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The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology's Most Powerful Insights

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  900 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Renowned psychologists describe the most useful insights from social psychology that can help make you “wise”: wise about why people behave the way they do, and wise about how to use that knowledge in understanding and influencing the people in your life.

When faced with a challenge, we often turn to those we trust for words of wisdom. Friends, relatives, and colleagues: so
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Free Press
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Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a book it is well worthwhile getting your hands on. I've read another book by Gilovich - How We Know What Isn't So - and have recommended it to lots of people since reading it. This one is interesting because it is basically a companion to cognitive errors we are likely to make and how to notice and avoid them. One of the main ideas in this book is that we see how we do things as being 'normal' and how everyone else does things as slightly strange. The example given is of how we perceive ...more
John Kaufmann
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another in an excellent crop of books about social psychology in recent years (see my bookshelf brain-cogsci-socialpsych for others). Each emphasizes slightly different characteristics, and each uses different metaphors to present the information and help it stick. This one doesn't use the word "heuristic" so it sounds more like common sense than "psychobabble," (though it does describe some mental processes that others would label as heuristics). It also provides more concrete steps one can tak ...more
Kristina Aziz
Dec 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Two social psychologists created a book about emotional intelligence and self awareness in a way that is both easy to understand and academically sound. The authors play on the specific human idiosyncrasy that makes parables and anecdotes easier to understand and remember (what social psychologist worth their salt wouldn't?) While underlining their credibility with studies others have done.

My only complaint with this book is that it took forever to get to the point. After two or three examples a
Ahmed Samir
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book that really helps put things in perspective making you a better communicator and debater and more conscious person of the role of psychology in everyday issues.
Farha Crystal
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
I don't like the tone of the authors like " we hope, reading this book you could be ... ... ... (adjectives, they value ) ". However, part of me doesn't expect much from the "self-help" book.
Of course, if someone believes that a single self-help book could change a person's life like holy books then it's okay because it's their belief and sometimes "belief" could work as a placebo effect (-_-). But, one single book isn't enough to understand adequately about oneself let alone the rest of the wo
Matt Lieberman
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Originally posted on:

I normally really enjoy books like this, but I approached The Wisest One in the Room with more trepidation than usual. This was due to two specific words/phrases in the book's pesky subtitle (How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology's Most Powerful Insights): "How" and "Social Psychology." I'm not claiming that I'm often or even ever the wisest member of a room, I just dislike "how-to" books as they tend to have unappetizing content
May 23, 2017 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Richard by:
I caught the rebroadcast of the YouAreNotSoSmart podcast Why you often believe people who see the world differently are wrong and thought this might be worth reading. ...more
Leland Beaumont
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Of the many definitions proposed for wisdom, perhaps the most intriguing is “seeing beyond illusion.” When most people are captivated by illusions, the wisest one in the room sees past them and proposes new solutions. The authors draw on recent research in social psychology, judgement, and decision making to help us become wiser. These insights help us see beyond five classes of compelling illusions that often mislead us. The second part of the book applies these wise perspectives to solving sev ...more
Jonathan Karmel
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
About 10 pages of this book are about naïve realism, and I would recommend those 10 pages. People believe that they see the world objectively and without bias, and people think that others will come to the same conclusions, so long as they are exposed to the same information and interpret it in a rational manner. People believe that others who do not share the same views must be ignorant, irrational, or biased. In fact, the average person is right an average amount of the time. Average people ar ...more
TΞΞL❍CK Mith!lesh
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gift
The second half of the book applies these insights to analyzing and suggesting solutions to four pressing real-world problems. The problems addressed are:

1) What leads to human happiness and well-being?
2) What sustains human conflict?
3) How can at-risk populations be more effectively educated?
4) What can we do to minimize global warming?

These examples demonstrate how overcoming the frailties of ordinary thinking can help us arrive at new solutions to persistent problems.

This well-res
Mar 22, 2019 rated it liked it
A good read for people new to the field
Hussain Yhea
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
The book is talking about social psychology in general and how to use the knowledge extracted from the experiments to be wiser in ur decision making and in life
Cody Allen
Mar 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This past year has been highly politically charged and reading this book gave me a deeper understanding of the differences between the political parties and how their respective constituents have ideologically dug themselves in. Social psychology can teach us a lot about the current state of political trench warfare in this country. Gilovich and Lee write about numerous psychological principles, a first example being the False Consensus Effect: “People tend to think that their beliefs, opinions, ...more
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What does it mean to be wise? Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross, in The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit From Social Psychology's Most Powerful Insights, define wisdom as "Wisdom involves knowing when the information available is insufficient for the problem at hand. It involves the recognition that how things are right now might seem very different down the road" (p. 4).

We look at the world and believe what we see (naive realism). What I love about psychology is that it opens up the world
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very insightful. This book does a good job in explaining biases and barriers in human thinking.

There is no one book that will make you the wisest in the room, but this will definitely add to your wisdom.

I probably would've given this a 5/5 if not for the annoying political examples. They talk about politics way too much.
Yan Li
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up by chance from a local library, and found the content surprisingly interesting and myself fascinated by the insights and anecdotes offered throughout the book. I took a long time finishing the book, for each chapter actually does make me ponder on the concepts, reflect on my way of viewing the world and show me fresh new perspectives. From naive realism to dissonance reduction, when the social psychologist explains the idea, they all make sense, but before reading the book, ...more
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
For me, the utility of books like The Wisest One in the Room is measured by the degree to which they highlight systematic defects in thought that lead to poor decision-making. By this standard, this book does a good job explaining two common sources of bias: naive realism and the fundamental attribution error. Naive realism refers to our tendency to believe that our perceptions are, in fact, reality. This bias is often compounded by the fundamental attribution error, which refers to a belief tha ...more
Ogi Ogas
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
My ratings of books on Goodreads are solely a crude ranking of their utility to me, and not an evaluation of literary merit, entertainment value, social importance, humor, insightfulness, scientific accuracy, creative vigor, suspensefulness of plot, depth of characters, vitality of theme, excitement of climax, satisfaction of ending, or any other combination of dimensions of value which we are expected to boil down through some fabulous alchemy into a single digit.
Ellen Pilch
Jan 23, 2016 rated it did not like it
I was hoping this was a self-help book with tops on how to appear intelligent. I felt like I was reading a college textbook when I read this. I am sure it would make an excellent college text for Psychology students. I did not enjoy reading about all kinds of studies and their findings. I just wanted a list of things to do and this was not it.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Did I learn things from reading this book? Yes. Things that can be useful. There are sections that I enjoyed reading. However, reading some sections feels like it's just going on and on. This makes it hard to read. I almost give up reading this book and the only thing that kept me going is because once I paused reading this, I'd never go back and finish it. ...more
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I found the first half of the book to be pretty fascinating. Lost some interest in the second half. It definitely had good takeaways.
Abdullah Almuslem
I picked this book as part of me trying to diversify my reading list. This is in principle a psychology book. I found it a little boring with its academic way of presenting things. Numerous studies are presented in academic details to support the point and it would've been better for ordinary readers to have the conclusion rather than the actual experiment with its all details.

Then, there is the topic of the book, I just did not understand what the main idea of writing this book. It has many to
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gilovich discusses many important findings in social psychology through his years in the field and talks about how an understanding of these ideas can help lead all of us to make wiser choices in our every day lives. The primary focus of the book is cognitive biases that distort our thinking, naive realism and fundamental attribution error chief among them. In the FAE, we are quick to attribute another's behaviors and preferences that differ from ours to an internal shortcoming of that person in ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, wisdom
This is one of those popular psychology books which bombard you with studies and examples, half of which you have heard before in other settings, to imprint into you an idea of how the human brain works in different situations. The authors here, distill those studies into a few condensed ways of "wisdom" one can and should have. This is not a "these are the main components of wisdom" kind of book, rather than a "these are some common components of wisdom we have come across" kind, however - maki ...more
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a good overview of biases and why people make decisions, although perhaps not as fluid and easy to follow as Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.

One difference or addition perhaps the concept of seemingly fulfilled prophecies as follows:
“Seemingly fulfilled prophecies whereby beliefs lead one to act in ways that make it seem true” (perhaps something one fears or something some other biases person suggested) “and at the same time prevent one from encountering evidence that it is not
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haaa... so it took me a while to finish this, but it's because of my habit and commitment problem, not because the book is not interesting or anything. Let me elaborate.

For those who want to become the wisest one in the room, or just make better decisions, this book is for you. Okay but who doesn't? Specifically, for those who are interested in a beginner level of psychology AND want to become the wisest one or at least wiser than most, this book is for you. Every chapter explore a particular,
JY Tan
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
I never thought I will ever gave any work such a review, but this is as close as a 'holy book' of psychology as it gets, at least from the social and cognitive field. Not that because it is unquestionably accurate and eternal, but rather how it synthesizes scientific literature in a manner that captures how we can use psychology to solve real human problems (beyond mental health, which over-represents what psychology is about). It introduces interesting history cases, summarizes actual research, ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wisdom, according to this book, is all about understanding human behavior, of oneself, others, societies, and cultures. And much of that wisdom is counterintuitive--not at all in line with what is variously called "common sense" by different people--like the fact that what is "common sense" to some makes no sense to others, and vice versa. Wisdom is knowing that everything is situational; context is everything. No one sees things impartially or objectively, no one can escape invisible influences ...more
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved the premise of this book a lot. There was a lot of really sound science on sociology here. But it really did take a long time to get to the point. As much as I enjoyed the information on why humans might behave the way they do, I found myself drifting off in parts as it was a bit long winded. I looked all the studies that were discussed. Particularly the Milgram experiments.
The information on human perceptions really intrigued me. I just didn’t see that this book made me any wiser on th
Warren Mcpherson
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book reviews a handful of the relatively recent lessons of social psychology and shows how they relate to issues faced by individuals and society. The content is broadly similar to the study of decision making. It reflects many of the ideas of Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. The book proceeds to broach personal and political issues in a way that feels productive. The book repeated the jingle "wisest one in the room" every other paragraph making it feel like a strange infomercial. ...more
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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

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“Note that the best rationalizations are those that have an element of truth. Whether you vote or not will almost certainly have no influence on the outcome of an election. Nor will the amount of carbon you personally put into the atmosphere make a difference in the fate of the planet. And perhaps it really should be up to governments rather than the charities that are soliciting your contributions to feed the hungry and homeless in America or save children around the world from crushing poverty and abuse. But the fact that these statements are true doesn't mean they aren't also rationalizations that you and others use to justify questionable behavior.

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“As the distinguished British philosopher Isaiah Berlin wrote as he reflected on the bitter lessons of the twentieth century, 'Few things have done more harm than the belief on the part of individuals or groups (or tribes or states or nations or churches) that he or she or they are in sole possession of the truth, especially about how to live, what to be and do - that those who differ from them are not merely mistaken, but wicked or mad: and need restraining or suppressing. It is terrible and dangerous arrogance to believe that you alone are right, have a magical eye which sees the truth, and that others cannot be right if they disagree.” 4 likes
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