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Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception Hardcover – May 20, 2014
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—New York Times Book Review
“In this brilliant and delightful expose of recent psychological research, Hallinan reveals that self-deception is also a potent drug for boosting hope, confidence, and creativity. For those of us who have lived by Feynman's first principle, that you must not fool yourself, this provocative book is a shocking and encouraging eye-opener: good things can happen if we just shut up, relax, and believe.”
—Leonard Mlodinow, bestselling author of Subliminal and The Drunkard’s Walk
“Hallinan works in territory similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s: giving fresh twists to familiar assumptions, showing that conventional wisdom may be more conventional than wise. … A genial, occasionally glib guide to both the positive and negative effects of self-delusion.”
“Accessible pop science that provides a good laugh and some great dinner conversation.”
“Well-documented and approachable…particularly insightful…a well-researched and accessibly written book on the flexibility of human perception and belief.”
Praise for Joseph T. Hallinan’s Why We Make Mistakes
“What an eye-opener!...Hallinan cites numerous studies and experts, but he keeps the book from becoming a stodgy recitation of facts and statistics through the frequent use of illustrative examples and snappy prose. He also throws in a few big surprises….A vastly informative, and for some readers vastly reassuring, exploration of the way our minds work.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“[I]mpressive…intriguing…a lesson in humility as much as human behavior, Hallinan's study should help readers understand their limitations and how to work with them.”
“Entertains while it informs. Hallinan brings the science of human behavior to life, showing how it applies to us every day.”
—Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Kidding Ourselves is reader-friendly, pop science that looks at everything from how placebos work to why mass hysteria occurs. We're treated to examples that are both comical and compelling. Hallinan has an easy writing style, absent of academic language and complicated science. This is a book for anyone interested in the way our minds work to both help and deceive us.
This is a short read. While the print length is listed as 272 pages, much of that is Notes and Bibliography. I read this in Kindle format, and the content ends at 70%. I don't know what page number that would be, but I'd guess the actual content is under 200 pages in print. The light read works well for the casual reader, though I would have liked a bit more substance.
I had some issues with the generalities and conclusions reached with certain information. For instance, Hallinan talks about society's addiction to dietary supplements despite the fact that "they don't work". As proof, he tells us that studies found these things are a waste of money. This is gross misrepresentation of facts. While it's true that many studies show multivitamins are ineffective, that is not true of all or even most dietary supplements. He goes on to cite one particular study of vitamin E and prostate cancer, taking the enormous leap that, because it doesn't work as a treatment for prostate cancer, it is useless or even detrimental to our health overall. Here, I think Hallinan has shown us his own skewed perception of facts.Read more ›
The book is a collection of stories and studies. We have examined the phenomenon up and down, forwards and backwards, in seemingly hundreds of ways. Incredible amounts of money have been expended to tell us this: we deceive ourselves constantly. It's innate and unstoppable. Rats and dogs show the same tendencies. Have a nice day fooling yourself.
We spend billions every year on vitamins and supplements, despite the almost weekly reporting of studies that show some vitamin totally failed to have any effect whatsoever in a two year study of 5000 people. Or that there has never been a study that showed any vitamin supplement actually achieved preventing colds or cancer, extending lives, improving memory or easing joint movement.
It's even worse in politics. In Ohio before the last election, 15% of Republicans claimed to believe Mitt Romney had Osama Bin Laden killed. Nationwide, over half of Americans believe JFK was killed in a conspiracy. Hallinan says in politics, the most informed are the most biased, spouting wrong statistics and incorrect facts that favor their own stance.Read more ›
Some of the author’s examples of self-deception have no concrete link to self-deception. For example, in the chapter on how feeling hopeless, helpless or trapped can cause the brain to prematurely give up and the body to die even when there’s still a chance to survive, there’s a few pages on fatal heart attacks brought on by acute emotional distress. A sudden flood of stress hormones triggering a heart attack isn’t really death-by-self-deception. The same chapter includes a section on soldiers brainwashed into losing the will to live. I wouldn’t count prolonged mental abuse/manipulation as *self*-deception either.
Or take the chapter on how we deceive ourselves through herd mentality, where the spike of copycat suicides following Marilyn Monroe’s suicide is cited. People who are depressed and suicidal are influenced by heavily publicized suicides. These people commit suicide because of their vulnerable mental state, not because their mind is suddenly tricking them into killing themselves.
The book also contains factual inaccuracies, such as that yawning has no purpose (yawning is a mechanism for cooling the brain when it gets overheated) or that dietary supplements are useless (they’re very helpful for vitamin deficiencies, pregnant women, people with poor diets, etc.).
There is a ton of interesting and useful information in this book, such as discussion on nocebos (the opposite of placebos), seeing what we expect to see, performing as well (or as badly) as we expect to perform, how we react when in/not in control, feeling immune to risks, etc. But I feel that the author could have been more careful with his example selections and fact-checking. This is the type of book I’d recommend borrowing from the library or getting used/on-sale, not paying full-price for.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In "Kidding Ourselves" Joe Hallinan presents an interesting survey on the role self deception plays in several cognitive environments. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Matthew Posey
Highly readable. Full of shocking anecdotal accounts, illustrative incidents, and research findings about how the best and brightest are prone to misthink. Read morePublished 18 months ago by L. L. Price
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