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How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life
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How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,544 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
Thomas Gilovich offers a wise and readable guide to the fallacy of the obvious in everyday life.

When can we trust what we believe—that "teams and players have winning streaks," that "flattery works," or that "the more people who agree, the more likely they are to be right"—and when are such beliefs suspect? Thomas Gilovich offers a guide to the fallacy of the obvious in ev
Paperback, 216 pages
Published March 5th 1993 by Free Press (first published 1991)
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Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a remarkable book – five stars all the way – up until the last couple of chapters when it really didn’t live up to its initial promise. But I’m giving it 5 stars anyway, because the first two parts are so good they are more than worth whatever effort is necessary to get your hands on this.

It is a bit old now – first printed in 1991, but many of the ideas are still essential if you have any interest in how our judgement and decision making processes can land us in trouble.

The f
Dec 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book examines cognitive biases. Gilovich describes various dubious beliefs, such as faith healing and other homeopathic nonsense. He investigates the thought processes that affect our ability to make sound judgments. It encouraged me to examine the shortcomings of my own reasoning. Highly recommend.
Although this was an interesting book, as someone with a psychology degree there wasn't anything ground breaking in it. It gave a thorough discussion of why people are so prone to falling for erroneous beliefs and it showed how difficult it was to do otherwise using evidence of psychological studies coupled with some quite detailed explanations. I think I wanted more examples over and above the theory, but they were confined to the last couple of chapters dealing with belief in alternative medic ...more
Andrew Flynn
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some chapters were more interesting than others, but those interesting ones were at times incredible. The book makes you want to constantly keep reading more, while your brain wants you to chill so it can process it all. A wonderful dilemma.
Sharif Mahmud
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Eye-opener, mind-bending tour to the everyday experience.
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a really excellent book, though there are a lot more engaging reads in the psychology-for-general-public read as of late. If there weren't so many better written ones as of late and the book itself weren't nearly twenty years old old (I am hoping for a second edition), I'd have given it five stars (there's more research on how people think and decide more recently). Unfortunately, lately, I've been meeting lots of people endorsing truly ridiculous ideas without thinking critically about ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a good solid work about people's irrational beliefs, covering just about all the basic psychological mechanisms. It's not breaking new ground, but that's because it's more than 20 years old. Still, it brings a few things to the table that I haven't seen in most other discussions of this topic:

- The authors recognize that while we see many occasions when people form opinions that are incorrect or at best not supported by (complete & unbiased) evidence, human nature leads us to make go
How We Know What Isn't So is a researched book on social psychology by Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell. It talks about why our mind seeks dubious or erronous information to aid our biases, rather than negating or clarifying them, and supplements its claims by examples of researches that did so in the past.

Reading this book would help you to look at the usually pervading superstitions and medical 'quacks' or evidence in support of existence of paranormal activities, or any oth
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Author Thomas Gilovich gives us concrete examples of the ways in which people can come to believe things for which there is no genuine scientific evidence, and the common errors people make when trying to make sense of statistical and probabilistic data. He shows us how people can consciously or unconsciously delude themselves, and how we so often ignore evidence we don’t like and concentrate on evidence that appears to support views that we want to believe are true. The book is moderately schol ...more
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book makes you think about how unthinking we are, from believing that infertile couples are more likely to have a biological child once they have adopted one.(not too many consequences here) to belief that seal penises are the natural Viagra, (40,000 seal penises found in one raid). We tend to notice only those events which reinforce our own beliefs and prejudices - we ignore evidence which disproves them. Every statement is peppered with entertaining real-life examples including an explana ...more
Jake Losh
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional book. I got about six chapters deep into it several months ago when I decided that I was trying to read it way too fast. At under 200 pages (excluding notes and references) this is an extremely dense and comprehensive treatment of so many aspects of human reasoning. This book is intense and will make you question so many things about the way you see the world. Once you start to read it, you'll start to see the application of its lessons everywhere and you cannot unsee them ...more
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: amateur psychologists, skeptics, critical thinkers
How We Know What Isn't So is an outstanding read for anybody who tends to be a skeptic or merely wants to be a critical thinker. While the author is an academic, the book is well-written and actually a fairly quick and easy read. The purpose is to explore how we come to understand things, and primarily it focuses on how we come to believe things that are not true. Whether it is ESP or alien abductions or more common myths like strange things happening during full moons, Gilovich documents a wide ...more
Sarah Whitney
Apr 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, own, a-gift, 2010
Gilovich is an impressive academic and skilled writer. I really enjoyed this book, especially part II. I'd recommend this for anyone who is interested in the validity of their beliefs and the science behind how people form cognitive biases. Reads a bit like something you'd be assigned in college and it is quite scholarly, but in a very nice way, with citations galore. I previously read "Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking" by Thomas E. Kida and was disapp ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's a good complementary reading with another book "Mistakes were made but not by me" by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, where both books attest human fallibility to consider their biases in offering reasons to different situation with seemingly unexplained phenomena and so taking early and foolish arguments and transform them in believes without looking upon scientific and statistical justification of everyday experiences and logic fallacies.
Jonah Keri
Jan 23, 2009 is currently reading it
Just getting going on this one. It's long been on the wife's bookshelf and was widely read in Baseball Prospectus circles by folks with an interest in learning how the human mind operates and how fallacies coming into play. A bit of a Gladwell edge to it, I'd say.

Long flight to LA this weekend, should plow through a good chunk of it.
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this a very informative discussion of the many ways our brains can persistently mislead us into erroneous conclusions via otherwise perfectly normal, useful and effective psychological processes.
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for those interested about cognitive bias. It will serve as a fantastic companion to "Thinking Fast and Slow," although if I could only read one of the two I'd go with "Thinking Fast" since it much better structured and easier to understand.
Mostly a book about cognitive and social psychology, by a research psychologist, but with some examples in the form of things "everybody knows" but which "just ain't so" - ESP, New Age "holistic" treatments, and (less supernaturally) common but rarely-successful social behavior. Kudos to the author for sticking pretty much to what he knows (note how the three examples are focused on the mind or social interaction), but it's a relatively light treatment of each.

The preparatory chapters on how peo
Tom Czarniak
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was one of the few required texts I actually read in college. On one hand, I'm glad I did because it really stayed with me. On the other, it's agonizing listening to conversations: at bars, at work, anywhere--I'm aware of so much misinformation that gets passed around from one well-meaning person to another. I find myself muttering "that's not true" over and over and over again! Not that I'm immune myself, I'm just hyper-aware.

And to think: when this was first published "only reading the m
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites in the field.

There is a lot of more recent work in behavioral decision-making but this is still one of my favorites. I think it is a great introduction to the field. Even though it is dated, I think the basic ideas hold up and are explained and supported in clear ways. A lot of the more recent books are written to sell well more than to explain.

("Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman is an exception that I highly recommend).
Manoj Saha
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this book as it was suggested as a textbook while doing an online course on "Thinking" where the reference book is "Thinking, fast and slow" - most important thing it establishes is that exact sciences does not force us to think before we accept and how we shape our beliefs are quite important as they go on to shape us. Encouraging for spending time on understanding psychology.
Daniel B-G
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology, dnf
What I read was good, though a little more detailed than I was interested in. Unfortunately, I found that Thinking Fast and Slow did the job better, and the overlap was substantial, so I jacked out early.
Tracy Altman
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gilovich has had a big influence on my work, and my personal life too. He inspires us to be better in this easy-to-digest book.
Olatomiwa Bifarin
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
"It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that just ain't so"
Lê Trần Mạnh
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caleb Ontiveros
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Classic work on cognitive biases. Dated (Gilovich's work on the hot hand has been criticized quite a bit).
Todd Martin
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
“People will always prefer black-and-white over shades of grey, and so there will always be the temptation to hold overly-simplified beliefs and to hold them with excessive confidence.”
- Thomas Gilovich

When it comes to critical thinking, people seem to suffer from the Dunning–Kruger effect - a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. In other words … everyone believes they are critical thinkers,
Gokul Ramanan Subramanian
For a non-fiction book on illusory beliefs and their effects, this piece of work provides a useful introduction. Other than the adjective "useful", I wouldn't shower any positive epithets on this compendium.

Let me set the context. I am a computer scientist, and thus, have logical synaptic connections that the general population might not have (and unfortunately, vice versa). So, I cannot speak on their behalf. Additionally, this book cannot be read in 2017 with much confidence, since it is over
Richard Houchin
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, history
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan Carney
Feb 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this book because I thought the quote prefacing the first chapter was immediately worth considering:

The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, it's that they know so many things that just aren't so.

I want to understand the trouble with the world, who wouldn't? And where better to start than ignorance? After reading this, I'd have a fighting chance of being able to easily identify ignorant folk hiding in everyday conversation, using carefully crafted deception to keep o
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From Wikipedia:

Thomas D. Gilovich (born 1954) is a professor of psychology at Cornell University who has researched decision making and behavioral economics and has written popular books on said subjects. He has collaborated with Daniel Kahneman, Lee Ross and Amos Tversky.

Gilovich earned his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University
More about Thomas Gilovich
“When examining evidence relevant to a given belief, people are inclined to see what they expect to see, and conclude what they expect to conclude. Information that is consistent with our pre-existing beliefs is often accepted at face value, whereas evidence that contradicts them is critically scrutinized and discounted. Our beliefs may thus be less responsive than they should to the implications of new information” 29 likes
“People will always prefer black-and-white over shades of grey, and so there will always be the temptation to hold overly-simplified beliefs and to hold them with excessive confidence” 28 likes
More quotes…