ingeniously designed experiments prove his point. For instance, students who participated in a series of trials he conducted couldn’t bring themselves to let go of options, even when they did not lose anything by doing so.

Stephen Goforth