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Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  204 ratings  ·  40 reviews
“Engaging…Teases out the cause and effect of seven [cognition] traps with witty stories of famous blunders…to teach the basis of good judgment. L ike all good historians he’s hoping we can avoid making the same mistake twice.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

For anyone whose best-laid plans have been foiled by faulty thinking, Blunder reveals how understanding seven simple traps—Exp
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2008)
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Pat
Shore did not convince me that the lessons we can learn from his stories will help us avoid blunders. His subtitle says that Blunder will tell us "Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions." I'm not sure that the book does that.

Shore does present some theories on that score. He talks about "causefusion," his coined word for confusion about causation. He talks about "infomisering" and "infoavoiding," two more coined words for keeping too much secret and for ignoring inconvenient truths. He talks about
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Deborah
This book got me thinking of my own mental framework. Particularly, exposure anxiety and the masks we wear to “to keep the world from knowing about the pain and struggle inside.” After reading, I rededicated myself to building an open mind.

To succeed as a historian, you must become acutely sensitive to how other people think, to discover why they did something in the first place.

Douglas Feith, assistant to the US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was one of the principal architects of the USA w
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Shawn
Excellent book about cognitive traps, especially touching on international development failures and how each situation has to be approached in a unique way, and must be understood from many perspectives. The developed world doesn't have all of the answers.
Kerry
I don't want to seem like a loose type of lady, but not even a few pages in I was ready to take this delectable book to bed and get busy (you know you read in bed too, I'm not the only book slut here).

Opening the book with the perilous err of Thomas Edison in not listening to his employee by the name Nikola Tesla (you may have heard of him) sparks (twat a pun!) it off with some historical drama and doesn't look back. Mr Shore I may be taking you(r) books to bed more often if this keeps up.

Shore
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Frank
There's a certain kind of person who falls for books with covers like 'Blunder - Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions'. Alas, I am one of those people who am powerless to pass it by. Even if I had been able to resist the cover, I could not resist buying this book after reading page 1 ("By age 35, Thomas Alva Edison stood at the peak of his career.")

With all that magnetism, I still approach books like this with trepidation. In this case I enjoyed the book all the way to the end. Although Shore doe
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Joseph
The book is well written, specific and easy to follow.

It talks about cognition traps faced by competent people, like blind spots and choking and not because of lack of skill/expertise. I think everyone suffers from them. There are (a) exposure anxiety (b) causation confusion (c) flatview (d) cure-allism (e) infomania (f) mirror imaging and (g) static cling.

I would think the book deserves 5 stars if only the author talks more on the solution part, which he modestly calls guidelines (jam-packed
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Gabrielle
I enjoyed reading Blunder, with a few exceptions. I don't really like when authors make up terms when it isn't necessary. The chapter "Causefusion" left me confused. It was not clear to me whether the examples of treating depressive disorders using interactive roleplay was seen by Shore as helpful or not, and whether or not he felt it led to a deeper understanding of the "causes" of depression.
I enjoyed the other chapters much more where Shore used examples from history, obviously something he
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Nick Huntington-Klein
Terrible, terrible, completely content-free book. Here, I'll sum it up in one sentence:

"Bad decisions are those that turn out badly, good decisions are those that turn out well."

All of the terms and labels that are supposed to identify bad decision-making are vague enough to essentially translate to "don't make bad decisions." Frequently in the later chapters he'll be describing how someone made a great decision by avoiding the pitfall Shore is currently describing while in the back of your head
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Ryan
I enjoyed this. Fairly short, it is an engaging and easy read and is truly excellent in some parts. It is written for a general audience - and obviously targeted to the type of people that are reading a lot of Gladwell et al. - but uses a number of historical examples, mixed with cases from other fields. I may be the exception, but I would love to see this book written for a more limited audience, in a more academic form, with deeper consideration of historical cases. I think that would look som ...more
Agile Kindergarten
Identifies 7 cognition traps such as Exposure Anxiety (peer pressure), Flat World View (you don’t know what you don't know) and Cure Allism (it worked before, it will work again). Spotlighting and labeling thought patterns that lead to failure is valuable analysis, but since no one in the midst of making such an error of logic or judgement easily recognizes his own faulty reasoning, I think it would be more valuable to discuss how to not go down those beaten paths. The author states the obvious ...more
Tim Gapinski
This book is written by a historian but it reads more like a self-help book. That makes it interesting in and of itself. The book is not simple to apply, but I can say it has helped me not to overreact to things, but it also makes me wonder if I have been idle to long. Its a book about real world wisdom that is a little disappointing because you feel like its to complicated to apply easily. Yet that is also where the wisdom of the book is found. In the fact that real wisdom does not come easily ...more
Richard
Feb 09, 2009 Richard marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: KQED Forum
Shelves: cognition, nonfiction
Zachary Shore, author of Blunder (Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions), was interviewed along with Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, on KQED's Forum. An archived podcast of the interview is available here.

therices1
Another book I read because my husband had to read the book for class. I ended up reading it and giving him a summary. The author was his professor. I really enjoyed this book. I'm not much into reading histories and non-fiction, however I enjoyed how much I learned about history from this book. This book takes the way people think and make judgements and explains them in an historical setting. This is a great discussion book. While the author gives many history lessons explaining how people ten ...more
Mackenzie
I enjoyed the theories behind this book -- the different reason why things went horribly wrong. I loved the ancient history and the more current history. What I didn't like, and the reason I am just two or three chapters from the end, is that each chapter takes on the exact same structure. The first sentence in the first paragraph in each chapter serves the same purpose; so does the second; so does the third. The problem changes, of course, but I need something fresh and creative to keep my atte ...more
Jenny
I enjoyed listening to this book while walking to and from work and hearing some interesting perspectives on mistakes important historical figures have made, basically because they couldn't change their way of thinking. "Cause-fusion," "mirror-imaging," "cognition traps," "infovoiding," etc. have inflicted some great blunders (Edison's distrust of AC, both Saddam Hussein's fall from power and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Vietnam). Shore also focuses on some blunders avoided (the king of Siam).

It w
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Dave
So far I haven't read any books on human error I haven't liked. Blunder is no less absorbing for me than any of the others. It is different from the others I've read, in that the author is a historian rather than a psychologist or journalist. I like Shore's approach and style. Part near the end discussing U.S. Administration blunders entering and handling the war in Iraq may seem overtly partisan / political to some. Overall an excellent book that I would give 5 stars to except for parts of the ...more
Michael
Actually quite and interesting history book. Mr. Shore identifies seven "cognition traps" that cause bad decisions and uses historical events to show their impact. The cognition traps were a bit vague and repetitive for my liking. They seemed to have a hindsight is 20/20 feeling to them. That part of the book seems to boil down to, "Have an open mind". The history on the other hand was quite enjoyable. For a person who was never that interested in history in school, the historical events describ ...more
Pamela
Enjoyable and informative exploration of major blunders. Examples and analysis of faulty cognition including some involving Edison, IBM, Vietnam, etc. along with examples of excellent cognition such as the King of Siam (The King And I) and Eisenhower. The author was warm and open.
Gary
Two words: cognition traps. Read this book and you'll most likely recognize many of these traps in your own thinking or in that of those around you. This book can be a part of the path towards awareness of the traps, and thus possibly allow you to avoid the problems they bring on. It's an easy, fast read with numerous good, short vignettes that illustrate the author's various traps. Recommended.
Danella Shea
This wasn't so much a book to help a person avoid future blunders, but rather a book of hindsight. It looked at people, situations and quite a few moments in our history and explained the blunder after the fact. The author invented several psycho-babble-y type words to explain the circumstances leading to the blunder but I still found it entertaining.
Cara
A look at some of the cognitive errors that people make resulting in bad decisions. The author, as someone involved in teaching about national security, has an interesting perspective on decision-making that added a little bit extra to the book.
Khaled
A great book, it was one of many books we did discussed at a ( critical class) but by all means it was the best. I had the honor to see the author of this book wandering through theschool campus. A blind man help us to see and discover the bias around us or in his tactful words why smart poeple make bad decisions ...more
Deborah Alvarez
Good info historically and militarily, but I was expecting something different in terms of personal relationships. This is geared more to a political world-view assessment. I don't seem to fall into any of the cognitive traps this book espouses, but some people might be able to find themselves in this book.
Hawkgrrrl
I really enjoyed this book - it's a fast read, and the examples are salient (if a little heavy on justified criticism of US foreign policy). While the same ideas can be found in other books I've read, they were presented in a memorable way with catchy names, making it easier to remember them.
Tony
This is a great book about cognitive traps in which humans often find themselves. It uses great historic examples to illustrate when people fell prey to them or managed to avoid them. It is a great book for anybody looking to become more aware of their thoughts and actions.
Kater Cheek
This book was a nice refresher course in certain areas of psychology, confirmation bias among them, but the author doesn't come up with any brilliantly original ideas. If psychology fascinates you, you will find this book interesting, but it does drag a little in the middle.
S.
Really fun/interesting read thus far. Update: I've finished the book and it remained interesting. Learn how we make decisions through: causfusion, infomisering, infovoiding, and other ways we decide things without really thinking them through. Highly recommended.
Jeff
I just couldn't read this book. I made it through the first chapter and then just couldn't motivate myself to finish it. I guess it just didn't pique my interest, though the subject matter of how people make mistakes with a historical context is a good topic.
Rachel
Nov 18, 2009 Rachel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rachel by: DJ Grothe from Point of Inquiry
This was good, and I do recommend it. I thought it would have a little more history. The advice it gives is so general as to be a bit obvious, maybe. All in all a good read, or in my case, a listen, as I listened to the whole thing on my ipod.
Kevin Connery
OK, but not what it purported to be. It does point out how people make mistakes, but used some very fuzzy categories and solutions. Infomiser, flatview, cure-allism, and other coined words don't help.
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Zachary Shore is Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He previously served on the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State through an International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations. He has also worked as a National Security ...more
More about Zachary Shore...
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“Expertise in any given single area is not enough to guarantee either prudent policies or the avoidance of blunders.” 0 likes
“While theories are a necessary aspect of planning, their true danger comes when we forget how often individuals, businesses, and nations defy the prototypes we assign them.” 0 likes
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