Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review - You Are Not So Smart by: David McRaney

Title: You Are Not So Smart
Author: David McRaney
Publisher: Gotham
Pages: 302
Format: Epub
Source: Personal purchase


An entertaining illumination of the stupid beliefs that make us feel wise. 

You believe you are a rational, logical being who sees the world as it really is, but journalist David McRaney is here to tell you that you're as deluded as the rest of us. But that's OK- delusions keep us sane. You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of self-delusion. It's like a psychology class, with all the boring parts taken out, and with no homework.

Based on the popular blog of the same name, You Are Not So Smartcollects more than 46 of the lies we tell ourselves everyday, including:

Dunbar's Number - Humans evolved to live in bands of roughly 150 individuals, the brain cannot handle more than that number. If you have more than 150 Facebook friends, they are surely not all real friends. Hindsight bias - When we learn something new, we reassure ourselves that we knew it all along. Confirmation bias - Our brains resist new ideas, instead paying attention only to findings that reinforce our preconceived notions. Brand loyalty - We reach for the same brand not because we trust its quality but because we want to reassure ourselves that we made a smart choice the last time we bought it.

Packed with interesting sidebars and quick guides on cognition and common fallacies, You Are Not So Smart is a fascinating synthesis of cutting-edge psychology research to turn our minds inside out.

My thoughts:

Those who see the title of the post might go, "and you're SO smart, right?" Well, that's the whole point, really. None of us are. And David McRaney is the one saying it, not me. And he says it at least once in every single chapter. He doesn't stop there, either; he claims we have no idea why we love what we love, how we react to anything, in short, he says we have no idea about anything at all. And he's right, mostly...

In saying this, we're actually aware of everything he mentions in his book. We come face to face with most of them in our daily lives. However, they've become so routine that we don't really think about them much, if at all. And, because we don't think about them, we're not really aware that we don't think about them. You know what I mean? This is what McRaney really says. He explains all of this by giving examples from research conducted by names famous in their own fields and by drawing from popular culture.

Everyone who reads this book will find a piece of themselves in it. For example, McRaney talks about marketing methods. He says that because we're stupid, we buy advertisers' and marketers' games. In actuality, he uses this to sell his book because the main reason why I read it was seeing the "why you have too many friends on Facebook" quote. Otherwise, I'm not sure I would even pick it up. 

If you like, you can visit the website first, and then dive into the book if you find the content matter interesting. I must say it's a very fast read; you can read it in about two hours, so you won't lose much time if you end up disliking it in the end.
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