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Feeling Smart: Why Our Emotions Are More Rational Than We Think
Eyal Winter

Retail Price: $26.99
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Format: Hardcover, 288pp.
ISBN: 9781610394901
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Pub. Date: December 30, 2014

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

Which is smarter—your head or your gut? It’s a familiar refrain: you’re getting too emotional. Try and think rationally. But is it always good advice?

In this surprising book, Eyal Winter asks a simple question: why do we have emotions? If they lead to such bad decisions, why hasn’t evolution long since made emotions irrelevant? The answer is that, even though they may not behave in a purely logical manner, our emotions frequently lead us to better, safer, more optimal outcomes.

In fact, as Winter discovers, there is often logic in emotion, and emotion in logic. For instance, many mutually beneficial commitments—such as marriage, or being a member of a team—are only possible when underscored by emotion rather than deliberate thought. The difference between pleasurable music and bad noise is mathematically precise; yet it is also something we feel at an instinctive level. And even though people are usually overconfident—how can we all be above average?—we often benefit from our arrogance.

Feeling Smart brings together game theory, evolution, and behavioral science to produce a surprising and very persuasive defense of how we think, even when we don’t.


“Filled with fascinating studies and personal anecdotes?. A lively, accessible work.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“[Feeling Smart] gives plentiful insights into the many factors that govern our choices...we can at least begin, with its help, to reason with our emotions through their inherent foundation of rationality.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Eyal Winter’s book admirably draws together the important recent work on social and individual behavior and its implications for economic behavior. He shows clearly how the more traditional rational analysis remains an important part of explanation, but is by no means adequate. His exposition is breezily informal, yet rigorous; accounts from his family join seamlessly with citations on the literature, to which he himself has made significant contributions.”
—Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“Eyal Winter’s breezy guide to when and why it is sometimes perfectly rational to let the heart rule the head is as fresh as it is clever. In his brisk tour of the burgeoning field of experimental economics, Professor Winter shows that sense and sensibility are complements rather than polar opposites, and proves his point with intriguing insights into hot-button issues like affirmative action and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Feeling Smart will leave you feeling not only smarter, but more optimistic as well.”
—Sylvia Nasar, author, A Beautiful Mind

“In Feeling Smart Eyal Winter shows us how the emotions that we sometimes wish we didn’t have, such as anger and envy, can be surprisingly useful. You will certainly not be less angry after reading this book, but you will better understand the focus that shapes your emotions.”
—Dan Ariely, bestselling author of Predictably Irrational

“Many suppose that the domains of emotion and rational thought are always separate. But as this intriguing book demonstrates they are wrong: emotional sensibility makes an important contribution to rational decision making. Feeling Smart shows us how.”
—Lawrence Summers, former President of Harvard University and former Secretary of the Treasury of the United States

“Feeling Smart puts the social back into social science. The truth is that there’s a touchy feely aspect of Game Theory, and Winter shows how expressing and understanding your feelings (and those around you) will help you become a far better strategist. Be smarter or be smarting, your call.”
—Barry Nalebuff, Milton Steinbach Professor, Yale School of Management, and coauthor of The Art of Strategy

“Emotions and rationality are often thought of as polar opposites. But Eyal Winter—a leading game theorist and economist—shows compellingly that emotions can actually promote rational behavior. His book makes fascinating reading.”
—Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“It is a pleasure to follow Eyal Winter as he explores the deep logic of illogical emotions and helps us to see the rationality of irrational behavior.”
—Roger Myerson, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“Much like Sigmund Freud, Eyal Winter knows that understanding human behavior demands listening and observing rather than labeling and categorizing. But here’s what Freud didn’t know: that framing his findings in the rigorous language of economic theory would be so illuminating, so surprising, and so exciting.”
—Robert Lucas, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“We are used to thinking that emotions such as anger, love, insult, and so forth are irrational. In his new book, Eyal Winter explains why these emotions are actually very rational, fulfilling important functions that usually advance the most vital interests of each of us. This is an important, enjoyable, and convincing book.”
—Robert J. Aumann, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“Eyal Winter, a distinguished game theorist and behavioral economist, writes about rationality and emotion with compassion and empathy.”
—Alvin Roth, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“Eyal Winter has written engagingly on the science of action and emotion; on why and how feelings make us smarter and are central to understanding rational action and interaction in processes of human betterment that are subtly inaccessible to our self-aware consciousness.”
—Vernon Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics

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About the Author

Eyal Winter is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the world's leading institutions in the academic study of decision making. He served as chairman of the economics department at Hebrew University and was the 2011 recipient of the Humboldt Prize, awarded by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany. He has lectured at over 130 universities in 26 countries around the world, including Harvard University, Stanford University, Princeton University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Cambridge.

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