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The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  821 ratings  ·  133 reviews
Smart people are not only just as prone to making mistakes as everyone else, they may be even more susceptible to them. This is the "intelligence trap," the subject of David Robson’s fascinating and provocative book.

The Intelligence Trap explores cutting-edge ideas in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, including "strategic ignorance," "meta-forgetfulness," an
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by W.W. Norton Company (first published 2019)
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Richard Nope! The book was mistakenly filed under the first other David Robson, who writes about architecture. There's also a second other David Robson, a pla…moreNope! The book was mistakenly filed under the first other David Robson, who writes about architecture. There's also a second other David Robson, a playwright. Thanks for catching this.

The author of The Intelligence Trap doesn't have a press photo on his website, so no picture as of yet.(less)

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  821 ratings  ·  133 reviews

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Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Do you know how you end up with ‘friends’ on Facebook that you basically don’t know? Or that you did know, but that was when you were 15 and you only agreed to 'connect' with them on the basis that there won’t actually be all that much ‘connecting’? Well, you may also have noticed that over this summer (2019-20) in Australia we’ve had the occasional bushfire. Many of the people I’m friends with are basically what Australia’s Deputy PM recently referred to as “pure, enlightened and woke capital-c ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Robson is a brilliant writer who presented this idea on how and why intelligent people make stupid mistakes and how to avoid it. This book, “The Intelligent Trap” should be required reading for any professional or expert in any field from business, to healthcare or academia and anything else in between.

The book answers questions on why these mistakes occur and how to cultivate those qualities to protect us from errors that could hurt us, our family, or those whom we serve.

Just reading the firs
Ogi Ogas
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.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is great. It should be required reading for anyone who believes it shouldn’t be.

After reading this I realise I am doubly cognitively challenged. I’m not so intelligent that I am one of those who can effortlessly explain my biases and faulty thinking away, but I still manage to fall for them, only noticing them after the fact. I have lost count of the number of times I thought “uh oh, I’ve done that” while reading it.

Needless to say, it was a humbling and enlightening experience readi
Tadas Talaikis
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: b-s
Well, "smart people" do know about cognitive biases and thus are less likely to make dumb mistakes. Author just doesn't compare with the control group, so the conclusion "about smart people making dumb mistakes" is maybe/ unknown/ undefined. Also, author maybe talks about "smart" who are unconscious enough to examine their own thought processes, which, by definition, is no "smart" at all.

IMO, intelligence trap relies in very intense usage of brain's "RAM", so due to that there may be some dumb m
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a good book describing the most common mistakes and biases in our decision making progress. Author focuses on highly intelligent people, but I think similar mistakes are committed by average Joe. Most presented studie results can be probably extrapolated to the general population.

Author describes roles of overconfidence, lack of emotional self control and open mindness and problems with cognitive reflection as a main factors of failures despite having high IQ. In my observation,  lack of
Vesa Linja-Aho
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for everyone who wants to improve their thinking skills, whether you are a high-school student or NASA scientist. The author, renowned science reporter David Robson, has based the book on expert interviews and peer-reviewed sources. To put the main point in short: ability (and desire) to use our brain is even more important than high IQ. High IQ is like a powerful engine in a car, but without driving skills and good navigation system you are not the first one in destination. Robson r ...more
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This should be de rigueur reading for every literate person out there. If you’re illiterate, get an audiobook/someone to read it aloud for you. This stuff is important.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel

The Intelligence Trap was an interesting idea and the book is quite good. David Robson has some interesting stories here and I already had similar opinions on businessmen who can roll in money, but can't start a lawnmower. The smart don't have common sense, so when I seen this book my opinion now has some backing by a printed author. Robson has made a relevant book and if you're in the market for some interesting ideas and outside views, this will appeal to you.

Robson has many interesting stor
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
We all know them, the forgetful professor, the absentminded scientist, and otherwise seemingly intelligent people who do things that make us blink. One example in this book is a prominent scientist who is convince that aliens are among us. This book looks at why it is very easy for experts in a field not belief the evidence that is right in front of their eyes.
I really enjoyed this book. Robson skillfully wove both anecdotes and larger data studies together to show why having a high IQ doesn't
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a life-changing read for me. Will definitely be rereading.
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting, I can't think of anyone I wouldn't recommend read this.
Marina (Sonnenbarke)
Set aside at 30%. It's very interesting, but I don't think I'm in the mood for non-fiction at the moment. Will pick it up again later on.
Timo Carlier
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read. Good narrator on Audible (Simon Slater). I think I'll now get this as a paper copy and use as a reference book.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough and well researched argument for why intelligent people are more likely to make terrible decisions. Robson explains why even intelligent people, for example Nobel Scientists and Arthur Conan Doyle, believe in illogical things such as astrology, aliens and the paranormal, as they demonstrate motivated reasoning. It is proposed that intelligent people are less likely to learn from their mistakes, take advice from others and are more able to build up argument to justify their reasoning s ...more
David Msomba
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Contains some useful ideas and gems on how to apply Intellectual humility in your daily life,and how we can combat our blind spot.
Udit Nair
The great nineteenth-century psychologist William James reportedly said that ‘a great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices’. The Intelligence Trap is written for anyone, like me, who wants to escape that mistake – a user’s guide to both the science, and art, of wisdom. The author manages to gather some incredible anecdotes ranging from individuals to organisation who have fallen to intelligence trap. I personally consider this book a great self he ...more
Burt Schoeppe
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Pretty disappointing.

Robson gets the basics of heuristics and intellectual biases right.

More often than not his examples just miss that connective tissue. Lack of clarifying detail really

When he tries to use sports teams in discussion of having too many stars, his examples of both the Iceland soccer team and the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. Sure they were teams lacking in stars who performed really well. But why did they perform well?

His use of the Mount Everest tragedy fails to provide a po
Mar 21, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish
Had to DNF around a third of the way in. I’ve seen these topics covered far better by other authors and the constant lionizing of various historical figures and celebrities was increasingly grating as the book wore on. I had to drop it when he started singing high praises of Ray Kroc. I really hate it when people assume that wealthy people must have higher levels of intelligence and talent or they wouldn’t be so wealthy. It’s a pet peeve of mine.
Warren Gossett
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Eat bitterness.” I like to work with the idea presented in this book that learning is better when openly working through obstacles, frustrations and uncertainties.
Dima Yousef Jadaan
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
As the title suggests, this book is about why smart people are susceptible to cognitive errors and about strategies that anyone can implement to make better decisions and avoid intellectual biases.⁣

The basic message of the book is that high level of general intelligence is not synonymous with bias-free thinking, and while all people across the intelligence spectrum are prone to flawed thinking, intelligent and educated people are even more so because they seem to have bigger "bias blind spot",
Swapna Peri
Book Title: The Intelligence Trap
Author: David Robinson
Format: Hardcover

Book Title:
The title of the book ' The Intelligence Trap ' is very different and interesting

Book Cover:
The cover image of the book is a simple plain colored turquoise cover with the title in yellow.

Inside the book:
In this debut book, the writer Robson examines the “flawed mental habits” of people with “greater intelligence, education, and professional expertise”—and how they can learn to “think more wisely.” The book talks a
Amit Verma
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Book is about human stupidity; which hides in secret areas behind veils of pseudo or incomplete intelligence. It appears as if total stupidity is constant and when it is reduced in one cognitive field it can grow in other areas.

After reading it you will have few doubts on topper in your class or pundit sitting on tv.
Book is highly readable and enjoyable ( especially after a slow chapter one) and second half is so wonderful and joy to read as it carries contemporary case studies.

Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find it difficult to find fault with this book.

The author gives a clear and cogent overview of a lot of relevant research and literature without necessarily repeating too many things I've already read on the topic. As with any such far-reaching thesis, I found the only drawback is that sometimes the statements were broader than the supporting evidence allows.

For example, with respect to NASA, it was not the case with disasters like Challenger or Columbia that they became *unaware* of the risks
Warren Mcpherson
This book looks at biases and errors that the most intelligent people are particularly susceptible to, but it also introduces the idea of evidence bases wisdom, laying a broader foundation for the understanding of intellectual performance.

Some of the issues covered include.
Lack of tacit knowledge and counterfactual thinking essential for the execution of plans and to preempt consequences; Dysrationalia, motivated reasoning or biased blind spots that perpetuate mistakes; Failure to perceive out l
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As an Educator who has worked with Teach For India, A consultant on Education Institutes assessments, I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend this book for all educators, students and anyone with a curiosity to learn what really makes people 'Intelligent' (Though thats not a term I use anymore)

David Robson has done the painstaking job of interviewing all the scientists whose research all educators have read over the last few decades, he has collated all the fallacies and biases of human mind and presented a f
Oct 13, 2019 marked it as to-read
(Seems like something I should read. Podcast interview with author available at Inquiring Minds — listen at Art19 or Overcast fm). ...more
Grant Cousineau
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Never have I read a book so robust in its breakdown of the mind. The primary concept is the rationality that goes into an intelligent person's mind when they do dumb things. Things like bias blind spots (seeing others' flaws but not our own), earned dogmatism (the perception that our expertise gives us the right to be closed-minded to other points of view), and motivated reasoning (when we're more likely to critique clear evidence when it doesn't fit our world view) are just a few of the mental ...more
Pretty Bibliophile
Title: The Intelligence Trap
Author: David Robson
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette
Genre: Non-fiction
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
No. of pages: 337

My review:
The Intelligence Trap was quite a different sort of book I read recently. For one, it wasn’t at all like the self-help book I expected it to be. It was very informative and there were some nice laughs packed in there too. However, I was really discouraged by the beginning which I think was slow and kind of fell flat. On the other h
Ranga B
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good insight on how we make or do stupid things unknowingly as an individual or in group. This book I guess is more a curator view combined with David's thoughts. I specially liked the few new things, terms and the ways which I've completely forgot (unconsciousness + Competence). Specially on Spacing effect, Earned dogmatism, blind bias, functional stupidity, collective mindfulness.. (list goes on). The techniques that are mentioned - some of them we heard / learnt growing and probably forgotten ...more
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I am an award-winning writer and editor, who specialises in writing in-depth articles probing the extremes of the human mind, body and behaviour.

My first book, The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Stupid Mistakes and How to Make Wiser Decisions, is out now (Hodder & Stoughton/WW Norton).

If you like what you see here, please visit my website, or get in touch on Twitter or

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Ashley Poston made her name with Once Upon a Con, a contemporary series set in the world of fandom, and her two-part space opera, Heart of...
27 likes · 4 comments
“The same qualities that will make you learn more productively also make you reason more wisely, and vice versa.” 0 likes
“Hans Eysenck. “Scientists, especially when they leave the particular field in which they are specialized, are just as ordinary, pig-headed, and unreasonable as everybody else,” he wrote in the 1950s. “And their unusually high intelligence only makes their prejudices all the more dangerous.” 0 likes
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