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Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1 edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591025095
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591025092
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Clinical psychologist Van Hecke has compiled a list of 10 mental glitches that have infiltrated contemporary society, afflicting even the smartest among us, limiting thought, success and relationships. Van Hecke devotes a chapter to each blind spot, including "Not stopping to think," "Not noticing," "Jumping to conclusions" and "Missing the big picture." Examining each in detail, Van Hecke details the root causes of these unconscious habits ("information overload," "our tendency to habituate") and tactics for overcoming them, using humorous anecdotes and other real-life examples to drive her points; the key is remaining open to new ideas and taking a step back from our busy lives in order to process information, situations and people. Filling in "the big picture" herself, Van Hecke demonstrates how embracing and understanding our weaknesses can not only improve personal and professional relationships, but also entire communities; this self-help is a welcome, highly readable first step.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"This delightful romp through the maze of human fallibility should be sent to every CEO of the Fortune 500 companies, along with all of the members of Congress. Van Hecke's engaging writing style, personal anecdotes, and real-world examples of the numerous blind spots that all of us have - including and especially intelligent and educated people - brings to a wide audience decades of scientific research on cognitive fallacies and critical thinking. A fun read!"
MICHAEL SHERMER, Publisher of Skeptic magazine
Monthly columnist for Scientific American
Author of Why People Believe Weird Things

"I have no reservations about wholeheartedly recommending this book. There are many humorous anecdotes that gently nudge us into a deeper understanding of our human fallabilities. Behind each stupid mistake, each wrong-headed viewpoint, is a person every bit as rational as we think ourselves to be. Madeleine's book allows us to see ourselves more clearly, and assess others more tolerantly."

WENDY NORTHCUTT, best-selling author of The Darwin Awards
Creator of www.DarwinAwards.com

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Customer Reviews

This book is a lighter read.
Burton Robinson
This book is a great way to keep you grounded when the smart people around you are doing dumb things, and, of course, to prevent you from making the same mistakes.
Carolyn Thornlow
While only 242 pages, I found this book to be too long for the material covered.
J. West

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

217 of 233 people found the following review helpful By Donald Bailey on June 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must start by saying I only read the first 65 or so pages (about 1/3rd of the book) before the author lost my attention. She filled the first several pages with a shallow discussion of commom tenets your parents or teachers probably already shared with you. I paraphrase: 'Stop and think before you act'; 'What you don't know CAN hurt you'; 'Don't miss the forest for the trees.'

In the subsequent chapters, she attempted to dive more deeply into the reasons these tenets ring true. As I read through the discussion, I came away with the distinct impression that I was stuck in an entry level class on human behavior at a community college. Her analysis lacked depth; her analogies were flat or did not fit. She offered little insight into an intriguing topic.

Based on the reviews I read before purchasing the book, I expected more rigor and critical analysis than I found. The book's concept has promise. Unfortunately, the author did not deliver.

Because I was intrigued by the topic, I've continued to look for books that could better help me understand common blind spots. Although narrowly focused on the idea of self-deception, I thought "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)" gave a thorough analysis of a common blind spot many of us experience.

I also found meaningful insights about the physiology of the brain that creates some of our blind spots in "On Being Certain." The author's statements were supported by conclusions drawn from peer-reviewed studies - the type of rigor I expected but did not find in 'Blind Spots.'
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76 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Thornlow on March 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If every person in a position of responsibility read this book, perhaps there would be fewer catastrophes! Granted, there are so many things at play in complex situations, a mere human may not be able to change entire outcomes. However, there are so many stupid decisions that contribute to ruin ... and that can be changed. That's why this book is so important.

Van Hecke presents 10 Blind Spots:
1. Not Stopping to Think
2. What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
3. Not Noticing
4. Not Seeing Yourself
5. My-side Bias
6. Trapped by Categories
7. Jumping to Conclusions
8. Fuzzy Evidence
9. Missing Hidden Causes
10. Missing the Big Picture

While listing the chapters may seem like the Cliff Notes, it would be a mistake to conclude that the list is the whole story. The author does a complete, substantiated and entertaing job of describing each blind spot and shows how prevalent (sadly) they are. This book is a great way to keep you grounded when the smart people around you are doing dumb things, and, of course, to prevent you from making the same mistakes.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By S. Fyksen on May 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
To say I recognized myself and so many others I know in this book would be an understatement! It has changed the way I think about many things, especially when driving. I'm prone to road rage, and after reading this, it put a different spin on the guy in the other car; it has saved many people already. Every chapter was a revelation, and I really enjoyed the example stories. They made it easy to see the ways in which we bypass our own intelligence. A good book for business groups, or anyone wishing they didn't stumble over their own "forehead smacking" blunders. This could be a good gift for colleagues who think they know it all, or those who don't and need help.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Orick Peterson on May 14, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is engaging, smart, and playful, even though it deals with stuff we really ought to know. Van Hecke points out some mysteries we haven't noticed, and makes the mysterious feel manageable. She starts with the conviction that the more we understand about our thinking, the more likely we are to produce results that satisfy us in the long term. Van Hecke's witty and insightful daytrip through some of the knobbier kinds of thinking is lots of fun. I discovered plenty of surprises and quite a few points that proved things I had almost thought of myself. Blind Spots includes just enough unforgettable examples. They keep coming to mind as I catch myself doing some of my own favorite dumb things. Highly recommended to anyone wanting to think about thinking--students, teachers, armchair philosophers, and all the rest of us who wonder how things happen. Nice gift for someone recovering from doing a dumb thing. That's probably anyone: as Ven Hecke points out, it comes with having a brain built like ours.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Amol Oak on May 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
I don't read self-help books as a rule but this one (a gift) kept me hooked. All the blind spots were real to me and pertained in one way or another to me and/or someone I know. I am going to give this book to everyone I know and do business with. It will go a long way towards making my life easier!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on January 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is one of a recent spurt of pop neuropsychology books that very user friendly.

In this short, accessible volume, one learns the many ways in which human prejudice and lack of foresight can cause even the most experience of us to misstep.

In terms of using real life examples, this book excells. In terms of covering of the overarching clinical data, this book is not as helpful.

For those who find their interest in neuropsychology piqued by this book I would suggest:

How the Mind Works by Harvard's Steven Pinker

Why We Love by Dr. Helen Fisher

Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer

And pretty much anything by V. Ramashandran or Matt Ridley.

Neuropsychology...the idea that human behavior is just as molded by evolution as human morphology...is an inherently and unendling fascinating field. To those for whom this is the first step in the pond, I encourage you to follow this up with a long educational swim.
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