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On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits

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3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  240 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Our brains are marvels, hard-wired by millions of years of evolution to boast a number of mental shortcuts, biases, and tricks that allow us to negotiate our complicated lives without overthinking every choice and decision we have to make. Unfortunately, those ancient shortcuts don't always work to our advantage in our modern lives—when we don't also think slowly and ratio ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Tantor Media (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 924)
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Monica
Somewhat interesting, but bothersome biases and beliefs of the author got in the way.
Clark Hays
Fascinating and approachable

Note: this review first appeared on Amazon

This is one of those books -- like "Connected" (Christakis and Fowler) and "The Politics of Happiness" (Bok) -- that gets beneath what we think we think and helps us arrive at what we actually think and, more importantly, why we think it. "On Second Thought" is light and easy to read, which is not a critique as it is loaded with illuminating studies from the edges of this science frontier. This is a powerful and illuminating f
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Doug
This book is about little mental short-cuts we make and are often unaware of. Explanations through Evolutionary Psych. are common. Some of them are just amusing and some are rather thought provoking. If you have an interest in psychology and how we think, or think we think, then I recommend it. The chapters are not all that related, so it is a good book to just pick up and read a bit, then lay by the side until you need some reading material. Great coffee shop book for me. Informs me of some of ...more
Kater Cheek
I've read so much pop science on neurology that I'm always skeptical that a book will surprise and delight me with new information, and I'm delighted to say that this book does. Herbert wins by focusing on heuristics, an important idea that is usually touched on in any books that discuss how people think but rarely to this extent.

Heuristics affect people in every way from dieting to political game theory. You may have heard of this as "priming" and the most commonly repeated study is the one whe
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Rachel
An easy and interesting read, though the conclusions Herbert draws from some of the studies are a little out there. Also, there's no real unifying message to the book. There's no concluding chapter to speak of, the book just ends after his chapter on how we "default."

The studies are intriguing, but being a Psychology major has made me a little wary of "taking someone's word for it" when it comes to results. Especially when the results are then used to justify some overarching message in the give
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Sal Coraccio
Good, what amounts to, an introductory or at best, high-level, book on cognitive psychology; heuristics in particular.

Certainly fascinating material ("framing" is my particular fave)regardless of the delivery mechanism. I have a tough time saying anything really laudatory about the thing, though it really is quite good. The presentation is more of a journalistic report, rather than a scientific exploration with more exposition than contextual explanation. For the latter there are plenty to choos
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Emily
Listened to this one on Audible and found it a very interesting overview of the shortcuts that our brains are hard-wired to take in different areas. Shortcuts that made sense throughout our evolution to keep us alive may not always be either valid or helpful in the modern world, and this book outlines a different category in each chapter and gives explanation and examples of each. It's meant as an introduction for the layman and is very approachable, probably not detailed enough for someone actu ...more
Mark Speed
Your brain is destroying your life. You. Yes you, brain! You are an incompetent idiot! You were designed for a simple life on the savanna, and your primitive behaviour is trashing my life, and the lives of everyone on this planet.

True story. I was reading this book and having internet dates at the same time. For the first time in years, I had a terrific date. We were compatible on every level. The only downer was that she was then unavailable for ten days due to family and work commitments. Stup
...more
Pete Welter
I got this book because I've become interested in our decision-making process...and especially how many of our decisions are made on autopilot where hidden and sometimes counter-intuitive biases have significant effects on what we do.

"On Second Thought" is a survey across a diverse set of heuristics - mental shortcuts - that we use to figure out what to do in a variety of situations. Herbert categories these heuristics into three major categories: those involving the body, those involving numbe
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Kara
I like what the author tried to do here. But I think it has been done better. For example, I far preferred The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonical which seemed to site several of the same studies, and came to the same conclusions, but gave more suggestions for application in the readers' lives.
Gypsy Lady
Page 29
We “see” the world through the lens of our emotions, and our vision in turn shapes our fears, motivation, and self-esteem. Call it the visionary heuristic.

Page 70
The Greek system embodies much that is sad and unflattering about human nature, especially the cruelty of exclusion and the often desperate need to belong. Psychologists are very interested in these dynamics, because they apply beyond the frat house. Why is inclusion in groups and clubs so important to us, and what cognitive and
...more
Anna
Sep 16, 2013 Anna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in how the brain works
Shelves: 2013
Interesting how the brain works. This book picks a to of things the brain does (shortcuts, ways of thinking that are not always beneficial nowadays etc) and examines them. By understanding better how the brain works you can train yourself better. Whether it's understanding why prices are always ending like they are, or retraining your ideas of aging more gracefully (the people who have the worst mental image about the old people tend to age the worst), or tackling your undoables or quitting the ...more
Renna
The sort of science book that wears out its welcome before its pages are over. Repeated pop culture references seem dated and do nothing to further the content of this book. While the premise is how to outsmart your brain's habits, the actuality of the book is a discussion of those habits but nothing about overcoming them.
Heather
It would probably have been more interesting if I hadn't already read tons of books like it. The same examples get old after a while. So does the repetitive use of the word "heuristic". Enough already!

The format is a bit textbookish, so I recommend this to all students of heuristics. Otherwise, go read some Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Ariely, How We Decide or Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.
Z
Fascinating. I think it is useful be familiar with the way our minds tend to work on an unconscious level, since we do most of our thinking quickly and and unconsciously...the heuristics (universal and hardwired unconscious biases)discussed in this book will probably not come as a shock to intelligent people, but the extent to which these heuristics continue to influence people, and possible reasons these heuristics developed in the first place, is eye-opening and quite genuinely entertaining... ...more
Andrea James
The author doesn't really offer anything more than the standard behavioural economics experiments and heuristics but it's written reasonably entertaining so worth a peruse if you are a fast reader and fancy some light reading.
Eslam Elsheikh
I really enjoy reading the books including physical evidence, as there is a thin space for you to argue!!
Sabin Serban
Teaching by using examples, not a bad way to do it, but a bit more meat would have gone a long way.
Marcus
This book is full of the type of psychology studies that make me really question the validity of psychology as a scientific discipline. There is surely something to the idea that decision making process is susceptible the bad influence of evolved mental heuristics, but I feel like that concept is stretched to the breaking point here.

Several of the studies in the book are found here http://psychfiledrawer.org/ in the "couldn't replicate" category which is, in case you're wondering, not a good pla
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Andres
Really dug this book. I will say the intro threw me. It brought up a great example of people misjudging avalanches and basically said it would discuss ways to handle flaws in our thinking. While the book did a great job going over experiments on how our brain works (my cup of tea, exactly!), it didn't really stick to this thesis. The avalanche example was kind of absent too. That said, excellent quick read if you want another behavioral psychology/economics book on how your brain is fooling you.
Gloria
My minor in college was philosophy, but it just as easily could have been psychology. I really enjoyed listening to this book, hearing how the brain which got the human race to where we are today is still there, perhaps impacting our everyday decisions. The book deals with human heuristics - hardwired tendencies we apparently inherit at birth. Perhaps more interesting to me because of my computer background, heuristics are techniques used in computer programming to simulate human-style reasoning ...more
Suzanne
Had I not been listening to this book I might have given up on it. The thing to remember is though important to understand how we might be hardwired, we have the ability to control and choose our own behaviors. Being aware of "why" I might find myself leaning towards hard wiring thinking, I still am in control. This could be the difference in my worldview that we have a Creator and not left to evolution. I am glad I did stick with it.
Kami
An easy read that goes more into what are the heuristic steps we take and how have we identified them, and less about what we should do with these. If you're looking to learn more about psychology and how your brain works, it's worth a read. I suppose knowing what the heuristics are may influence decision-making, but I don't feel like I walked away knowing how to 'out-smart' my brain.
Marsha
This book explains the extremely interesting idea of heuristic thinking, a concept I hadn't heard of before. It explains some of the brain's hard-wired thinking patterns and how they can be helpful or disastrous depending on the situation. If you wonder about maladaptive thinking patterns you or people around you have, this book can shed some light on that.
Dallas Hockley
It's a very intriguing read as it points out and scientifically supports how many of our decisions and actions are biased by a number
of discovered innate heuristics. The wrong is clear and cites numerous works from many psychologists. Worth it if you're curious about your innate biases and to overcome them or at least be aware of them in your life.
djgalvan
A little more interesting than Connected, this book nevertheless failed to capture my attention the way I anticipated. I felt that it took a lot of time to explain relatively simple heuristics; still it did at least do so in an entertaining way, without being as verbose as some nonfiction books that quote various and detailed studies manage to be.
Tamra
Good quote: "The mind has a ...tendency to drift around a firm anchor, depending on the cognitive tides and currents...Our thoughts are dynamic but out mental anchors limit our choices." Another quote: "We see the world through the lens of our emotions and our vision, in turn, shapes our fears, motivation and self-esteem."
Wayland Smith
Really interesting read on how your brain works, the short cuts it takes, and why. It's a scientific book, but written so that it's both easy and fun to read. It'll make you think, and then make you think about WHY you're thinking that way.
Colleen
The heuristics explained are fascinating. I now find myself understanding why I think in certain patterns and why it is or isn't helpful. I really like the many case studies and psychologists experiments detailed in the book.
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