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You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself

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

Whether you’re deciding which smart phone to purchase or which politician to believe, you think you are a rational being whose every decision is based on cool, detached logic, but here’s the truth: You are not so smart. You’re just as deluded as the rest of us--but that’s okay, because being deluded is part of being human.

Growing out of David McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart reveals that every decision we make, every thought we contemplate, and every emotion we feel comes with a story we tell ourselves to explain them, but often these stories aren’t true. Each short chapter--covering topics such as Learned Helplessness, Selling Out, and the Illusion of Transparency--is like a psychology course with all the boring parts taken out.

Bringing together popular science and psychology with humor and wit, You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of our irrational, thoroughly human behavior.

302 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2011

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About the author

David McRaney

7 books491 followers
At his blog You Are Not So Smart—and in the book of the same title—David focuses on why humans are so "unaware of how unaware we are." His newest book, You Are Now Less Dumb, expands on these ideas of self-delusion and offers ways to overcome the brain's natural tendencies.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,223 reviews
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,197 followers
June 8, 2013
Turns out everyone thinks they are somehow smarter than the people around them, everyone. We all are guilty of it. We walk into a Wal-mart, take a look around us and think “what a bunch of freaks, and always in Wal-mart” …..But we are also in Wal-mart as we make this judgment. I don’t go into that store unless they are the only option, but every time I look around and I think to myself “do I also look like a freak by just entering this store, then magically go back to normal when I leave?”

I once thought that I had free will and nothing that Sam Harris wrote proved otherwise, but David McRaney may have done just that. Nothing we do as humans have anything to do with individual choice. We are all manipulated by the media and a bunch of biases and fallacies.

Here are a couple of examples of this…….

“Confirmation Bias

The Misconception: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis.

The Truth: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information which confirmed what you believed while ignoring information which challenged your preconceived notions.”

So, this wasn’t news to me. I am not ever going to watch Faux News for any reason, unless I had a job that forced me to do it. Skeeter, down the street would rather eat an arugula salad before watching Rachel Maddow for ten seconds. We are only going to pay attention to the things that confirm our beliefs……this explains the existents of Rush Limbaugh. That being said, I’m right and Skeeter is not.

“Extinction Burst

The Misconception: If you stop engaging in a bad habit, the habit will gradually diminish until it disappears from your life.

The Truth: Any time you quit something cold turkey, your brain will make a last-ditch effort to return you to your habit.”

Yeah, anyone who has dieted (most probably everyone, unless you are one of those skinny people who “just can’t seem to gain weight”…..everyone hates you) has experienced this. You are going along well, you are hitting your goals….you hit a plateau or life gets in the way and you break from the diet a little. Before you know it you are back to eating the stuff you really shouldn’t. This is due to the ‘extinction burst’. Food tastes good, some food tastes better than others and since we evolved to survive we are hard wired to crave high calorie food because that is what determined life or death. Ironically, that’s what’s killing us today. When a reward is taken away from us, we throw a fit…….but if we still don’t get the reward we give up. That’s why you never give in to a two year old during an extinction burst.

“The Just-World Fallacy

The Misconception: People who are losing at the game of life must have done something to deserve it.

The Truth: The beneficiaries of good fortune often do nothing to earn it, and bad people often get away with their actions without consequences”

This is a big one. All those people who believe that poor people are poor because they want to be and/or are not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps because they just want to live easy off the system and have no idea how to work hard, these people are fooled by this fallacy. Never, do they take into account their own fortunate beginnings as the reason they themselves are not amongst the poor. The reason they are not poor is not only because they worked really hard (I’m not saying they didn’t work hard, and that is a big part of sucess), but they are not poor because they didn’t come from poor most likely. Many people have risen above their poor beginnings (Ben Franklin) but it’s a very hard cycle to overcome.

Those who have a hard time overcoming this may have this fallacy to blame……

“Learned Helplessness

The Misconception: If you are in a bad situation, you will do whatever you can do to escape it.

The Truth: If you feel like you aren’t in control of your destiny, you will give up and accept whatever situation you are in.”

This is all about having some control in your life. If all choice is taken away from a person they tend to give up. Residents in nursing homes do better if they get to choose how to arrange their furniture than those who have everything done for them. If you are living in a bad situation and you don’t have any control over what happens to you, you don’t have access to higher education because it is financially out of reach. No one will give you a job no matter how hard you try because you aren’t dressed nice enough, and you don’t have enough education…….these people will accept their situation most likely than not.

This book was very interesting. But I’m feeling a little down because I learned that I am not so smart and I am not that special.

Thanks David for the depression…..*sigh*

All kidding aside, I really enjoyed this book. Here’s a website if you would like to read more.

You are not so smart.

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Profile Image for Kent.
50 reviews22 followers
June 21, 2012
I love Radiolab. It is the best thing. Here are the episodes that you should listen to instead of reading this book:

Deception - http://www.radiolab.org/2008/mar/10/
Memory and Forgetting - http://www.radiolab.org/2007/jun/07/
Placebo - http://www.radiolab.org/2007/may/17/
Morality - http://www.radiolab.org/2007/aug/13/
Stress - http://www.radiolab.org/2007/apr/09/
Choice - http://www.radiolab.org/2008/nov/17/

Also the other ones. Mmmmm Radiolab.

The good thing about YANSS:WYHTMFOFWYMISFA46OWYDY, as I like to abbreviate it, is the sheer accretion of self-delusions. There are a lot of them, and McRaney presents a compelling case that we are profoundly self-delusional creatures.

The bad thing about YANSS:WYHTMFOFWYMISFA46OWYDY is the storytelling. This book is little more than a long list of studies. Plus, if you've ever studied Psychology at all (or listened to Radiolab. Did I mention that you should listen to Radiolab?), most of this will already be familiar to you.

One trap that McRaney didn't mention is the one that he consistently falls into: confusing correlation with causality. Very few of the studies that this book describes establish causality. As such, many, if not most of the conclusions that the book derives are simply not rigorous.

This foray into pop-science has proven unsatisfying. I'm not sure yet if I dislike the genre or if this was just a bad example.
Profile Image for Terri Timonen.
22 reviews33 followers
December 10, 2012
Readers Beware!!! NEVER believe a book that presents "all-or-nothing" concepts as absolute truth!! And that's exactly what David McRaney's book attempts to do. Each chapter identifies a "Misconception" and a "Truth" attempting to persuade the reader to believe "The Truth" as the author sees it...biased and supported with biased, shallow research. What the author fails to do is provide evidence to the contrary. He presents a very subjective, one-sided argument in favor of his beliefs on a variety of so-called "myths" and "facts".

For example, one chapter titled "The Bystander Effect" states this misconception When someone is hurt, people rush to their aid and the truth as The more people who witness a person in distress, the less likely it is that any one person will help. The author defines this "truth" even more simply: "I could help them, but I'm sure someone else will come along." Followed by "Everyone thinks that. And no one stops.

Is David McRaney for real?! True, this phenomenon has been researched and proven to be credible among social psychologists, BUT it is NOT an all-inclusive/exclusive "doctrinal truth" for the entire human population. David McRaney chooses not include the "rest of the story". He lists only specific, well-known events that prove his point. But what about the population of people that have stepped in to help someone who was hurt? Where are those studies? Non-existent? Maybe. Why? Because they are incidental. You might hear about some altruistic stranger who came to someone's rescue on the evening news every now and then, but that's about it.

I have personally experienced a few "emergency" situations among a crowd and the Bystander Effect was never the case. Sweeping conclusions that present outcomes as either black or white are very dangerous. This author is irresponsible at best and deceptive at worst. I will concede that some of the chapters do provide "food for thought", especially The Straw Man Fallacy which addresses how we attempt to win an argument by re-framing our opponent's position (i.e.making it personal, etc.). The only conclusion one can glean from this book is that the "misconceptions" and "truths" David McRaney identifies are unprovable. Circumstantial. Biased. To lump the behavior of the majority of the human population into these "boxed" fallacies is insulting.

If you're a free-thinker, creative problem-solver, or desire to see the whole picture beyond "the elephant's trunk", then this book will most likely be a waste of time...unless of course anger spurs you to action. In that case, I would make it a case study.
Profile Image for B Schrodinger.
305 reviews659 followers
March 7, 2014
This great work boils down to: "Despite millions of years of evolution your brain is a jumbled mess of neurons that covers up it's downfalls by lying to you constantly. Here are just 46 ways your brain is being an asshole."

Just like Dawkins argues against a creator in showing that evolutionary adaptations can be flawed and seemingly badly designed, David McRaney shows in this work that despite those claims that the human mind is one of the most complex structures in the known universe, it's shoddily put together, with bits that don't work together and bits that were added on at the last minute and that the only way it 'works' is that it constantly lies to itself about the reality it exists in. You have in your head a used car salesman.

David demonstrates the limitations of our brains by picking out these 46 different ways our brain lies to us and writing a small chapter on each. Each lie is well researched and refers to different published studies for evidence. For example the chapter on why you have too many Facebook friends talks about studies about the limitations of how many people you can hold in a social circle in the physical world and compares these figures to the data on Facebook. He also talks about the reason why you 'befriend' all those people using the internet.

Most interesting are the chapters that highlight the limitations in vision and the comprehension of sensory input. You are not a little person in a box watching a ultra high definition surround sound movie of your existence. More like your homonculus watches a scratchy silent movie from 1908 with no sound and missing film cells, a friend tells them about the soundtrack over the phone.

There are also great chapters on how you think you are better than everyone else out there. He actually gives statistics on how many people think they are better than average drivers and how many people think they have a better than average IQ. The figures will astound you.

I highly recommend this fun and enlightening read. It certainly will make you question everything you think and perceive, which is a practice that all science endorses strongly. This book is so much more than your average pop-psychology book that litters the popular science section of bookshops and libraries. It holds no punches and approaches the subject from a critical standpoint. Weeks after reading this book I'm still laughing at my brain when I know it's lying to me.
Profile Image for Clumsy Storyteller .
350 reviews727 followers
April 1, 2016
We have endless internal dialogues that assist with interpretation of information and decision-making based on what we know , feel , and think it's right but the truth is we are all delusional ... somehow ! All of us think we’re smarter than everyone else , just like we believe that we’re better looking, funnier, more attractive and more likeable and more generally competent than everyone else. Of course we’re not , we are naturally hindered into thinking in certain ways and not others, and the world around us is the product of dealing with these biases, not overcoming them.

The three main subjects in this book are cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies. These are components of your mind

Cognitive biases:

cognitive biases are predicable patterns of thought and behavior that lead you to draw incorrect conclusions, You and everyone else come into the world preloaded with these pesky and completely wrong ways of seeing things, and you rarely notice them. Many of them serve to keep you confident in your own perceptions or to inhibit you from seeing yourself as a buffoon. The maintenance of a positive self-image seems to be so important to the human mind you have evolved mental mechanisms designed to make you feel awesome about yourself. We tend to like people who think like us. If we agree with someone’s beliefs, we’re more likely to be friends with them. While this makes sense, it means that we subconsciously begin to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our world views, since we surround ourselves with people and information that confirm what we already think.

For example : Hindsight Bias
THE MISCONCEPTION: After you learn something new, you remember how you were once ignorant or wrong.
THE TRUTH: You often look back on the things you’ve just learned and assume you knew them or believed them all along

"I KNEW IT" !!!
You tend to edit your memories so you don’t seem like such a dimwit when things happen you couldn’t have predicted. When you learn things you wish you had known all along, you go ahead and assume you did know them. This tendency is just part of being a person, and it is called the Hindsight Bias.

another example : Introspection

THE MISCONCEPTION: You know why you like the things you like and feel the way you feel.
THE TRUTH: The origin of certain emotional states is unavailable to you, and when pressed to explain them, you will just make something up.

You think you know why you like what you like but if someone asks you : Why you like that book or painting or music? according to research, your explanation is probably going to be total bullshit , when you are faced with a decision in which you are forced to think about your rationale, you start to turn the volume in your emotional brain down and the volume in your logical brain up. You start creating a mental list of pros and cons that would never have been conjured up if you had gone with your gut. As Wilson noted in his research, “Forming preferences is akin to riding a bicycle; we can do it easily but cannot easily explain how.”

heuristics :

Heuristics are mental shortcuts you use to solve common problems. They speed up processing in the brain, but sometimes make you think so fast you miss what is important. Instead of taking the long way around and deeply contemplating the best course of action or the most logical train of thought, you use heuristics to arrive at a conclusion in record time. Some heuristics are learned, and others come free with every copy of the human brain. When they work, they help your mind stay frugal. When they don’t, you see the world as a much simpler place than it really is

logical fallacies:

Logical fallacies are like math problems involving language, in which you skip a step or get turned around without realizing it. They are arguments in your mind where you reach a conclusion without all the facts because you don’t care to hear them or have no idea how limited your information is. You become a bumbling detective. Logical fallacies can also be the result of wishful thinking. Sometimes you apply good logic to false premises; at other times you apply bad logic to the truth. For instance, if you hear Albert Einstein refused to eat scrambled eggs, you might assume scrambled eggs are probably bad for you. This is called the argument from authority. You assume if someone is super-smart, then all of that person’s decisions must be good ones, but maybe Einstein just had peculiar taste.

With each new subject in this book you will start to see yourself in a new way. The more you try to analyze it the more you hurt your brain :'(
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
804 reviews2,538 followers
September 12, 2014
This is a fun, pop-psychology book that kept me interested from beginning to end. It is arranged into 48 chapters, each devoted to a different misconception that we are all subject to. Some of these misconceptions have technical names that will be unfamiliar to most people. For example, I never heard of "apophenia", which is the idea that coincidences are so miraculous, they must have meaning. The "truth" is that "Coincidences are a routine part of life, even the seemingly miraculous ones. Any meaning applied to them comes from your mind."

Another misconception is "Brand Loyalty". This is the idea that you prefer the things you own over those you don't, because of rational choices you made. The truth is that you prefer things that you own, because "you rationalize your past choices to protect your sense of self". Retailers understand this misconception, and try to prevent you from suffering from "buyer's remorse."

The "expectation" misconception is a classic. Wine experts can be fooled by altering their expectations. Experiments have shown that putting wines into bottles with cheap or expensive labels can alter the expectations of wine drinkers and experts alike, thus changing their opinions of wine quality. Some manufacturers put high prices on their products in order to persuade consumers of their high quality. I think of this, when I see high-priced headphones of certain brands.

Many of the misconceptions are described in terms of classic psychology experiments. They are all fun to read, and made me laugh (at myself). The only problem is that I've read about most of these experiments in other books. That is the problem with pop psychology books--after a while, they repeat the very same material over and over.

I do wish the book had an index. Here I am trying to remember where I read various anecdotes and experiments, and I am at a loss as to where to find them. Many of the chapters reiterate, "You are not so smart". So, the tone of the book might rub some readers the wrong way. But I felt like it was just written that way to add a bit of humor, not to be condescending.
Profile Image for Megan.
1,541 reviews188 followers
June 2, 2013
The way this book is written is SO condescending! Every chapter he says "You are not so smart!", but when it comes to himself I guess that doesn't apply? Why do I say this, you ask? Well chapter 2 is all about confabulation, , and he says that everybody does this so much and so often that we can never be sure about facts. And then chapter 4 is about Hindsight Bias, how you look back on things and even if you didn't know them or had a feeling that the opposite would happened you would subconsciously change it to make yourself right. Well considering just these two chapters, how can he be so sure that he's correct when he's tell us something that happen to him? In chapter 7 he "clearly" remembers how "smart" he was when hurricane Katrina was on its way - how he was one of the only people stocking up on weeks' worth of supplies, while others were only getting a couple days worth. Here's a quote from that chapter:
When Hurricane Katrina bore down on my home in Mississippi, I remember going to the grocery store for food, water, and supplies and being shocked by the number of people who had only a few loaves of bread and couple bottles of soda in their carts. I remember their frustration as they waited behind me with all my bottled water and canned goods. I told them, "Sorry, but you can never be too prepared." Their response? "I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal." I often wonder what those people did for the two weeks we were without electricity and the roads were impassable.

Maybe the majority of people wouldn't be able to solve the puzzles in this book, but I found most of them to be very easy and think others would too, so it was annoying how after giving his little tests he would say "You are not so smart!".

I didn't like this book and don't recommend it.
Profile Image for Lara.
217 reviews166 followers
December 31, 2011
like to think that I know just how advertisers are trying to sway my thoughts and opinions and gain my buying power. I also like to think that I am in complete control of such things as my thoughts, opinions, and buying power. But, evidently, I am not so smart.

I like the color red. I also like to think that I know exactly why I like the color red. But, David McRaney says that I am not so smart.

I like to think that I am a good person who would rush to the help of others in an emergency. I also like to think that I can think quickly on my feet and would know exactly what to do in such an emergency. But the book I just read tells me that I am not so smart. (Sometimes I like to think that I would have no idea what to do in an emergency. Just so we're clear that at least sometimes I'm smart. Maybe.)

I like having friends. I also like having Facebook friends. I like having more than 150 Facebook friends. But apparently, I am not smart enough to have more than that. You know--because I AM NOT SO SMART.

I could go on, but I will spare you, and let you read about it for yourself in David McRaney's new book You Are Not So Smart (though I bet you were smart enough to figure out that that was the title already) which is based on his popular blog by the same name (that I wasn't smart enough to hear about before now, but have now read daily since).

McRaney has taken his blog and moved it to book format with small, blog-sized chapters which announce a misconception (when you are around others, you feel as if everyone is noticing every aspect of your appearance and behavior) and a reality (people devote little attention to you unless prompted to). McRaney then uses psychological studies and examples to explain the misconception du jour and help us all understand exactly how not smart we are.

Fascinating stuff, people. I really enjoyed reading it. It's the kind of stuff that I can really eat up because it is just so interesting.

That said, I found myself being just the teensyist bit angry at the lack of control I have in my life. Everything around me is apparently manipulating my thoughts and views and I am so unaware of it that I make up lies and reasons to explain my actions. I also don't like how psychology and the brain are the everything. Some of the studies and misconceptions/truths don't match up with my religious views. Especially my beliefs that God answers prayers and that the Holy Ghost can lead and guide us through personal revelation. I'm sure that my brain does play a part in that, but I don't think it's ALL my brain.

But then, I am not so smart.
Profile Image for Vui Lên.
Author 1 book2,391 followers
May 4, 2021

Mua cả 2 năm rồi hay sao mà giờ mới động tới em nó.

Sách sử dụng nhiều nghiên cứu tâm lý để chỉ ra mô thức trong suy nghĩ/hành động/cảm xúc sai mà chúng ta vẫn làm đều đặn từ ngày này sang ngày khác. Chắc vì làm nhiều quá nên tác giả mới đặt tựa đề là bạn không thông minh lắm đâu. Mình thích đặt tựa là bạn không hiểu về mình lắm đâu hoặc những gì mà bạn biết về bản thân lâu nay chỉ là ảo ảnh hư vô haha.

Mình nghĩ sách phù hợp với những bạn nào muốn tìm hiểu nhiều hơn về cách mà tâm trí vận hành, những lối tắt nguy hiểm trong tư duy và một vài ngụy biện.

Tác giả có phần tham lam nên đưa vô rất nhiều ví dụ, nghiên cứu đồ. Dẫn tới có phần hơi dài lòng một tẹo. Mình sẽ đọc cuốn tiếp theo là Bạn bớt ngu ngơ rồi đấy xem sao.
Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,350 reviews819 followers
January 27, 2021
We think we're really smart, that we are much better than the stupid people around us, but in reality, our brains take shortcuts to make situations easier for us to handle. This book divulges 48 ways that show we aren't really all that smart.

This isn't so much a full review as just my brief impressions. Which are, in one word: WOW! This book was incredible to read! I spent an entire 2+ hour flight reading this, unable to put it down and read my fiction books!

Some of these examples I had heard of before (such as the Invisible Gorilla experiment and how we rewrite our memories). Others just astounded me, such as how our brains can't really hold more than about 150 people or the many ways we are bad at statistics (Affect Heuristic, Illusion of Control, etc.). I thought it was particularly clever how McRaney made sure in each section to say "you are not so smart" at least once; it never came off repetitive or condescending.

About the only complaint I have is how some of these 48 examples overlap, such as with Aprophenia and Consistency Bias. It was sometimes difficult to differentiate the differences or, I should say, understand why the author split the two items apart instead of tie them together. It did kinda irk me that the Just-World Fallacy was the explanation for blaming a woman's rape on her dress or going out at night. Sure, some of it may contribute, but I doubt that victim blaming can be 100% attributed to our brains misfiring like this. Also, the book hints that men and women think differently; I still think that society has something to do with that.

But really, don't take these complaints too much to heart (they are VERY mild and barely mentioned). It's a fascinating look at our brains, how we think, and how we can try to overcome some of these fallacies to be more rounded individuals. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Tô.
85 reviews16 followers
August 31, 2017
Nói cho vuông thì sách chỉ đáng 3.5* thôi, nhưng vì là sách mượn mà người mượn còn chưa đọc nên mình dúi thêm cho 0.5 * nữa, gọi là Tô có ghi công :sss
Cuốn sách trình bày về các hiện tượng tâm lý thường gặp (ai hay theo dõi page “10 sự thật thú vị” trên facebook thỉnh thoảng sẽ gặp những bài tương tự và vừa hay, admin của trang cũng đang PR cho cuốn này :))) Chắc do đã đọc nhiều bài viết về lĩnh vực này n��n mình không choáng ngợp đến mức sững sờ về nội dung sách :sss Dù vậy, có một cuốn sách tổng hợp lại và Việt hóa triệt để các thuật ngữ tiếng Anh (hay Đức kiểu Baader-Meinhof = thiên kiến xác nhận) thì cũng tiện cho tra cứu và chấn chỉnh bản thân mỗi khi lên cơn vĩ cuồng :3 Đọc xong dễ nảy sinh ham muốn lôi người khác ra test và nghiêm túc tập ngồi thiền, vì rõ ràng, với một tâm trí quá náo động dẫn tới quá tải như tâm trí người phương Tây thì không có gì lạ nếu nó mắc chứng này tật nọ.
Giờ đến phần bình xét :sss
1. Hình thức sách =)))) Cái bìa như muốn gào vào mặt độc giả: Bạn không biết chữ như bạn tưởng đâuuuuu :/ và ngoài ra, người đọc có thể gặp chứng mù màu đột xuất :3 Sách dày nhưng đóng keo ở gáy hơi mỏng nên chưa gì đã bị gãy gáy :<
2. Nội dung sách:
- Các bài viết trong sách được trình bày khoa học, sáng sủa, theo cấu trúc: Tiêu đề - 1 đoạn tóm tắt về hiểu lầm và sự thật - thân bài (tập trung giải diễn giải + dẫn chứng) - kết luận rút ra. Tuy nhiên, cách viết hơi cứng nhắc, tuy có sự tương tác với người đọc nhưng thiếu chút dí dỏm thường thấy ở những loại sách tương tự. Ngoài ra, cách chia Mục lục sách đi lần lượt theo từng bài viết/hiện tượng dễ gây mệt não nếu đọc liên tục, nên phân theo nhóm cho người đọc tìm điểm khác và giống nhau.
- Sách phân tích nhiều hiện tượng tâm lý ta rất hay gặp trong cuộc sống dưới góc độ khoa học, ví dụ như Thiên kiến tự đề cao, Sự ngụy biện của tay thiện xạ Texas, Thiên kiến xác nhận, Nội quan, Sự tự nghiệm về tính đại diện… Hôm bữa mình có tình cờ xem cùng 1 bộ phim trên cùng một web với 1 thằng đệ trong 1 buổi tối. Trong khi mình càm ràm về nội dung phim thì nó cứ cố thuyết phục mình rằng chuyện xem trùng này là… định mệnh :ssss Rất hy vọng nó mua cuốn sách này đọc và ngộ đạo chứ mình mình nguyền rủa bất kỳ thứ định mệnh dở hơi nào đưa m��nh đến xem 1 một bộ phim dở tệ như vậy.
- Các dẫn chứng đưa ra chưa thuyết phục mình lắm (mẫu khảo sát thấp, thiếu chú thích và tài liệu tham khảo cụ thể, không nhắc đến việc loại trừ yếu tố gây nhiễu). Đưa 1 nhóm người để khảo sát hành vi/phản ứng mà bỏ qua vấn đề văn hóa gốc thì hơi sai :/ Ví dụ như trong bài khảo sát về mức độ ảnh hưởng của từ ngữ đến thái độ của con người (cho 3 nhóm thao tác với 3 loại từ: bạo lực, trung tính, hợp tác) sau đó thử xem họ sẽ ngắt lời giáo viên ngó lơ mình như thế nào. Trong văn hóa Á Đông, việc ngắt lời người khác, đặc biệt là cấp trên như sếp, người quản lý hoặc thầy giáo là điều tối kị, thường người ta sẽ cố gắng liên lạc bằng mắt và chờ người kia chủ động dừng lại để nghe mình nói chứ hiếm khi ngắt lời :/ Với một cá nhân có 1 đống bạn chuyên “lạm dụng” động từ mạnh trong ngôn ngữ chat như mình thì “tát” “đấm” không phải là bạo lực, tính từ “béo” mới là từ khơi gợi hành vi “bạo lực”! Có nhiều yếu tố ảnh hưởng tới hành vi của một người (tâm trạng, tính khí,...) trong 1 tình huống.
- Một vấn đề khác khiến mình phải suy nghĩ là cách tác giả dùng số xác suất % để đánh giá tính hợp lý của một hành động. Điều này áp dụng lên 1 nhóm thì ổn nhưng áp dụng lên 1 cá nhân thì sai. Mình ví dụ, xác suất một người bị xe ở chiều vuông góc vượt đèn đỏ tông phải khi qua đường là đủ nhỏ để yên tâm qua đường ngay khi đèn xanh bật sáng. Tuy nhiên, đấy là xác suất tai nạn tính trên tổng mấy chục triệu người và tính trên số lần tai nạn/lần qua đường của 1 bình thường có tuổi thọ cao. Nhưng với cá nhân mình, mỗi lần vô tư qua đường thì mình sẽ nhận 50% bị đâm và 50% không. @@ Vậy, vẫn là hợp lý và yên tâm hơn nếu mình luôn quan sát thận trọng cả 2 bên xem có cái xe nào “có vẻ” mất lái đang lao tới không dù điều này sẽ tốn của mình 3s/lần! Đương nhiên, xã hội có người này người kia, ai cũng tư duy như mình thì trong 3s đầu sẽ chẳng có ai qua đường cả :< Nhưng đấy là lựa chọn riêng, không phải họ thông minh hơn hay mình thông minh hơn, ai sống lâu hơn mới quan trọng còn số % là chuyện của UB An toàn giao thông tổng kết mỗi cuối năm.
- Lại nói chuyện thông minh. Một hành vi được cho là thông minh hay không, nhiều khi không nằm ở lúc thực hiện mà là ở kết quả (dù thường làm đúng thì sẽ có kết quả tốt). Ví dụ bạn phanh gấp để tránh đâm xe vào một đứa trẻ và không ai bị làm sao cả ngoài mấy vết trầy thì đấy là… phản ứng nhanh, nhưng nếu việc phanh gấp đó khiến xe bị lết bánh, người bay ra đường và nằm dưới bánh xe tải đang phi tới thì đấy là… ngu! Mọi người khi xem clip sẽ thốt lên kiểu “giá mà nó lanh ý không phanh, để đâm vào cột điện thì chắc giờ vẫn sống” - Kiểu vậy! Việc loài người chúng ta đã tồn tại phát triển đến như mức hiện tại thể hiện sự tiến hóa về mặt não bộ tư duy sao “phù hợp” với đời sống của mình. Tại sao bạn lại cần ghi nhớ mọi thứ cho thật rõ nét trong khi việc đó khiến não bộ bị quá tải mà không vì lí do hữu ích (nguyên lý 80/20)? Tại sao bạn cần phải nhận ra rằng mình không thông minh xinh đẹp, trí nhớ thì tồi, tư duy lại logic kém nếu điều đó làm bạn không vui? Tại sao lại có câu “Ngu si hưởng thái bình” =))))))))) Cho nên, rất có thể "ngu" là mẹ vợ và "hên xui" là vợ của thông minh :3
- Mình rất muốn cùng tác giả thảo luận về xu hướng “tối giản” khi đọc đến bài “Bán rẻ”.
- Cuối cùng thì mình nghĩ, “thông minh” không phải là một từ hợp lý để dùng nhiều đến thế trong cuốn sách này và đưa cả lên bìa, thay bằng “Bạn không như bạn nghĩ về mình” thì… thông minh hơn (hoặc là tác giả quá thông minh khi đưa từ “thông minh” lên bìa vì nó giúp bán chạy hơn :"> ). Và đương nhiên, mình đủ "thông minh" đến mức không cảm thấy bản thân bỗng “tầm thường” “giống người khác đến 85%” sau khi đọc xong cuốn sách này :3
Profile Image for Stoic Reader.
128 reviews13 followers
April 18, 2022
YOU ARE NOT SO SMART by David McRaney is both humbling and comforting -- humbling to know that we are not so smart than we think we are and comforting in the sense that we are wired in seeing the world in some ways and not so good in others. Because of these reading experiences, this book offers a way of looking at our own minds, our thoughts, our memories, our emotions through the prism of cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies. If you want to know why you tend to filter the world around you, why you confabulate, why you are a target and most likely to succumb to cults, why you think you have control and power over the future, why you attribute error on the person and not on the situation, why you have so many friends and likes on social media and yet you have so little in your circle, and many more jawdropping behaviors and studies, this book is for YOU. 👊☺️
Profile Image for Amber.
310 reviews7 followers
April 23, 2015
Sometimes first impressions are the right ones. Below in italics is my original impression of the book after reading the intro:

I've just picked this book up from the library and have only read the introduction, written by the author, who briefly explained why we, as a society, are generally stupid, and how each of us has an internal dialogue that convinces we are much smarter than we are. So, I can't help but wonder what makes this guy think he's one of the rare truly intelligent humans beings who seemingly has enough authority to write a book telling the rest of us how stupid we are. Is he going to explore the fact that it's possible he just thinks he's smart enough to write this book, and that it's perhaps just his internal dialogue telling him that the majority of society is stupid in order to make himself think he is much smarter than he really is? Hmmm... it will be interesting to see where this book goes. As with most informational books, I will probably piddle through this as I feel motivated to read it.

Now that I'm done with it, after spending months piddling through this book (as I thought I would), reading a chapter here, two chapters there, putting down for a week or a month, and picking it back up again, I have decided that while I do like this book, and do think it is informative, I have also found that my original thoughts on my book remain nearly the same....

No matter what way you spin it, according to this book, we are all a bunch of dumb asses. The author, McRaney, reviews 48 different heuristics (mental short cuts) and cites psychological studies to inform us that none of us really think for ourselves, that it is our environment that influences our thoughts and behaviors, that we don't know when we are lying to ourselves, that we only pay attention to the information we believe in and ignore the rest, that we don't understand why we like what we like, that are memories our mostly fiction, and that we have an internal dialogue that convinces us that all this stuff that happens in our head is real, even when it's not. You can try to convince yourself you don't fit most of these descriptions, but then McRaney serves up the self-serving bias to refute that idea. Basically we are all egotistical, whimsical dim wits walking blindly through this world, making more of coincidences than we should and constantly living in an unconscious state of our own fictionalized worlds. No one is self aware, except of course for those conducting the studies and the author of this book. However, I cannot deny that I see a lot of truth what McRaney reveals, I just think that he and the psychologists cited in these studies forget that some of the conclusions they are drawing can come from their own heuristics. Interesting stuff, nonetheless.
Profile Image for Nguyên ngộ ngộ.
197 reviews211 followers
August 19, 2017
Cặp đôi hoàn hảo với cuốn nghệ thuật tư duy rành mạch!
Một trong những quyển sách TWIST NÃO nhất từng đọc. Dùng những dẫn chứng nghiên cứu khoa học để đưa đến những kết luật SỐC TẬN ÓC. Bạn nghĩ rằng...nhưng thực tế là.

Quyển sách khai quật khá nhiều lỗ hỏng điều ẩn chứa trong não, tưởng như vậy mà không phải vậy.
Tưởng rằng mình luôn lý trí, nhưng cảm tính lắm em ơi.
Tưởng rằng mình sáng suốt, nhưng lại luôn bị MỒI.
Tưởng rằng mình logic, ai dè đang CỐ HỢP LÝ HÓA mình thôi.

Nếu đã đọc cuốn này, thì tui nghĩ nên đọc luôn những cuốn
1. Thiên Nga Đen
2. Tất cả chúng ta đều hành xử cảm tính
3. Tư duy nhanh chậm
4. Nghệ thuật tư duy rành mạch.

Cuốn này gây nhiều khoái cảm cho những người thích dòng sách tâm lý học, tư duy!
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,029 followers
December 30, 2017
A quick, informal view of cognitive biases, behaviors, & other glitches that keep us from being the rational beings we believe we are. Each chapter is brief explanation of what brain glitch is being covered. I knew most of them, but found even those chapters interesting as he gives very good examples. It's interesting how & why many of these evolved plus how they're playing out in modern society. Many are used to trick us by advertising, political candidates, & others. Many of these are necessary to even function, but have disastrous consequences when out of hand. Others are just a pain that we have to watch for.

The introduction describes the reason for these. We evolved in a completely different environment that we have created for ourselves now. Snap judgments & prejudices that once saved our lives are now causing issues. The primitive, emotional parts of our brains often come to conclusions that we can't articulate. Sometimes we're influenced by them, other times we can override them, but it can lead to dissonances. Of course, hormones & unconscious senses can factor in. It's amazing we're as rational as we are, which isn't very.

Many of these were drawn directly from his website/blog which is here:
I'll list the table of contents with a brief explanation. Many are actual psychological terms, but some aren't.

Priming - environmental factors causing decisions. The smell of freshly baked bread or cookies can make a house more attractive for sale.
Confabulation - we make up reasons if we don't know one. Our emotional brain decides, we act. Why? Ask us & we'll tell you even though we don't know.
Confirmation bias - If it agrees with our beliefs, it is given more weight than if it disagrees.
Hindsight bias - I knew that! Rewriting ourselves to bolster our self esteem.
The Texas sharpshooter fallacy - painting the bulls eye after the shots for the best effect.
Procrastination - we really should vs. we want.
Normalcy bias - this can't be happening!
Introspection - thinking about thinking, judging our own knowledge. Again, self esteem makes us think better of ourselves.
The availability heuristic -easily recalled given more weight than less well known. News tells us of more disasters, we believe more are happening, even if they're not.
The bystander effect - someone else will do it/no one else is so why should I? Being part of the herd is important.
The Dunning-Kruger effect - I am smarter/better/prettier than I really am, another aspect of bolstering the self esteem.
Apophenia - seeing connections & meaning where none exists. Bad statistical & probability analysis. Part of our egocentric point of view.
Brand loyalty - investment bias. I invested therefore rationalization of better qualities, minimize problems. Similar to or elements of confirmation bias.
The argument from authority - famous or well educated in one area carrying weight in another where they are no better informed than anyone else.
The argument from ignorance - very similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect, the more you the less certain you are.
The straw Man Fallacy - shifting the point to a limited fantasy figure & changing it to more easily refute.
The ad hominem fallacy - shifting the point from the issue to the speaker's status.
The just-world fallacy - belief in Karma
The public goods game - self interest run rampant? Sort of.
The ultimatum game - status/fairness trumps rationality, similar to previous.
Subjective validation - if it pertains to me, it is more likely correct. Astrology couldn't exist without it. We tend to notice what fits us & disregard that which doesn't.
Cult indoctrination - belief in a person or ideology as a whole, tendency to discount the bad.
Groupthink - fitting in, not making waves, even when really dumb. Bay of Pigs. Every group needs a Devil's Advocate or, as he puts it, a disagreeing asshole.
Supernormal releasers - existing response tendency magnified. Junk food, Barbie dolls (7:10 waist hips ratio healthy, 5:10 super sexy, even if not healthy), beetles loving beer bottles.
The affect heuristic - snap judgement of good-bad based on initial, often subconscious impressions. An emotional response that is tough to overcome. (Instant dislike/love.)
Dunbar's number - 150 is about the max for social connections.
Selling out - everyone does. It's what keeps the economy growing.
Self-serving bias - maintain & enhance self-esteem by favoring self in self narrative.
The spotlight effect - belief we are noticed more than we are.
The third person effect - mass media affects you more than me, so I must limit the incorrect info you receive.
Catharsis - full of anger? Punch a bag & let it out! Except it turns out that doesn't work so well.
The misinformation effect it's far too easy to misremember something when told something else happened. Watch a robbery, look at a line up. If told that the suspect is there, too many people will find him even if he isn't.
Conformity - fitting into the tribe is super important.
Extinction burst - why so many diets fail. Any time you quit something cold turkey, your brain will make a last-ditch effort to return you to your old ways.
Social loafing in a group, everyone slacks off some.
The illusion of transparency belief that others can see what you are thinking & feeling.
Learned helplessness after too many failures, animals just quit trying in the same situation.
Embodied cognition- the brain, while important, is not the only resource we have available to us to generate behavior.
The anchoring effect relying too heavily on the first piece of info no matter its actual veracity or relevance. If the sale price is 1/2 the normal price, it must be a good deal. Used by Harbor Freight & Northern Tool constantly!
Attention - We don't pay attention to everything evenly & that varies by culture. Tunnel vision is amazing, can even miss the gorilla in the room, literally.
Self-handicapping - expecting less of ourselves so that failure doesn't hurt as bad.
Self-fulfilling prophecies - Meet someone, categorize them as an ass & they behave like one. Many times the reason is the way you react to them, so they fulfill what you expect.
The moment - something I'd been waiting for & had expected to hear about in other contexts. We are not one person, but multiple people, especially the "Now" person (a few seconds to about 3 minutes when memories are either dropped or put into long term memory) & the "Remembered" self (which has little time sense, although he doesn't mention that) which is the narrative self. Happiness is based on satisfying both of these selves. I believe this is also part of the Peak-end rule where we tend to remember averages & endings.
Consistency bias not remembering how we really were/thought/acted, but framing it in how we would today.
The representativeness heuristic again, we're bad at probability. We instinctively believe tails will come up if 6 heads have already appeared, but the probability is still 1 in 2.
Expectation belief that experts can't be fooled. They can as many wine tasters & art critics have found out.
The illusion of control we have very little even over our bodies much less outside them.
The fundamental attribution error believing that other people's behavior, especially bad, is due to personality flaws not environmental factors.

Wikipedia also has a good list of memory biases here:

Well worth the time to listen to & a lot of fun.
Profile Image for Vonia.
611 reviews96 followers
July 9, 2018
This awesome read evidences basic theories to a lot more complicated, the obvious to those you never would believe until you read the data.... but the difference being that the writer backs that up with really good data and/or studies. Some of the "theories"/"ways" you already know like the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, normalcy bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, brand loyalty, the ad hominem fallacy, groupthink, hindsight bias, The anchoring affect, the illusion of transparency, Cognitive Bias, The Fundamental Attribution Error....

There are 48 reasons you are not so smart.... A lot of it also is stuff you knew but didn't know how to label. Which also assists in making you understand it more "insightfully", with less denial. Reviews say this had the right amount of uncomfortable truth (something along those lines), but I disagree. It was more. More than was comfortable. But none of us want to admit to ourselves that we lie to ourselves, do we? So, yes, pretend this was a scholarly read with a "right" amount of truth, when the truth is, for all of us, it was too much. And we will, the best of us anyways, accept that; understand that as individuals this is the inevitable way for our surviving, and after hating the author for bringing us out of our denial momentarily, lie to ourselves that, no, of course we welcome the truth, thus having to not hate Sir McRaney. Then we will subsequently reshelf this. And go back to our lives of unavoidable lying to ourselves. But, with all our new information, data, evidence, insight filed away, although we will never be one hundred percent honest with ourselves, we can be a little more aware so as to reduce it a little to better the daily interactions, relationships, etcetera in our lives.
Profile Image for Jim.
365 reviews90 followers
January 19, 2019
I enjoyed this book immensely and I found that I could identify many of my own flaws laid bare in these pages. Mr McRaney explains how we have been hardwired to act in certain ways ever since we swung down from the trees and elaborates on how these vestigial impulses and instincts affect how we act and think today. Want to know why you overeat or why you procrastinate? It's all right here.

I think the book is very well organized. McRaney touches on so many topics pertaining to our thoughts and actions that to go in depth on each topic he would have had to write fifty thick books. How many ponderous volumes have been written strictly on memory, for example? He has handled the problem perfectly, providing enough information to give a broad understanding of each topic and then moving on to the next chapter. This has the benefit of providing information without bogging the reader down in extraneous detail.

Sadly, although I finished the book very recently, I don't remember a lot of it...but then, I also can't remember why I originally walked into this room. One thing for sure, I'll be buying a copy of this brilliant publication because I'll be reading it again.

Profile Image for Ian D.
519 reviews57 followers
January 15, 2019
Πριν μερικά χρόνια είχα ένα τετραδιάκι όπου κατέγραφα γενικόλογες φράσεις που συναντούσα σε ωροσκόπια/μέντιουμ/οραματιστές/καφετζούδες, κυρίως για το γενικόλογο του πράγματος και λόγω του ότι μπορούν να εφαρμοστούν σε όλους τους ανθρώπους ανεξαιρέτως. Το αποκαλούσα "Το μαλακιολόγιο".
Fast forward 8 έτη κι ο καλλιτέχνης επιβεβαιώνει την υποψία μου, ότι δηλαδή έχουμε μια συγκεκριμένη αντίληψη για τον εαυτό μας, αρκετά ευμετάβλητη κι επιρρεπή στη αυθυποβολή, ειδικά όταν μας περιγράφει με θετικά χρώματα. Ο γράφων δεν εξαιρείται.

"You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of
yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the
inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done
the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when
hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and
do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be
too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable,
while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be
rather unrealistic."
Δάκρυσα από συγκίνηση που ένας άνθρωπος που δε με γνωρίζει καν, μπορεί να με διαβάσει τόσο καλά. Μισό λεπτό! Μήπως αυτή η παράγραφος δεν περιγράφει και τα υπόλοιπα 7 δισεκατομμύρια ανθρώπων πάνω στη γη; Ακριβώς!

Θα μπορούσε να έχει εναλλακτικό τίτλο "Unconscious biases and how to recognise them" και πρόκειται για ένα πολύ ευχάριστο ανάγνωσμα γύρω από τους τρόπους με τους οποίους αντιλαμβανόμαστε την πραγματικότητα. Τις περισσότερες φορές εσφαλμένα. Λατρεύω τα βιβλία που μου κόβουν τη μαγκιά και ειδικά όταν το κάνουν με ένα τόσο χαριτωμένο κι ενδιαφέροντα τρόπο. Μην το πάρετε προσωπικά. Σχεδόν όλοι το ίδιο "ελαττωματικά" σκεφτόμαστε, όμως αυτό μας εξανθρωπίζει και μας κρατάει υγιείς.

Διαβάστε το αν είστε του tough love και δε σας αρέσει να σας χαϊδεύουν. Οι new age, εναλλακτικοί, hipsters κι αντικομφορμιστές μπορούν να προσπεράσουν (κυρίως γιατί έχει ράμματα και για τη δική τους γούνα).
Profile Image for Jennifer.
253 reviews23 followers
November 4, 2018
Written in a light and humorous tone, You Are Not So Smart is a nice introduction to several different areas of psychology. Never diving too deep into the science, each chapter gives examples and case studies into why we behave and think the way we do. If you are new to psychology, or looking for a light read on the subject, this is a good place to start.
Profile Image for Sean M..
3 reviews
December 25, 2014
Someone once said, "It is far easier to entertain than it is to educate." What McRaney pulls off with shocking ease, in this book, is that rare combination of educational material that is extremely entertaining. What's the difference between this pop psychology book and most of the others out there? The others are relatively boring. The others speak in a professorial manner to prove expertise. McRaney cites studies to bring his points home, but he rarely belabors points. He also explains the complex in a simple, understandable, and entertaining fashion. Some of the other pop psychology books go for entertaining, simple, and understandable, but they do so by titillating you in a base manner. McRaney, to my mind, makes a perfect cut between the two in that it's simple without being base and intellectual without being too professorial. He takes real life situations, places you in them, gives you what you think your reaction would be to them, and explains to you why you won't react in the manner you think you will. He explains why you're not as self-aware, or as smart, as you think you are. The best chapter is the normalcy bias chapter. Check out McRaney's blog, read a few of the chapters he provides there, and buy the book to get the full breadth of this book's brilliance. The only complaint I have is that I can't find any similar books that reach the levels this one has. Mr. McRaney has turned me into an addict for such writing, and everyone else simply falls short.
Profile Image for Noor.
87 reviews49 followers
May 19, 2017
"In the modern world, the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt." - Bertrand Russell

This is a book about logical fallacies and critical thinking. Essentially, humans think they're pretty smart. But in fact, we easily mislead ourselves into thinking we have a greater grasp of our reality than we actually do.

Some parts were a bit repetitive and could have been combined with other chapters of a very similar nature; other parts reinforced studies I've come across in other books. The format really appealed to me - bitesize chunks and easy to read.

Some things I learned:

- Over a few chapters, McRaney argues that our memories are susceptible to manipulation, and that each time we recall a memory, we essentially build it anew. We do not look back at memories like they are video recordings. Thus, eyewitness accounts can often be inaccurate, as we only perceive a small amount of the information around us, often miss major details, and can be influenced by other accounts we hear of the same event. We confabulate and subconsciously lie to ourselves about why we feel or act a certain way.

- Our subconscious behaviour can be easily manipulated by subliminal information, but only if we're unaware of it.

- We procrastinate because the amount of effort involved in a task (metacognition, thinking about thinking) is too overwhelming for us to face; instead, we delay the inevitable in lieu of instant gratification.

- If faced with a natural disaster like a torpedo or earthquake, there is a good chance that you will shut down and fail to mobilise.

- We don't know why we like the things we do, and if we try to think of reasons why, we will often go with what sounds plausible and convince ourselves of that reason, and may even change our initial choice of what we like. This is because we like with the emotional brain but have to describe it with our rational one.

- If there are multiple people around when a person is in distress, it is much less likely for someone to help said person-in-need because we think that eventually someone else will step up (the bystander effect).

- Zero-sum doesn't make sense even though our sense of status/justice means that we would rather ourselves and others get nothing than everyone get something, if one person is to unfairly get more of the share.

- It is only physically possible to maintain a relationship with *roughly* 150 people at once (Dunbar's number).

- People don't care if you have a huge spot on your forehead. They probably won't even notice so stop obsessing over yourself.

- If you 'let it go' and vent your anger, you will likely increase in aggressive behaviour.

There are plenty of other examples, but I'll leave it there!

I can imagine some readers will dislike this book because of their arrogance and they think that it doesn't apply to them. Maybe some chapters won't, but other chapters certainly will. Recognising our limitations is one step to working towards rectifying them. Approach this book with humility and maybe it will benefit you.
Profile Image for Alexander.
50 reviews38 followers
December 3, 2011
If only books like these could be liquefied and piped into the water supply.

Fox News and MSNBC would self-destruct, and democracy might become something more than the "least-worst" option.

YOU ARE NOT SO SMART is antifreeze for your thinkbox.

Granted, there's nothing new here, but having forty-eight of the most fundamental brain-hacking principles of heuristics theory in one populist, user-friendly package, gives one hope that sanity, rationality, and most of all, humility, will occasionally prevail against the banshee hordes of American unreason. We want this sh*t to go mainstream in a serious way.

In terms of presentation, McRaney's breviary of mental hygiene often reads like a compilation of practical jokes concocted by research psychologists to bring our colossal inborn stupidity to light. And employing science to help us laugh at ourselves is the most humanizing of paths to a chastened self-awareness.

Grade: E for Edifying

A nice little omni-tool for dismantling the straitjackets of solipsism.
Profile Image for Charlie Miller.
50 reviews58 followers
June 27, 2020
This is a brilliantly informed collection of key findings in psychology- written with the express intention to systematically tear down your delusions of sophistication. Each chapter addresses a diifferent phenomenon, such as 'the affect heuristic'. It's the kind of information you may have come across parts of elsewhere, like in a TED talk on Youtube perhaps, but having so much of it all in one place all structured around a straightforward aim is very handy.

The person who designed the book cover and title needs to be taken outside and shot. It looks like something from the bargain bucket in the snack shop at the train station. A book by its cover thou must not judge
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,445 reviews191 followers
November 9, 2011
I always like a book that I know I'm going to be thinking about and spouting out facts from long after I close the book; You Are Not So Smart is definitely one of those books. The subject of the book is psychology based but McRaney writes in such a way that these ideas are accessible to everyone even if you don't have a degree in psychology. I found myself saying "Wow" a lot throughout the book.

I like to think of myself as a pretty rational person. I think most of us think that we're pretty rational. McRaney points out that in some subtle ways and some not so subtle ways that we may not be as rational as we think we are. I know that McRaney has definitely made me a lot more conscious of the things that I'm thinking, feeling, or doing. For instance, have you ever been in a situation where you're talking something like an old movie to a friend and then all the sudden you keep seeing it everywhere. They're talking about it in tv. There's an article online. That old movie is suddenly everywhere. McRaney points out that we have a tendency to focus on that information and therefore we seemingly see it everywhere. Cool, eh?

Anyhow, McRaney goes through all sorts of different studies that have been done to separate our commonly held beliefs versus the truths. Some of the studies were hard to read about (let's put it this way; some psychologists were not so kind and gentle) but it helps to make McRaney's point. This book is amazingly fascinating!
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
December 3, 2011
I don't normally consider myself a reader of non-fiction. Okay, yeah, lit crit, and funny things like Damn You Autocorrect! I've even read some Dawkins and such. But I didn't expect this to be something I didn't want to put down. But it is: it made me think a lot about the way I behave, and showed me some of the hypocritical things we all do -- it made me laugh at myself, actually.

It's very easy to understand, but references real psychological experiments and has a reasonably extensive bibliography. It's fairly informal, and has short chapters, so it's very easy to digest. If you're looking to get stuck deep into considering some small aspect of human behaviour, don't pick this: it covers a lot of ground without elaborating beyond the core ideas.

It's the sort of book which will probably have you telling your friends anecdotes from it. I know I've been talking about it a lot, anyway.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,200 reviews271 followers
May 21, 2022
3.5 stars. This was a quick, entertaining read reminding me that I am constantly using irrational thinking to arrive at incorrect conclusions. Although I knew about some of these cognitive biases, heuristics and logical fallacies there were a few ideas that stood out for me.

I was especially intrigued by the idea that it is impossible to make any decision without emotions, which comes from our unconscious mind. I found the whole of idea of our brains being split into three layers: lower (concerned with survival), mid (emotions) and top (reason and calculations), and how these layers interact with each other very fascinating . I will be reading Thinking, Fast and Slow to learn more about this phenomenon.
Profile Image for Paige.
559 reviews122 followers
July 10, 2015
2 or 2 1/2 stars. Why oh why do I get suckered into pop psychology again and again?

This book started out as a blog and maybe it should have stayed that way. It seems like great material for a blog and I've actually started following it in my RSS reader. But a published book? Not so much...

Mostly the delivery rubbed me the wrong way. My first thought about this book was, "Wow, so there really IS a reason English teachers tell you not to write in the second person--it is SUPER annoying." An article or blog post at a time isn't so bad, but when we're talking book-length... Also, for a "self-described psychology nerd," someone who spends a great deal of time and I would assume effort learning about this subject, it seemed like he didn't have all that much respect for the material. For example: "You should always be the first person to break away from the pack and offer help--or attempt escape--because you can be certain no one else will."
Ahh yes...

Should. Always. Certain. No one else. It's even more annoying because the data he JUST cited refutes this statement. He does things like this a few times--make statements that are contradicted by things he JUST CITED. When I took this complaint to Peter, he said that that sort of writing "appeals to the masses" with its "accessibility factor." Well. He just might have a point. But I was still LKSKDfjsdlfasdDSFing about it.

In another example, he talks about Littlewood's Law, stating "He said the average person is alert for about eight hours every day, and something happens to the average person about once a second." O OK. I guess that clears everything up then. ?!?! I suppose you could be more vague if you tried...but you would have to try hard. Please, author, define "something." Without even the attempt to tell us what "something" means in this context, the sentence is worthless. Do sounds a person hears count as "something" that "happens" to them? Words they see? The effect of gravity on their body? The feeling of their socks on their feet? The fact that their cells are metabolizing? Thoughts drifting through their head? The bombardment of UV rays? You can make the argument that billions of things are happening to a person every second, but you gotta set up some kind of definition, some loose parameter of what this "something" that is happening to "the average person" once a second IS. That kind of stuff really doesn't meet my criteria for information or truth.

"If a celebrity basketball player tells you to buy a particular brand of batteries, ask yourself if the basketball player seems like an expert on electrochemical energy storage units before you take the player's word." Right. ...And this is supposed to be changing my world view, my perception of myself, as promised by the book's introduction? The author seems to be under the impression that he providing revelations to unknown mysteries... in really small, easy to digest pieces with moralizing & free advice thrown in.

I think some of my frustration also comes from having been introduced to most of these concepts already--hell, I've written essays and done 40 minute presentations on a few of them. So maybe I'm not really the target audience in the first place. A lot of this information has been out there for a long time, cited all over the place in books and articles. There were a couple of new ideas for me, and I'm appreciative of them, but mostly, as you might guess when a small book has 270 pages & 50 topics, the coverage is shallow. I got a bit over 100 pages in before I put it down. I have it out from the library and I'll probably pick it up to read a few sections every day until its due date. It's not that it's BAD, it just wasn't what I was looking for and the tone rubbed me the wrong way. There are people I would recommend this to; if you have never learned about any kind of social science and/or applied it to yourself, never examined your own headspace or wondered about people, it would probably be entertaining and enlightening. I'm saying, At least he cites sources.
Profile Image for Marilyn.
96 reviews
September 5, 2012
I read this book in dribs and drabs, as each two to three page chapter covers one of the 46 ways people delude themselves -- and how we do it. Each chapter begins with a misconception, followed by the truth. For example:

THE MISCONCEPTION: You are a rational, logical being who sees the world as it really is.
THE TRUTH: You are as deluded as the rest of us, but that's OK; it keeps you sane.

The book goes on to show "how and why we are naturally hindered into thinking in certain ways and not others, and the world around you is the product of dealing with these biases, not overcoming them." I finally was moved to finish this book NOW, because it made clear to me how political affinities work, especially when people embrace a party that largely works against their best interests. (Reading gets me away from the plethora of political ads in Ohio -- a swing state.) Ultimately, we want to be right about how we see the world, so we seek out information that confirms our beliefs and avoid contradictory evidence and opinions. Finally, I realize why someone who sticks with Ann Coulter will never read any left-leaning book -- and vice versa.

It's a humbling experience to read about normalcy bias, groupthink, procrastination, social loafing, learned helplessness, and more -- and to see yourself there! In the end, I realized I'm not so smart after all, and "thanks to a plethora of cognitive biases, faulty heuristics, and common fallacies of thought, you are probably deluding yourself minute by minute just to cope with reality." The book spells out HOW we all do this. I recommend it.
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