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The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  693 ratings  ·  110 reviews engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal

A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making.

When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a soldier mindset. From triba
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 13th 2021 by Portfolio (first published June 4th 2019)
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Apr 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
Here's a way to tell scientific intelligence from legal intelligence. Both may start from the idea that something cannot be done and think up arguments to explain why. However, the scientist may discover a flaw in the argument that leads him change his mind and to discover a way to do it...

The legal thinker will merely try to patch the flaw in the argument, because, once he has chosen a side, all his intelligence is devoted to finding arguments for that side.

― John McCarthy

I was a bit of a
Ozzie Gooen
Apr 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
TDLR: A good book with mass appeal to help people care more about being accurate. Fairly easy to read, which makes it easy to recommend to many people.

I've met Julia a few times and am friendly with her. I'd be happy if this book does well, and expect that to lead to a (slightly) more reasonable world.

That said, in the interest of having a Scout Mindset, I want to be honest about my impression.

The Scout Mindset is the sort of book I'm both happy with and frustrated by. I'm frustrated because thi
Matthew Jordan
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised by how much I loved The Scout Mindset. I've been following Julia Galef's work for many years, and spent a long time immersed in the literature on rationality, decision-making, and belief formation, so I expected the book to be kind of boring. Instead, I found it extremely persuasive and even quite moving. Every page was jam-packed with important ideas, and the examples masterfully supported the main arguments. It also was never polemical. Julia Galef does not want you to be on he ...more
Apr 27, 2021 rated it liked it
Julia picks interesting cases to support her claim, so in a way, she satisfied my selfish want to find stories in the non-fiction. Thanks, Julia.

However (there's always that however), what I did not like was the same-old-same-old tradition among modern-day non-fiction writers who think it's the best strategy to make it to that 200+ pages by adding as many evidences as they can to validate their precious insights. It's annoying. I don't want to get used to this stupid tradition just because Julia
Dylan Matthews
Mar 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Julia’s a friend so I’ll avoid being too effusive. But this is a rare book that actually makes you want to be a better, or at least a better-reasoning, person.
Stefan Schubert
Apr 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Scout Mindset is a spirited defence of truth-seeking and intellectual honesty. Julia Galef argues that we by default are in the "soldier mindset", where we're trying to defend our views come what may. We're making our beliefs part of our identity, so feel personally threatened if someone challenges them. Instead, she argues, we should adopt the scout mindset - we should be genuinely curious; genuinely open to changing our mind.

Galef argues that adopting this mindset or attitude is key to bec
Apr 18, 2021 rated it liked it
The 'scout mindset' seeks to discover what is correct through fact-checking, and rationalizes toward conclusions that lead to “the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were.” The 'soldier mindset' leads us to defend our beliefs against outside threats. “We change our minds less often than we should but more often than we could.” "There’s no such thing as a 'threat' to your beliefs. If you find out you were wrong about something, great—you’ve improved your map, and that can ...more
Victor Porras
May 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Some of the ideas were very interesting, but I was hoping for something a little more scientific. This came off a bit like a TED talk or long Atlantic thinkpiece, filled with anecdotes rather than data. Separately (or perhaps contradictorily), I thought it was overly earnest and could have used a little more humor. I enjoyed the self calibration test and the section on identity at the end.
Murilo Queiroz
May 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, but short and very readable, introduction to why knowing about our biases, the scientific method and critical thinking isn't enough for those who wants to take better, more rational decisions.

After reading many great books such as Thinking, Fast and Slow, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (one of my favorite non-fiction books), I'm already convinced that it's necessary a conscious effort
Jun 05, 2021 rated it liked it
Most people think you have to choose between being happy and being realistic. And so they shrug, throw up their hands, and say, “Ah well, so much the worse for realism,” or sometimes, “Ah well, so much the worse for happiness.”
A central theme of this book is that we don’t have to choose. With a bit of extra effort and cleverness, we can have both. We can find ways to cope with fear and insecurity. We can take bold risks and persevere in the face of setbacks. We can influence, persuade, and inspi
Yigitalp Ertem
I listened to The Scout Mindset after watching some Big Think and Bayesian Thinking related videos from Julia Galef but I didn't find the book very helpful. Rarely interesting, mostly garnishing a simple thesis. The parts about tech-billionaire-appraisals and inductive examples starting with Facebook/Reddit posts and ending with overarching generalizations about 'how we'd better think' made me even more disinterested. Bored towards the end, I still tried to preserve my scout mindset and finished ...more
Jun 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have followed the "rationality" community online which includes organizations & blogs such as LessWrong, StarSlateCodex, Machine Intelligence Research Institute for some time now since they are all in the same orbit of my interests in transhumanism & futurism, but I could not really get into worshiping Bayes' Theorem as part of my identity. This book is way different from the rationality blogs, it's a much less tedious introduction to the why & how of "Scout Mindset" and much more recommendabl ...more
May 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
I don't know if I consider myself a "rationalist" or part of the "rationalist" community, but the overall tenet of trying to over come bias and see the world more clearly are very appealing and I find folks from that community like Robin Hanson, Bryan Caplan and Scott Alexander to be some of the most consistently stimulating intellectuals writing today.

Basically there was no way i was not going to like this book. I hadn't heard of Julia Galef prior to her appearance on the Wright Show a few mont
Jeremy Ray
May 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
The world needs more of this. Galef has been talking for a while about adopting a "Scout Mindset" vs a "Soldier Mindset" -- that is, seeking out the truth to get as accurate a map of the territory as possible, instead of feeling like you have to stand your ground, defend your views. An an idea, it's a decent introduction to the rationality/skeptics/truthseeking or whatever-you-want-to-call-it community.

It starts with a breakdown of the language we use around arguments and debates, much of which
May 16, 2021 rated it liked it
This is a synthesis of a lot of concepts that I was aware of and have read about, indeed the well-read won't find much new here. Calling her concept "scout mindset" vs. "soldier mindset" is a cheesy way to refer to these ideas, and seems to be tailor-made ideas to build a book around, but I guess that's what people do. Among others, Kahneman and Tetlock are well covered in this book. I don't really mind this as I enjoy being reminded of these concepts periodically.

One of the last concepts she co
Nick de Vera
Apr 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
meta, soldier mindset: i want to five-star and promote this book, see My Tribe become popular and influential. some welcome pushback against the increasingly annoying "use cognitive biases to trick yourself into becoming smarter/happier/successful" trend in pop psych.

i think soldier mindset is still too valuable to give up. maybe the synthesis would be something like sociometer theory: scout mindset at all times in your own head, take off or put on the soldier mask as needed.
Travis Rebello
Apr 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Knowing how to reason well does not mean that you will. That's the lesson that starts The Scout Mindset. The arch enemy of your clear thinking, we might say, is an enemy within: it is your own motivations for not thinking clearly. Luckily, Julia Galef has learned this lesson before you and knows what lessons you need to learn next. The Scout Mindset is self-help for critical thinkers, but in a genuine and rarely appropriate sense of the term: it's actually helpful.

Unlike many other books on cri
Luke Gompertz
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike other books on this topic, this book doesn't just tell us how humans are bad at reasoning, it also offers genuine practical steps to help us reason better, and they are compelling enough that I will genuinely try them. Its central thesis – that we undermine our long-term well-being by not seeking accuracy – is clearly argued. In fact all the prose is in what Steven Pinker calls 'classic style': plain English that doesn't talk down to you. ...more
Jun 09, 2021 rated it it was ok
This tedious little book is basically a primer on how to be open-minded and self actualized. I suppose it would be useful if you couldn't grasp these concepts, but most people don't grasp these things because they don't want to. Thus, those who really need to read this book, won't. ...more
Erwin Rossen
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
The title is perfect. I had expected a book how to be a better scout, but it is a book about how to get in the mindset of being a better scout. Julia Galef illustrates her points with tonnes of anecdotes and snippets from the internet, which wouldn't hold up to make proper rational arguments, but are perfect to illustrate her point and paint the picture. ...more
Mike Cheng
May 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Cognitive Dissonance and Confirmation Bias are among the most pervasive impediments to the search for truth, and here podcaster / author Julia Galef suggests that readers adopt a “Scout Mindset” that emphasizes seeing things as they are, not as we wish them to be by: (i) seeking out our own blindspots; (ii) constantly testing our assumptions; and (iii) admitting when we are wrong and changing course. The idea of the book is solid, but most of the support consists of cherry picked examples, perso ...more
May 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting read about how humans generally engage in "motivated reasoning", where we come up with arguments that fit our worldview rather than accurately assessing the world around us. I appreciated that the author came up with several specific techniques to use to try to remove some of your biases when making decisions. One weird thing about this book was that a lot of her examples of people either engaging in motivated reasoning or overcoming it and having productive arguments wer ...more
Sawyer X
Jun 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Let me start off by saying it's an excellent book and I strongly recommend reading it. I hope within the context of the book, my small notes would still be appreciated. They do not take away from the excellence of the book and I wholeheartedly recommend reading it (and correcting my misunderstanding, if you're willing).

I think there are some false equivalencies presented to make a point. An example was given for reading a comment ("all men need to die in a fire") by an "extreme feminist" and exp
Paul Sand
Jun 01, 2021 rated it really liked it

[Imported automatically from my blog. Some formatting there may not have translated here.]

Another good book in the "How to Think" genre. I didn't like it quite as much as (guess what) How to Think by Alan Jacobs. But this is a noble effort.

When you are considering a contentious issue, Ms. Galef suggests you can approach it with either the "scout mindset" or the "soldier" mindset. The soldier approaches reasoning as defensive combat; evidence is accepted or discounted not on its inherent value

Harry Taussig
Apr 29, 2021 rated it really liked it

### The Book in 3 Sentences

It's in your best interest to see the world as it is instead of as you want it to be.

Knowing how to think clearly is very different than actually doing it.

Just knowing about our biases isn't enough, but there are good strategies to improving your thinking.

### My Top 3 Quotes:

Our judgment isn’t limited by knowledge nearly as much as it’s limited by attitude.

The test of scout mindset isn’t whether you see yourself as the kind of person who does these things. It’
Alex Herder
May 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's a quick definition of the scout mindset from the beginning of the book:
the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were. Scout mindset is what allows you to recognize when you are wrong, to seek out your blind spots, to test your assumptions and change course. It’s what prompts you to honestly ask yourself questions like “Was I at fault in that argument?” or “Is this risk worth it?” or “How would I react if someone from the other political party did the same thing?” As
David Montgomery
May 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book deserves five stars, but unfairly I can't give them. That's because my standard for a five-star nonfiction book is usually* that it transforms how I think about the world — and while I think this book's argument is transformative, it's a transformation I underwent years ago. I already heartily endorse everything this book argues. Which means you should definitely read it.

But my prior endorsement of this book's arguments are a deeper problem for giving it a five-star review, because "Th
Jonathan Crabb
May 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I am not entirely sure where I got this book from but it is an incredible book on several different levels. The core concept of the book is that there are two predominant mindsets in how people deal with new information particularly information that challenges their preconceptions or ideologies. Solider mindset is naturally more defensive and holds positions even to painful lengths. On the other hand, scout mindset is radically different in that rather than defending positions, scouts are intere ...more
Ben Hughes
Apr 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I spent today reading @JuliaGalef's excellent book "The Scout Mindset" cover to cover. This is one of the most important books I've read recently, and it provides a unique and under-appreciated lens with which to approach belief, disagreement, social relations, and identity.

The ways in which cognitive biases lead us to self-deceive at the expense of truth is well documented and covered in several other works. Learning about them, and avoiding barriers to clear thinking, is worthwhile and importa
Harsha Varma
What makes Bill Gates very very dangerous? Larry Ellison has an interesting anecdote from 1993 in his book Softwar.

“It was the most interesting conversation I’ve ever had with Bill, and the most revealing. It was around eleven o’clock in the morning, and we were discussing some technical issue, I don’t remember what it was. Anyways, I didn’t agree with him on some point, and I explained my reasoning. Bill says, 'I’ll have to think about that, I’ll call you back’.

Then I get this call at four in
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