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Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  2,285 ratings  ·  167 reviews
Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Why did Facebook succeed when other social networking sites failed? Did the surge in Iraq really lead to less violence? How much can CEO’s impact the performance of their companies? And does higher pay incentivize people to work hard?

If you think the answers to these questions are a matter of common sense, think a
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ebook, 352 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Crown Business
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Al Bità
This book starts off reasonably well: the first half is devoted to giving us many examples of the failure or inadequacy of 'common sense' to explain or predict the world we live in. The most interesting underlying concept, for me, is that in this world, ALL knowledge is generated and developed for the purposes of prediction: we collect data, develop hypotheses to back up certain patterns we perceive or deduce from that data, and then use these patterns (usually in the form of mathematical formul ...more
blah
Reasons why I liked this book (on account of my confirmation bias):

1. Watts thinks Malcolm Gladwell is an idiot
2. His criticism of Nassim Taleb's "Black Swan" events
3. Great summaries of various behavioral economics/policy/psychology/sociological experiments
4. Further proof that Nozick was wrong and Rawls/Sandel are right (obviously)
Gerard
A welcome antidote to Malcolm Gladwell's lazy but satisfying answers. But, it ends abrup
❀Aimee❀ Just one more page...
The book started out with a lot of stories and fascinating new ideas. While we are wired to try to predict outcomes, we really can't do as well as we think. If you're skeptical, you'll become a believer pretty quickly while reading.

What we think is "obvious" is really only that way after the fact. He illustrates this fact by pretending to give some outcome to a situation where the reader can easily assign reasons why the outcome happened. Then he said the opposite outcome was really true, and a
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Aaron Arnold
This is frequently described as a book on common sense, which it is, but more importantly it's an investigation on human cognitive limits more generally and also a call to radically restructure the discipline of sociology in light of modern advances in technology. Sociology often gets made fun of in the hierarchies of academic disciplines, but Watts argues that there are reasons why sociology seems so vague and unscientific: not only are sociological problems very complicated in ways that physic ...more
Deb
*Well, that's just obvious!*

It's just common sense, right? Think again!

This book explores the three main types of common sense errors: systemically flawed mental models of individual behavior, even more flawed models of collective behaviors, and misrepresentations of past events which result in us learning less from history than we think we do. The book does a powerful job in exposing the reality that common sense convinces us that we know more than we really do. (Warning: this truth may be mor
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Sergei_kalinin
Отличная книга, которую рекомендую всем поклонникам критического и системного мышления! Да и просто мудрым людям, желающим разобраться "как это работает" (в смысле, наше сознание, принимающее решения, делающее выводы, выбирающее "лучшее" и т.п.).

По стилю подачи информации и по духу текст ближе всего к книгам Н.Талеба. Автор пишет с юмором, разоблачая расхожие стереотипы обыденного сознания; он постоянно заставляет читателя "включать голову"; удивляет широтой своей эрудиции и глубиной обосновани
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Michael
If you are only a reader of fiction, you probably will not like this book. If however you have some interest in the psychology of human behavior, this may appeal to you. It is well suited for those of us who have some background training and or experience in clinical trials, study groups, and statistics. The text is a bit dry, but not so much so that it is difficult to read. The author does a reasonably good job in explaining how and why people decide to do what they do and form the opinions the ...more
Paula
Whenever I hear (or read) an otherwise intelligent person deriding a social psych experiment-- e.g., "I can't believe someone had to *research* whether the media causes poor body image in teenage girls! Everybody *knows* it does!"--I weep for humanity. The tools of social science are imprecise, and what "everybody knows" is often wrong, or not proven by studies, or rendered inconclusive by the data. That's why we do studies, that's why we keep the research and the conversation going when studies ...more
John
This book has a brilliant first half where it shows that common sense is a questionable appeal, a dubious guide to action, and a disastrous foundation to policy, while the second half has some key advice but fails to take the truly courageous step, unlike Kahneman, of telling us how to practically distrust ourselves. What this volume serves up instead, the measure of continually analyzing the communication patterns of the internet will literally serve as the telescope that will lead to the remak ...more
Ethan
Deep. A bit philosophical. Takes on 'common sense' explanations of social phenomenon like influencers and tipping points. Also describes some of his own very cool research (though you gotta go elsewhere for more details of it).

A couple of my favorite nuggets:

When a forest fire breaks out, we never wonder what made that spark so unique. We only wonder how much dry tinder was lying around the forest and how long the drought had been. But when a video goes viral or a brand takes off, we ONLY wonder
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Kevin
Consider the last national election, your employer's last annual report, or your favorite sports team's last away-game victory. What made the particular outcome happen? Looking backward, conclusions seem foregone; we construct retrospective explanations that justify how what happened had to happen, because, well, it did. But Duncan J. Wells explains that what seems inevitable once it's already happened, is actually deeply contingent and controversial. Exactly why is both bizarre and revealing.

Tr
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Andrew
This book was great at first. I read his original book "Six Degrees" and was enjoying this one almost as much. The second half of the book completely lost focus, though, as he jumped around between unrelated points and kept complaining that social scientists aren't given enough credit.

The concepts shared in the book about how outcomes of events seem so certain after the fact, how "common sense" can be completely wrong, and how we often learn the wrong lessons from history were very interesting.
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Malin Friess
Duncan Watts argues that our common sense is not as good as we think it should be. When we trust our common sense we often make bad predictions.

His support:

We are duped into believing the Mona Lisa is such an extraordinary painting or Shakespeare such amazing writing. The Mona Lisa is small and average work for Da Vinci. We study these works as masterpieces and eventually it becomes self fullfilling.

Our common sense is a poor predictor as it should have been obvious that Facebook and Yahoo and
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Koen
Buku ini diawali dengan beberapa kasus di mana orang2 penting, seperti penulis John Gribbin, serta senator AS, menganggap riset sosiologi bukan hal yang penting, misalnya sepenting riset fisika. Riset di bidang fisika tentu amat penting. Namun agak lucu kalau menganggap riset sosial itu tak penting dengan alasan — menurut mereka — bahwa hasilnya bisa ditebak dengan logika biasa, tanpa harus melakukan riset yang luas. Di dekade kedua abad ke-21 ini, dengan analisis yang cukup banyak mengenai jeja ...more
Joseph
the book can be broadly separated into 2 parts

(a) how common sense fails us (i) personal level - how we usually think only in term of incentive etc vs circumstantial explanation as to why someone does something (e.g. default setting) (ii) societal level - how the problem at the personal level gets compounded into a bigger problem - we tend to simplify explanations like taking/understanding society as a whole (e.g. explaining market as 1 person, the economy as 1 person) etc (iii) history - and ho
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Tony
The ideas the author espouses are indeed fascinating and mind opening. The author,while obviously an educated person with well defined opinions, is a scholar and NOT a writer. The premise of this book begs to be satisfying and mind expanding but the writing style is for eye-glazing mostly. Author is writing to himself... not for an audience who seeks enlightenment in an entertaining and engrossing manner. Just because you understand something the common man may not doesn't mean you are well suit ...more
Steve Li
Duncan Watts is a physics professor turned sociology professor. I was intrigued by the idea of someone who could bring 'hard science' approaches to sociology. You might want to read the last chapter first as he summarizes the differences between sociological and hard science research. However, this is done in a most positive way - he points out that sociologic studies are important and that there are means and methods that can be used and developed to achieve better understanding into human beha ...more
Nat
Common sense is fine for negotiating face-to-face interactions, but when you try to use it to make sense of the behavior of big groups of people, it's totally misleading.

It'd be nice to be able to incorporate some of the material in here, about prediction and the failure of intuition into an epistemology class, instead of just going on and on about what knowledge might be.
Tim
In de categorie Popular Science kan je vanalles tegenkomen, brol en kwaliteit. De flaptekst van 'Everything Is Obvious' sprak me wel aan, gezien m'n soms kritische en analytische kijk op bepaalde dingen, gebeurtenissen, enz.

In dit boek probeert Watts aan te tonen dat ons gezond verstand het niet altijd bij het rechte eind heeft, dat we vaak gebeurtenissen en dergelijke verkeerd inschatten. Of indien niet verkeerd, dan wel onvolledig. Een recent voorbeeld is de stakingen de afgelopen weken en wa
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John
Not So Obvious

It took me three stages of reading this book to finally get through it. I can't tell you why, either, as this last sprint (starting a week ago) has been so enjoyable. I must've enjoyed it well enough after having first started it as well because I'd bought a copy for my brother in law that Christmas. I remember distinctly recommending it many times to many people. Yet it took forever. Maybe life got in the way. Perhaps it was too slow at times. It could've been the length coupled w
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عبدالرحمن عقاب
هذه قراءتي الثانية لهذا الكتاب، ضمن خطة أمضي بها مستعينًا بالله لإعادة قراءة أهمّ ما تحويه مكتبتي، خاصة في مجال اهتمامي.
ولقد زادتني القراءة هذه إيمانًا وتقديرًا لأهمية ودور القراءة الثانية في فهم الكتاب وأفكاره، وتقييمه أيضًا.
هذا كتابٌ قيّم. فكريٌ وفلسفي، يناقش كثيرًا من أفكار علم الإجتماع وعلم النفس الإجتماعي التي ظهرت مؤخرًا. أسئلة الكاتب ومحاججته تجعل هذه الأفكار على المحكّ، وتستدعي من متتبعيها ودارسيها –أمثالي- الكثير من الإنتباه، والحذر في القبول أو التعميم.
وأعتبر الفصل الذي يتناول "التا
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Maggie
this is a fascinating book written by an observant, thinking person. well done. he takes on the concept of common sense not in how uncommon it is but rather how often we use it yet miss so many additional aspects of human nature and situations that the using of common sense turns out not to be that helpful. we need to "see" more ... hence: once you know the answer, everything is obvious. each chapter details how else to "see" situations and predicaments so that our common sense applications can ...more
Saurabh Singh
A great insight into my gut feeling : common sense .

Also, learned about bootstrapping, bucket-testing, crowd-sourcing, Halo Effect, Homophily Effect, Matthew Effect, six degrees of separation, Influencers study and Diffusion research on Twitter, a different perspective on Mona Lisa's popularity, Societal influence on an individual.

One of the most important excerpts from this book that i'll remember throughout my life is : 'Whenever we seek to learn about the past, we are invariably seeking to l
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Melanie
The first part of the book will be of interest to the average person looking to sharpen his or her critical thinking skills. Watts touches on several traps inherent in "common sense" thinking, and I've successfully used some of the points he makes to win arguments with my significant other. With that in mind, I highly recommend it.

The book's second section details sociologists' difficulty in developing robust grand theories, as well their seeming inability to "prove" anything that wouldn't alrea
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Greta Macionytė
Populiariosios psichologijos knyga „Everything is Obvious“ skatina skaitytojo kritinį mąstymą. Perskaičius vis dažniau susimąstysite, kodėl mes elgiamės, mąstome ir vertiname dalykus vienaip ar kitaip.


Atsakydamas į tokius klausimus, kodėl da Vinci Mona Liza yra žinomiausias pasaulyje paveikslas, arba kodėl būtent Facebook tapo socialinių tinklų karaliumi, autorius kritikuoja minios mąstymą „…nes taip visi daro“ ir siekia, kad skaitytojas domėtųsi objektų ir reiškinių istorija bei priežastimis. G
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David
A pretty damn cool book that suffers from too many ideas, many of which repeatedly skittered away through my sieve-like brainpan. This caused me to read and re-read the helpful appendix at the end, which summarized the book chapter-by-chapter.

The author of this book can't understand why everybody is always hyperventilating about the Mona Lisa. Although that wasn't my particular bugaboo, I certainly can understand his vexation. For my part, I've always suspected that most people can't really tel
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Jeremy
I really enjoyed Everything is Obvious. Watts's thesis is that "common sense" is a wonderful tool for making sense out of what has happened, but that it is not good at grasping the true reality behind complex things.

As an example, he talks about how we refer to "the market" in near-human terms, saying things like "the market reacted to the Fed report" or "the market fell because of bad housing data". These explanations simplify things far too much - "the market" is a huge, complex system of peop
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Joe
This book reviews the systematic mistakes many people make when applying common sense to figure out the reasoning or rationale behind particular happenstances. The book is well-organized and presents the arguments in a thoughtful and, ultimately, convincing manner.

Most interesting, though, is Duncan's discussion around predictions - why predictions are inaccurate, why we don't accurately analyze our predictions after-the-fact, and the impossibility of anticipating "black swan"-type of events.

Sel
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Ahmed
There are some really great summaries of this book on Goodreads: I like Deb's. Reviews like this have to be long because this book talks about so much stuff, but they are most useful after you've read the book. I'd like to highlight some things for people who haven't read it yet, and yet which might help those who have read it appreciate it more.

Duncan Watts is one of my heroes for two achievements: (1) expanding, with colleagues, the state of the art in path-dependent non-ergodic random process
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“What appear to us to be causal explanations are in fact just stories—descriptions of what happened that tell us little, if anything, about the mechanisms at work.” 3 likes
“common sense is wonderful at making sense of the world, but not necessarily at understanding it.” 0 likes
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