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Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  244 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
The New York Times called the Kaplans' look at probability in everyday life, Chances Are, "a dizzying, exhilarating ride." Now they take readers on a new fun-house tour, exploring the burgeoning science of why humans make mistakes.

Our species, it appears, is hardwired to get things wrong in myriad different ways. Why did recipients of a loan offer accept a higher rate of i
Paperback, 294 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Bloomsbury Press (first published May 5th 2009)
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Nov 24, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The book: "Hey, people do illogical stuff sometimes. I'm not going to say why or make a point, but people sure do dumb stuff. Isn't that neat?"

No point to the book. Could have been saved if it had at least been funny, but it wasn't. Just scientific study after study about being illogical without ever really making a point about why, or what it means, or how the studies are related.
Rod Hilton
Bozo Sapiens bills itself as a book that is about the science behind the many ways that humans make mistakes. Unfortunately, what it turns out to actually be is a random collection of somewhat interesting stories and studies about human beings and the brain.

None of the chapters in the book are particularly BAD - no claims are made that aren't backed up by some studies. It's not that it is scientifically weak, it is that it is thematically disjoint. The authors jump from random topic to random t
May 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in why we make mistakes
Shelves: non-fiction-read
Another interesting book on human error and groupness with evolutionary explanations. This book reminds me of Laurence Gonzales' "Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things", covering similar territory from a slightly different perspective using some of the same and some different anecdotes. The book raises some more interesting issues related to learning and friendship that endures despite disparate opinions and worldviews. Bozo Sapiens also shares concepts and anecdotes with Joseph H ...more
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was ok

Wonderful, wonderful title (in a recent interview I was asked if I'd ever buy a book on the basis of title alone, and I said no, of course not, but I'd forgotten about this one); a shame about the actual book, really. What the Kaplans set out to do is explain the science behind why, individually and as a species, we're capable of such godawful stupidity: in the largest and wealthiest democracy in the world, there are people who in a few weeks' time will vote for someone who thinks scientists are
Jeff Williams
Mar 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
I love this topic and I've read and I own a dozen books on this topic. I read 20-30 nonfiction science books a year. Cognitive Bias is an amazing topic. Too bad the author simply can't write.

This is the second book I've started and been unable to read by the Kaplans. Dry, disorganized, pretentious. They take 5 sentences when one would do fine. There is no organization of topics, the prose is awful. If you're going to rehash all of the research that's been done on this topic, at least do it coher
Cassandra Kay Silva
I suppose this book would be considered loosely sociological in nature. It was just terrible. Not only did they openly bash my poor LDS parents (well the whole church in general) but the logic behind the organization of the work was ill formed. There was no real "backbone" to the book. It just meandered around basic complaints about the nature of our own humanity. The anecdotes were ones that any student has heard a thousand times in their sociology or psychology classes. I just didn't see the p ...more
May 01, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was so excited when I got this book because it looked so interesting, according to the description. I ended up only being able to read 50 pages of this book. The whole thing was way over my head and was written like abunch of small case histories. None of them flowed together leaving the reader to guess what the author was getting at. I am not going to finish the book. It felt like reading a book for college and not casual reading.
Oct 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
I received Bozo Sapiens through Good Reads giveaways. The title of the book made the book appear interesting. Unfortunately, that is where the interesting part left off. The book itself was a dry, if not chaotic, collection of studies on the human brain and illustrations to prove the authors point. I did not finish reading this one, as I just couldn't force myself to do it.
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Terence by: Won in a GR giveaway
I won this in a GR giveaway, huzzah, huzzah!

Part of the "price" is that they'd like me to review it when I'm done. Since I've tried to review every book I read since joining GR that's a small price to pay.

It'll have to wait, however, until I'm done with Empires and Barbarians.

Bozo Sapiens isn’t bad but it isn’t very interesting. That’s not because the topics aren’t interesting, and it’s not because there aren’t factoids of in
Aug 14, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, nonfiction
This was an interesting read, and gave a lot of insight into how the mind worked, and how instinct works against us in many ways. It was a quick read because of the interesting subject matter.

Two complaints: first, some of the examples in the book were to illustrate the principles they were discussing. They asked questions people commonly get "wrong," or at least choose the least logical response. While examples are useful when speaking of something so hazy as how thought works, it got frustrati
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dionisia by: Bloomsbury
I received this book for free via the Goodreads First Reads program.

Bozo Sapiens was surprisingly dense, but don't let that discourage you! I found it both interesting and engaging. The authors included so many fascinating studies of human behavior and brain function. Our brain is "wired" in such a way that errors are inevitable. So don't beat yourself up so much when you make a mistake or two. It's natural! Two things I found especially interesting were bonnet syndrome and sine-wave speech (I w
First of all - nice title. I probably wouldn't have picked it up if not for the title.

As the subtitle suggests, this is an attempt to explain human behavior, especially DUMB human behavior. Why do we take so many risks? Why do we procrastinate? Overeat? Cheat on spouses? Fall for get-rich-quick schemes? Succumb to mob mentality? There are a lot of reasons, but most of them have to do with the brain.

I enjoyed this book. The part about economics was interesting, in light of the current recession a
Sep 10, 2010 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

Bozo Sapiens was an interesting book that couldn’t decide how deeply to delve into its subject matter. I felt like the first few chapters were more densely informational, while later chapters gave their focus a superficial treatment. I came away from this with a lot of sound bites and factoids, but I feel a deeper understanding of the human brain has escaped me. I am curious to do further reading on this subject, although
Nov 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
KCPL: due 2009.1219

"The statistician William Cochran complained that scientists always came to him saying, 'I want to do an experiment to show that...' -- a phrase that would have made Bacon shudder. It's like saying, 'We'll have a trial to prove him guilty." Just as the ideal judge presumes innocence (because there are so many more ways to be innocent than guilty), the ideal sceintist should presume that any given explanation is likely to be false -- because there are so many more ways for rand
Michael T.
I expected this to be a bit of a Darwin Awards style diversion. Just a bit of fun, & a chance to make fun of stupid people. Turns out it was much more deep and insightful in terms of how we, as humans (Homo Sapiens Sapiens), perceive, and more to the point, mis-perceive the world around us. How the human brain, in order to function effectively, actually limits our perceptions in order to make the most probable guesses as to which course of action will result in survival, or at least benefits ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wasn't entirely all in on this book. I found this book at the Dollar Tree and was excited that I found a book with a cool title and subject matter. For only a dollar, I'm not disappointed. It took me a while to finish the book out of obligation, not from enjoyment. It's still hard to say the book was bad. I like books that talk about decision making and what influences it. Trump is mentioned in this book, but no spoilers. I digress. I did enjoy the things that they mentioned when it came to er ...more
Richard Thompson
Nov 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
From the inside of the book jacket: “ Our species, it appears is hardwired to get things wrong in a myriad of different ways. Why did recipients of a loan offer accept a higher interest rate when a pretty woman’s face was printed on the flyer? Why did one poll on immigration find that the most despised foreigners were ones from a group that did not exist? What made four ace fighter pilots frly their planes, in formation, straight into the ground? Why does giving someone power make him more likel ...more
Jul 14, 2010 rated it liked it
I received "Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human" from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, and though I haven't finished the book yet I wanted to acknowledge this fact. This is my first win, and I was convinced to enter giveaways by my girlfriend who won an advance copy of China Mieville's novel "Kraken". Thanks again, First Reads, and my review will follow soon!
Having finally finished "Bozo Sapiens", I can now say that I found the book to be informative, entertaining, and insightful. C
May 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bozo Sapiens was very fun. With "Why to Err is Human" in the title I expected something a little more technical and negative toward humanity. It wasn't like that at all. Instead of giving technical explanations about how the brain works, the book gave me lots of everyday scenarios about why we do the things we do. I especially enjoyed a section early on in the book that talked about how seeing and hearing are believing; I am going to butcher the delivery, but it cited a study in which a subject ...more
Jul 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book was not the light read I was expecting. That isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it - I did and I learned a great deal - but I was expecting the Daily Show and instead got tuned into CNN. Once I got used to the tone it turned out to be very interesting.

One of the main things I took away from the book was that the way humans interpret the world depends a great deal on the way they expect the world to behave. From the way we parse visual information to the way we find meaning in the most ra
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Dan by: Amy L. Campbell
Shelves: first-reads
This is a must-read.

I knew this book was going to be a must-read not even halfway through the second chapter; it's that good. The writing is engaging, with lots of humor. The topics are fascinating and the angles they approach them from novel and interesting. There wasn't a single sentence in this book that I didn't like, and I learned quite a bit.

The reading level may be a bit high for a general audience, unfortunately, but if you can parse the various scientific names for parts of the brain as
This book is not the easy layman's romp through evolutionary and social psychology that its cover promises it to be- Bozo Sapiens is cluttered with obscure references to philosophy, history, and literature, which only tangentially enrich the arguments they are intended to support. I think the Kaplans tried to cover too many topics using too many examples- I personally would have preferred a book that investigated these issues in a more vertical than horizontal manner.

That being said..... Bozo Sa
Jesse Winslow
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It took me a long time to pick through this book, but it was well worth it. Maybe, since I've recently read a couple books on a similar subject, I did not find this book to be too revealing. I did absolutely love the chapter On of Us. What a timely bit of writing! This chapter alone should be read by everyone in the world. It summarizes something I've been thinking for a long time, that anyone can put differences aside, no matter how great, for the common good. Not an earth-shattering concept, ...more
Ryan Mac
I won this book on a Goodreads giveaway (thank you Goodreads!). This book was interesting but could have been put together better. In certain parts of the book, especially the first couple of chapters, the authors seemed to jump around quite a bit. They covered a lot of ground but it had some flow issues.

On the plus side, I did learn several interesting facts about how the brain works and how humans interact with each other. The authors did a very good job with giving examples and boiling down t
Diane Pollock
Aug 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The science of stupidity!
There is much in this book that can be applied to everyday life to make yourself less prone to error, but much also that shows that error is inevitable. I loved the chapters exploring our nature through comparisons with other primates and sociological studies. The first few chapters that dealt more with philosophical issues and logical fallicies were more difficult to slog through, but well worth it for the treaures to come! I would recommend leading off with a more acc
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Darlene by: First Reads
This was a First Reads win. I appreciated the chance but I got bogged down in chapter two. I don't want to blame the book. My eyesight became blurry and so I didn't have the patience to keep trying.

In compliance with FTC guidelines, please disclose in your review that you received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

* * *
Started again, with the Audible version. April 3 2011.

Managed to get to the chapter of Love and Marriage and couldn't tolerate another line of schlock. Talk about be
May 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interesting in human nature
This is a very interesting book, full of humorous and sobering examples of human nature and its tendency to err. It's chapters encompass a range of topics, from our evolutionary nature to our relatively few numbers of ancestors (compared to other species) to our misplaced faith in infallibility of the machines we build. This book provides an insighful view on why we succeed and fail and our motivations behind our behaviors.

I received this book from the Goodreads giveaway and I enjoyed reading i
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Editing the review: I forgot to say I got my copy of the book through a First Reads giveaway contest.

Overall, I really enjoyed this - I found the first few chapters in particular very thought provoking and interesting. They sort of lost me in the final part with the evolutionary psychology stuff, to be honest. But I would nonetheless recommend this - I think it is actually quite important for people in many areas of life and work to understand that yes, people will make mistakes, expect that an
Kim Hollstein
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I received this book from a Good Reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like this one. It has such a clever title which engaged my interest immediately. I'm curious by nature and enjoy learning about science and religion intersect, so my expectations were piqued. The case study structure really slowed the narrative flow and made it difficult for me to read. I finally gave up 3/4 of the way through, unfortunately. It was just too dry and didn't hold my interest. Bette ...more
J. Ewbank
Oct 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Certainly not religious, but this book by mother and son is interesting anyway. The title made me pick it up from the store and got me started. The book looked like it would be a quick, easy read from the title and the banana peel on the cover, but it was not a quick read because there was a lot of scientific studies packed within. It was an informative read and now when I make a mistake I can say, "I am wired in my brain to make that mistake, it's not me."

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, N
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Michael Kaplan is a writer and filmmaker. He holds an undergraduate and Master's degrees in History from Harvard University. He finished graduate studies at the University of Oxford.

He is the co-author alongside his mother, Ellen Kaplan, of the Bozo Sapiens Why to Err Is Human and Chances Are... Adventures in Probability.
He is currenlt a managing partner of Prospero, (a communications company wi
More about Michael Kaplan

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“If you fret that the world grows short of genuine wonders, consider this: the most complex lump of matter in the universe. It works in ways we can only guess at. THrough generations of intense study, scientists have at last come to understand some of its local mechanism, but the connection between local and general remains for them, as for the rest of us, a matter of arm-waving speculation--we know less about what's going on inside of it than we do about the functional structure of the most distant galaxies. It weighs a little over three pounds and is the consistency of toothpaste; you're carrying it between your ears.” 1 likes
“Hearing may make shorter intuitive leaps than sight, but it too is subject to illusions. The most pleasant of these are 'mondegreens,' named by the author Sylvia Wright from her youthful mishearing of the Scottish ballad that actually says, 'They hae slain the Earl o' Moray / and they layd him on the green'--not, alas, 'the Lady Mondegreen.' Children, with their relaxed expectations for logic, are a rich source of these (pledging allegiance to 'one Asian in the vestibule, with little tea and just rice for all'), but everyone has the talent to infer the ridiculous from the inaudible--and, what's more, to believe in it. Here, at least, we do behave like computers, in that our voice-recognition software has little regard for probability but boldly assumes we live in a world of surrealist poets. We are certain that Mick Jagger will never leave our pizza burning and that the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hot cement.” 1 likes
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