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In this excellent and practical book the prominent psychology, Richard Nisbett, translates psychological research into practical advice that will help the reader to better evaluate situations and to make better decisions. The book is in many ways similar to Kahneman’s book “Thinking fast and slow”, in that it explains where our reasoning, deductions and inferences tend to go wrong. However, Nisbett takes the extra step of trying to formulate simple laws that one can follow to avoid the psychological pitfalls that people often fall into. In some cases this merely means being aware that there is such a pitfall, which according to Nisbett actually helps a great deal. For example, if we are aware of our instinctual tendency to rate anecdotal evidence higher than experimental evidence, we can make a conscious effort downplay anecdotal evidence. Similarly, even if no one uses decision theory (listing pros and cons for all alternatives we are faced with) perfectly, knowing the basics will actually help us make slightly better decisions on average.
One of the more notable aspects of modern society is that we are constantly being bombarded with information and commercials. A good chunk of this book is dedicated to deciphering findings reported in the media. For example, we should be very skeptical of correlations, because correlation does not equal causation. If obese children tend to have parents that controls the child’s food intake, that does not mean that controlling your child’s food intake will make them obese. A more likely explanation is that when a child becomes obese, parents will want to control food intake. A huge number of similar findings are reported in the media on a daily basis. Unfortunately, journalists, like the rest of us are also susceptible to think that correlation mean causation, and their reports are written accordingly resulting in a lot of confusion. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of correlation studies will allow the reader to see such reports in a new light.
Overall, this book is an excellent addition to the popular psychology literature, and Nisbett (who I am familiar with from my studies in Psychology), is a stringent scientist who knows the difference between good science and BS. Readers are certain to find some good, hands on, advice, that they can go out and employ in their everyday life.
44 of 49 people found this review helpful
As I read many books about the topic before, from this book I only learned about Asian (Chinese really) approach to logic... I hate to rate this book too low simply because the experimental data and its analysis has been published many times over and the thoughts are also very well known ...to me. For such a large book, I would have expected a lot more... What ever I learned, I can not use anyway, but that is the problem of the whole aspect of economical psychology as a science. Once you get to the area where experiments can not be repeated and forecasts can be explained either way the reality goes, it is hard to evaluate the conclusions.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
Definitely not what I was expecting. The book was just a compendium of statistical studies and information rather than 0tools for smart thinking".
I tired to keep attention and interest for 2/3 of the book until I gave up.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Richard puts across a very practical and interesting collection of tools for better interoperating the barrage of information we get in everyday life.
However the book starts to become very in depth and feels like the author's ego is running wild with continuous self promotion and jaunts into partly irrelevant specialisms.