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Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want
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Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,886 ratings  ·  184 reviews
You are a mind reader, born with an extraordinary ability to understand what others think, feel, believe, want, and know. It’s a sixth sense you use every day, in every personal and professional relationship you have. At its best, this ability allows you to achieve the most important goal in almost any life: connecting, deeply and intimately and honestly, to other human be ...more
Hardcover, 242 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Knopf (first published 2014)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
3.5 stars

This is one of those psychology books for a general audience that does much more to inform readers about the failings of the human mind than to teach us how to be better. In other words, it’s more intellectual than practical. That said, it’s accessible and I think most readers would benefit from at least some of its information.

People are pretty good at reading each other’s minds, all things considered, but also overestimate our own abilities. For that matter, we don’t always know our o
Darcia Helle
Mar 07, 2014 rated it liked it
This is an easy, light read, written in everyday language that works well for the casual reader. Epley offers data from various studies to show us how often we make assumptions about others, and how often those assumptions are wrong. He also gives us insight into how and why we - often unconsciously - make those assumptions.

While much of this content isn't brand new research, it's presented well. I particularly liked the chapter on stereotypes. At one time or another, all of us are guilty of cas
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of my pet hates is people who try and tell me what I’m thinking when I say something – or tell me my reasons for making a particular remark or performing a particular action. My invariable response is ‘Don’t try and tell me what is going on in my head – you don’t know unless I tell you.’ Human beings are prone to thinking that everyone shares their beliefs and thoughts and as a result we misjudge people, especially those close to us on a daily basis. As a result we end up quarrelling for no ...more
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: human-behavior
This book was not what I was hoping for and I kept waiting to have some revelation about interpersonal interaction... I never did.

I am not the intended audience for this book and neither are any of my social worker friends (so feel free to skip it, you already know everything in this book anyway). And neither are you if you've ever thought or studied about how people relate to one another.

Basically: people do OK figuring out general things about what others are thinking and their motivatio
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book, but I'm not sure I understand people any better after reading this. I do, however, understand why I don't understand them a lot better. Especially interesting were the parts where Epley explained how trying to understand other people often ends up in understanding them a lot worse than without trying to understand them. Sounds weird, doesn't it? Well, apparantely science proves this. And boy, does that explain a lot about modern day politics and why we just cannot seem to g ...more
Sean Goh
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psych
Sixth sense = theory of mind = mind reading (or assuming, more accurately)

The problem with our sixth sense is that the confidence we have in this sense far outstrips our actual ability, and the confidence we have in our judgement rarely gives us a good sense of how accurate we actually are.

The human brain is good at being aware of what (the finished product), but not how (the process of arriving there).

Failing to engage the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) leads to dehumanisation.

It is easier to
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars. Some interesting info but overall pretty meh.
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, wellness
First off, I have to say how much I appreciate Epley's writing style. This book is PACKED with information, but it was effortless to read because he is such a clear and focused writer. In every chapter, he outlines what he's going to say, then he says it, and then he summarizes what he said and explains how it relates to his next point. Another writer may have let his reader feel bogged down and overwhelmed by so much information, but Epley is really a wonderful guide.

And, most importantly, this
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Focused on the 6th sense we have in detecting when another has a mind. Offered a nice supplement to a book I just finished, "Evolution of God" by Robert Wright where he emphasized the need to understand another's perspective. In Mindwise, the author cites research that merely imagining how another feels or what their motivations can still result in barely better results than guessing but high confidence in our own (mostly inaccurate) predictions. We tend to be overconfident and ego-centric. The ...more
Daniel Frank
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book would have been revolutionary to me if I read it in 2014; in 2018, it's interesting, but most of the information has been said elsewhere.

Short summary: we badly overestimate how well we understand our own mind, and those of others. This is an important lesson, so whether you read the info in this book or another, it's worth reading somewhere.

I want to commend Nicholas Epley for writing the perfect social science book. Concise writing, clear language, no hyperbolized examples, and most
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a practical book that offers insight into how minds, specifically one's own mind, works. The author argues that we too often believe that we can read the minds of others, especially those close to us. In reality, these assumptions can lead to incorrect or dangerous outcomes. Through relatable anecdotes, Epley shows that the most important thing we can do when trying to imagine how or why others think, feel, and act is to have humility.
May 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Summarized interesting studies. Focused on the "thinking" a lot more the "feelings" side of things but compelling all the same. Remember we are good at understanding each other but not as great as we think. Remember to ask, express, reflect, and listen. (There, now you don't have to read it!)
Marie desJardins
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I thought this book sounded really interesting from the title, but I found it quite dull and rather repetitive. The explanations that Epley gives of "why we misunderstand others" seemed pretty obvious and not especially useful for actually becoming *better* at understanding others.
Nick de Vera
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Okay overall. Our guessing is pretty bad, asking is better than guessing, Ekman's science is thin, 'male brains' and 'female brains' are mostly nonsense. Citing Stephen Jay Gould was jarring, apparently some people still respect Gould.
Elia Spyratos
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Rhetorical Analysis of Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand
What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want

For as long as time can tell the brain has been an enigma to man, and only up until relatively recent history have scientists been able to make the first steps towards fully understanding our own brain. Because of this universal fascination with how our minds work, and with a title such as Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want, I was genuinely inclined to pick
Henrik Haapala
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very wise and one of the best books!

• Sixth sense: you are a mind reader
• Strangers read each other with an average accuracy rate of 20% , close friends and married couples 35%
• We have an illusion of insight; a gap between how much partners actually knew about each other and how much they believed they knew p.9-10
• Planning fallacy: students were too optimistic in assessing when they will finish their thesis in both good case, realistic and worst case scenario
• Your vision is constructe
Jun 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
I felt like this was kind of shallow with a lack of review of studies. I would have liked every assertion to be backed by a reference to a study explaining methodology, for example. The title implies that by reading this book you can better understand the minds of others but actually it just goes through a lot of fallacies that we have ourselves.

On the chapter on stereotypes, he says that men performed as well as women on tests of emotion-reading if they were paid to do it. But that really has
Moayad Taibah
I'm finding a hard time categorizing this book, from one side it was informative on how we, as social beings, try to gain an understanding of those around us, but it did give a self development vibe.

The book is about how we try to use our minds among other things to gain an understanding of the minds of others , how much of our understanding is wrong, why, and what can we do about it. The author certainly backed his arguments with research studies and examples from real life and it tied in nice
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want" by Nicholas Epley, a highly regarded social psychologist and professor, is a wonderful insight into reading the minds of others. The book covers a range of topics, such as "your real sixth sense, Misreading minds. An overconfident sense; What you can and cannot know about your own mind; does it have a mind? How we dehumanize; How we anthropomorphize; what state is another mind in? The trouble of getting over yourself; The u ...more
Matthew Ting
Feb 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Very similar in style to 'Stumbling on Happiness', i.e. a bunch of practical psychology studies with some anecdotes in between. Reading this felt a little like reviewing my 2nd year social psych course. That being said, still took a lot of notes and think that it's a decent read. I did feel like it could be a lot more concise in what it discusses (tends to beat you over the head with the same few concepts), but still an enjoyable light read.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is about the failing of the human mind. People are bad at reading the mind of other, but also their own. At the same time, they vastly overestimate their own abilities at this skill.

Key points of book:
You do not really know what others think, despite that you think you do. Tests show only about 30% accuracy when subjects are asked what other strangers think about certain subjects. For couples, it was marginally better, at 37%, however, people thought they understand they spouse at 80-
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: psych
U. of Chicago Behavioral Sciences Prof, Nicholas Epley provides a meticulous look into what he describes as an essential 'sixth sense' - the ability for humans to connect with others by understanding (intuitively and non) how another person is thinking and feeling. When this sensory perception is properly utilized it allows for a deep and honest connection with others but when misused conflict and damaged relationships are often the end result. Epley demonstrates the merits and negative aspects ...more
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Nicholas Epley wants to tell us about mind-reading and, in particular, why we're so damn bad at it. It's not that we're no good at all at reading the minds of others. Our guesses about how others collectively view us -- as funny, attractive, intelligent and so on -- are correlated with reality much better than chance guesses. But our ability to know what any single individual thinks of us is much worse, and not much better than chance. Also, we vastly overestimate the accuracy of our ability to
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I can't stand when people make assumptions about my thoughts and feelings (they always state it so confidently and are never close to the truth!) so I loved this book (confirmation bias, anyone?).
Epley's writing is engaging and accessible. I was interested in the studies and anecdotes he provided to support his arguments.

While a lot of the information Epley shares is supposedly common knowledge, it's also very easy to forget and people are constantly falling back into these same patterns of ster
Michael Ehinmowo
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The central message of this book is that we are born with the intuitive sense that we know what is in the mind of other people. But this intuition is deeply glitched up. Our minds simply work in ways we ourselves do not understand.

The prime way this flawed mind's "sixth sense" works as described in the book is that the mind can create other minds where mind is not - Anthropomorphism and there's an activation in the brain when engaged to do that. Likewise, the mind can become a dehumanizing tool
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well written, accessible and enjoyable work which reveals exactly how challenging it is to really know anyone else or in fact even yourself. Given my frequent misunderstanding with my otherwise greatly loved spouse it was notably reassuring to learn we are not freaks.

Memorably for me the author demonstrates the risks associated with imagining we can truly put ourselves in anyone elses position: the likelyhood of increasing error in any such attempt far exceeds the probability of advantage. Our s
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Author Nicholas Epley argues that we have a sixth sense, the ability to see into other people’s minds. Authors of fiction employ that sense imaginatively to see into their character’s minds, and readers of fiction get to see the results. But in real life, we’re not very mindwise, not even when it comes to seeing into our own minds, the ones closest to us. That tension between what we can and can’t do might call into the question the whole concept of a sixth sense. But Nicholas Epley’s Mindwise i ...more
Peter Gelfan
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my late teens, I realized I had a gift. I could look at a person, perhaps talk to him or her for a few seconds, and unto me would be delivered a vivid character inventory—personality traits, some family history, and a peek at hang-ups. Wow—instant, effortless perceptiveness. It wasn’t until several years later that the other half of the epiphany struck: the information bestowed to me was often wrong. I felt betrayed. And curious. Where was this fake news coming from, and why?

Epley’s book begi
Tõnu Vahtra
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
We are strangers to ourselves, understanding of others is mostly influenced by our own understanding and misconceptions about our own (mis)perceptions, also people systematically tend to overrate their ability to understand or interpret other people's actions. Having read many other books on this topic I did not find much completely new information from here (as a matter of fact majority of the psychological tests were already familiar). In a way the book was similar to "You are not so smart" bo ...more
Phuong-Anh Ly
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
An easy book for everybody. Here are my favorite quotes from the book.

- Our most common mistakes come from excessive egocentrism, overreliance on stereotypes, and an all-to-easy assumption that others’ minds match their actions.

- In each of us there is another whom we do not know.

- Social isolation is a greater risk factor for cardiac arrest and death than even cigarette smoking.

- Appearances, after all, can be deceiving.

- You become way less concerned with what other people think of you wh
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