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Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking
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212 of 216 people found the following review helpful
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One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Wright's "Moral Animal:" "...human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their ignorance of the misuse." Although this book is not about the morality of our decision-making, it is completely about how we delude ourselves about ourselves, our situations, and others.

Borrowing heavily from Carl Sagan, Michael Shermer, Skeptic Magazine, and Skeptic Inquirer, Kida starts off with standard issue debunking of pseudoscience. Soon he zeroes in and concentrates on the faulty ways we reach assessments. These methods worked quite well in our small tribe hunting-gathering days, but nowadays we could do better.

At the risk of losing half the readers of this review, I'll spill the beans. Kida believes in statistics, whereas people evolved to believe in anecdotes. People confidently rely on intuition, then remember the hits and ignore the misses. People seek to confirm what they already believe and gloss over contradictory evidence. People rarely consider the role of chance and coincidence, preferring to give credit to metaphysical causes. People consistently misinterpret events to bolster their deluded self-images. People oversimplify complex situations, tending to shun the gray areas for black or white assessments. Finally, our memories are the pits - remolding and enhancing the original memory more and more as time goes by.

For the above data, Kida has documentation galore, but in the face of volumes of evidence, we continue to do more of the same. After blasting our anecdotal way of proving our theories, Kida uses his own anecdotes, saying "we evolved to love learning from stories." The difference is, the stories he tells survive sophisticated statistical analysis of the data.

There are fascinating stories on every page of this book, with conclusions that will bowl you over if you're not used to this kind of analysis - but it's so true to life. Every day, I hear people justifying their decisions on the basis of someone else's single experience, their own biased conclusion based on erroneous information, a TV show, a hot tip, or other bad data. Every day, I hear stories told that have been enhanced. Confrontations usually don't turn out quite as well as what is later reported to spellbound listeners.

I wish all high schools and colleges would offer a required course on critical thinking - for that group that really would like to take a more scientific approach, but didn't know it existed. Prepare to be blown away - this is a great book!
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110 of 114 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2006
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How much better of a country we would have if everyone was required to read and digest this book before getting a high school diploma. We would at least have a population that understands what science, and the scientific method are. The author's explanation of science and pseudo-science, and how they differ, is excellent.

The author covers six common factors that cause us to be mis-guided by our thoughts. Honestly, when I read the list of 6 factors, I had a kind of ho-hum attitude. I didn't see how he could make explicating such obvious things (e.g., we don't always perceive reality accurately) interesting. But he surprised me! His book is very interesting, page after page. His anecdotes and explanations have a way of popping open one's brain cells, allowing one to reflect with much deeper insight on how various factors cause our thinking to send us into wasteful, and even destructive, dead-ends. I particularly enjoyed how well the author demonstrated that if there is no way to show that a hypothesis is false, there is nothing more we can do with it.

I really enjoyed this book. Since we are all dictated by our thoughts, I think that everyone would benefit from reading it!
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2008
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I'm not completely sure what it is that I don't like about the style of writers for management. Maybe it's the insistence on the superficial, chatty, bouncy style of writing. Thomas Kida is a professor in the Isenberg School of Management and adopts this style, which somewhat undermines the very important points he makes. Yes, it's easy to read but I wouldn't mind a little more challenge in a book about the sometimes critical decision errors that we make due to our evolutionary past.

The book is subtitle "the 6 basic mistakes..." - "the six pack of problems" as he calls them, which he lists in sequence. However, the majority of the book is not structured to follow that sequence. It seems to be rather an afterthought (or a good publicity idea).

He readily admits that the book is built on the work of others and it really is. Much of the discussion on weird beliefs and pseudoscientific thinking is a rehash of Shermer and Sagan (and he credits them both). Having said that it does bring together a lot of different information and work by others and does explain how and why we all make these errors in reasoning. For a book on decision making, he goes too much into UFO's, false memories etc. His discussions on probability and why we misjudge is much more interesting and helpful.

Overall, as I've said, it's an easy read and does cover a lot of interesting ground. However, it really doesn't bring much new for anyone who has read generally about these sorts of issues. A pretty good introduction but I just wish writers like this would credit their readers with a little more intelligence and literacy.
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59 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2007
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After reading a review of this book in e-Skeptic, I immediately ordered a copy. If there's one thing that could transform the world into a better place, it's the implementation of informed critical thinking in the general population. I have always been a proponent of Plutarch's belief that the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lit, and am always in eager anticipation of books that may light those fires.

The title is a bit misleading, as it oversimplifies the author's scope. But the use of numbered lists in book and article titles (Ten Ways To Do This, Five Things You Can Do To Improve That, etc.) is a pretty standard marketing ploy to attract readers seeking simple answers.

If I had written of the review of the book after only 30-50 pages, I would not have given it a great review. It felt a bit choppy and lacking direction early on. The author seemed to worship statistics without the same level of skepticism applied to anecdotal evidence. All of this was fully rectified later in the book.

Kida's approach is not only theoretical. He uses real-life scenarios to show how decision-making based on poor information and/or improper processing of information affects our lives in negative ways.

There was one glaring omission: You can't talk about belief in the paranormal, superstition, and an aversion to fact-based and proven theory-based thinking without noting at some point that we live in a society where children are indoctrinated to believe in anti-science. Virgin births, the parting of seas at the will of a man, people walking on water, fat guys flying around the world with magic flying reindeer in a single night, rabbits delivering dyed chicken eggs, and so many more stories that are taught to children as fact brainwash them into believing in things that fly in the face of reason and fact. It shouldn't surprise us that these children grow up to accept bizarre claims, and make important decisions, without applying skepticism.

We're not much closer to an Age of Reason than we were during Thomas Paine's days, but at least there are books like this flying the flag and trying to warn us of the dangers of not using our "God-given" ability to think. As a whole, this is a book that can improve people's lives and, thereby, everything those lives touch.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2007
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This is a very readable and informative presentation of some well-known concepts from social psych. Scott Plous' book, "The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making" is more complete but less accessible to a purely lay audience and the material in this book is certainly nothing new, but it is nice to have a recently-published review of some research on cognitive illusions that was largely complete by the 90's. Good for adult learners interested in improving their critical thinking skills. Chapters are brief and examples are relevant and illuminating.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2006
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I found this book to be very informative and very understandable. A great book for any manager to improve their decision making skills. I've used this book to coach my teenager on how to approach some of the strange and sometimes dangerous information they get from their friends. I strongly recommend this book to any parent or manager.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2007
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Now more than ever we have to be able to use some critical thinking in our everyday affairs. Life is getting a lot more complicated than it used to be. Now more than ever you have to defend yourself, your family and your assets from a lot of people who in good or bad faith (mainly), are trying to affect your life or your capital...in a negative way. Critical thinking is essential for your well being nowadays...And this book is very good in describing our main weak points and the ways to control them and react in our favor.

Give this book a couple of days...read it. It's worth your time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
The quote by Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and columnist for Scientific American, on the back cover sums up this book pretty well: "How can we tell the difference between what is true and false? The answer is science and critical thinking, a process that Thomas Kida, in this exceptionally readable and delightfully informative book, explicates with clarity."

This book really gets you to think about how we think, and how our thinking can go wrong. As Kida says, while we've had amazing accomplishments, we still fall prey to flawed thinking. And it's not because we're stupid - very intelligent people make thinking mistakes. Instead, we all have natural tendencies to search out and evaluate evidence in a faulty manner. While Kida talks about many cognitive pitfalls, they're centered around six major themes to make it easy for the reader to remember the main points of the book.

There are fascinating stories and anecdotes throughout the book (since we pay more attention to stories over statistics). The difference here is that the stories are all backed by rigorous scientific study. As a result, the book is extremely interesting to read, and you learn a lot about how we think and how to overcome potential problems.

Highly recommended!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was quite pleasantly surprised by this book. It is well written and easy to follow. The stories used to explain the types of critical thinking flaws we fall victim to are exceptionally interesting and informative ... and backed up by voluminous technical references appropriately placed at the rear of the book to promote readability (thank you for that, author). There are twelve chapters; each chapter is devoted to a specific topic of concern associated with critical thinking and decision making. Within each chapter, numerous examples of thinking flaws and biases are presented along with basic social science concepts, overviews of pertinent investigations, interesting facts and unusual and surprising study outcomes. I especially liked the sections on the role of chance and coincidence, predicting the unpredictable, how we tend to use confirming strategies in decision-making and how question framing affects decision making outcomes. While many of the psychological and critical thinking concepts presented in this book are not new, the compilation of a wide variety of thinking flaws described in a bite-sized, easy to understand, story telling format is a great way to introduce general readers to this sorely needed information. We certainly do prefer stories to statistics!

Despite our culture's impressive technological achievements, the vast majority of us remain intellectual troglodytes when it comes to understanding the processes of critical thinking and analysis. We rely too heavily on factual misrepresentations, anecdotal information, psuedostatistics, oversimplifications, biased assessments, unverified opinions, faulty memories and outright superstitions to guide our daily actions, often times causing significant harm to ourselves and to others in the process.

If you are expecting a scientific treatise on critical thinking and decision making, as it appears were a few of my fellow reviewers, who provided lower ratings because the author chose to provide the material in an easy-to-read, casual style rather than bore the intended audience with obtuse scientific jargon, then you are barking up the wrong book, however, if your intent is to learn critical thinking basics in an easy to understand, highly entertaining and informative fashion then this is the book for you.

I would highly recommend this book to open-minded readers interested in gaining insight concerning the numerous types of flaws afflicting our thinking and decision-making processes in everyday life.

I also believe that this book should be "required reading" for every upper level high school and college student .... Even more so for their parents!

I recently provided a copy of this book to my 16 year old son and to my amazement he has been reading it with a great degree of interest. We have been engaging in some pretty in-depth discussions about thinking flaws and our own decision-making biases as a result.

I plan to purchase several more copies of this book and send them along to some of my relatives and friends as Christmas presents. Given the critical need for improved thinking and decision-making by the pack of delusional bipeds a combination of chance and a small bit of decision-making on my part has linked me with ... perhaps Christmas presents will arrive extra early this year!

As aptly noted "people with untrained minds should no more expect to think clearly and logically than people who have never learned and never practiced can expect to find themselves good carpenters, golfers, bridge players or pianists."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2011
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This book introduces some elementary psychology terms which are explained but never pinpointed. For instance, chapters are spent on Confirmation Bias (seeking for information to confirm your subjective view and ignoring information which contradicts it), although he never mentions the name of the term. Also, he uses the same references time and time again, two or three favorite experts whose work he refers to nonstop. Many of his anecdotes, although referenced, are extremely generalized and vague.

Overall a decent book for those who are new to the idea which the title suggests, but anyone with a couple psychology classes under their belt would be better off skipping this for something with more substance.
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