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Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 11, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307595919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307595911
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Despite its brand-name-sounding title (used only in the four-page afterword), Epley hasn’t created a slick, marketable method. And this book isn’t pop psychology but popularly written, genuine behavioral psychology, based on the findings of carefully constructed experiments. Its subject is the so-called sixth sense, by which humans descry what others feel, think, and know, and which we variously call intuition, sympathy, and mind reading. The experiments Epley describes verify its reality and, more important, that it isn’t nearly as reliable as we assume; indeed, it’s only modestly better than chance at rightly ascertaining particulars (e.g., opinions, preferences, details), even those of spouses, family members, and bosom friends. A number of attitudes get in the way of accurate mind reading, including egocentrism, anthropomorphism, and dehumanization. Proceeding from research findings, Epley analyzes those impediments before turning to the means for improving the sixth sense, which turns out to be asking questions of those we are trying to “read.” Furthermore, Epley enjoins, the right kind of questions will ask what rather than why. Unexciting? Useful! --Ray Olson

Review

Praise for Nicholas Epley's Mindwise

“Animals and humans think, but only humans can understand what others are thinking. Without this ability, cooperative society is unimaginable. It’s a sixth sense, akin to mind reading, writes Epley in this clever psychology primer....Epley ably explores many entertaining and entirely convincing mistakes, so readers will have a thoroughly satisfying experience.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This book isn’t pop psychology but popularly written, genuine behavioral psychology, based on the findings of carefully constructed experiments. Its subject is the so-called sixth sense, by which humans descry what others feel, think, and know, and which we variously call intuition, sympathy, and mind reading. The experiments Epley describes verify its reality and, more important, that it isn’t nearly as reliable as we assume; indeed, it’s only modestly better than chance at rightly ascertaining particulars (e.g., opinions, preferences, details), even those of spouses, family members, and bosom friends….Useful!—Booklist

“'Mindwise' is good reading for negotiators, the makers of public policy, heck, for anyone who interacts with other people, and that should be all of us. Mr. Epley is a genial, informative host in this tour of some of the most interesting findings in the social psychology of understanding one another, which he calls "mind-reading." His examples are drawn from the headlines as well as the peer-reviewed literature, and he keeps things going at a quick pace without dumbing-down the science.” David J. Levitin, The Wall Street Journal

“Psychologist Nicholas Epley’s Mind-wise provides a guide to understanding the minds of others. His engrossing book outlines the strategies that we use: projecting from our own minds, using stereotypes, and inferring from others’ actions.…Epley is a lucid and magnetic host, and his book...is crammed with evidence-based research.” Leyla Sanai, The Independent

“Nuanced, authoritative and accessible.” —Nature

Since Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point and Freakonomics there has been a vast output of books on behavioural science. Many have been quite poor—formulaic books supporting obvious conclusions at unnecessary length. Mindwise stands out from the crowd. It is surprising, intelligent, and convincing. It continues to make worthwhile points in every chapter (after about chapter two most books of this kind are repeating themselves) and the author tells you things you don't know without straining for effect. You emerge from reading it understanding both yourself and others better, which is not a bad dividend from reading fewer than 200 pages.” Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

“What to expect of a book with such a title? In this neuroscience-obsessed age, the best guess would be an enthusiastic account, illuminated with dramatic, if misleading, colour images of the brain regions that light up when people placed inside an MRI scanner are asked to think about their social relations. Or, by contrast, philosophical reflections on free will, the intentional stance and theories of mind. Refreshingly, however, Mindwise is free of such neuro- or philosophical ruminations; it takes for granted that we and our fellow humans have minds, and can exercise free will. Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science at the Chicago Booth business school, by and large takes the internal workings of our brains for granted, and focuses instead on the common – and sometimes uncommon – sense of how we understand our own thoughts and actions, and, above all, read the thoughts and intentions of others.” Steven Rose, The Guardian

“This is a fascinating exploration of what scientists have learned about our ability to understand the most complicated puzzle on the planet—other people—and the surprising mistakes we so routinely make” —Podacademy.org

“Immensely readable….not only clear but enjoyable as well….a fascinating look at how people understand one another, the obstacles to that understanding, and the ways in which they can hone their natural mind-reading ability. Though it may not be the kind of mind-reading found in science fiction, Mindwise gives readers the tools to get one step closer to better grasping the minds around them.” —Amanda Wicks, Washington Independent Review of Books
 
“Epley’s account suggests that unless you genuinely value the perspective of others, and not just those that conform to your own, you are not going to understand them. Really effective smart thinking is not, therefore, just a means to an end: it has to be rooted in what we see as ends in themselves, the values by which we live.” —Julian Baggini, Financial Times

“One of the smartest and most entertaining books I have read in years.  At a time when there are dozens of popular social science books to choose from, Epley's masterpiece stands out as the cream of the crop.” —Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics
 
Mindwise is a brilliant and beautiful exploration of the mystery of other minds—and how we fail to solve it. Insightful and important, Mindwise is one of the best books of this or any other decade.” —Daniel Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness 
 
“What is it like to be someone else? How can we get into other people’s heads? These questions have challenged the greatest thinkers in Western philosophy, and they obsess every one of us as we try to deal with our family, lovers, friends, enemies, colleagues, and allies. In Mindwise, the distinguished social psychologist Nicholas Epley offers a lively and fascinating tour of the latest science on how we figure out (and all too often fail to figure out) what everyone else is thinking.”
—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought

“‘Know thyself,’ commanded the Oracle at Delphi. Mindwise shows us why that’s so hard to do, yet so vital as the starting point for understanding others. Epley writes with scientific authority, grace, and deep humanity. You’ll come away from this book understanding the African concept of Ubuntu: A person is a person through other people.”
—Jonathan Haidt, NYU Stern School of Business, author of The Righteous Mind

“Why are we often so terribly bad at figuring out what other people are thinking? Nicholas Epley is one of the smartest and most creative social psychologists alive, and in his extraordinary new book, he explores the powers and the limits of our capacity for ‘mindreading.’ Epley is a clear and engaging writer, and Mindwise is replete with fascinating insights into human nature.”
—Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University, author of Just Babies

“Too much of life's misery comes from misunderstanding what others are thinking, and from assuming that those we love must know what is (obviously!) on our mind. Mindwise is a highly enjoyable and informative book by one of psychology's rising stars that will make you spend less time in pointless arguments and more time in rewarding relationships. Gaining some wisdom about the minds of others will be painless and priceless.”
—Richard H. Thaler, Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and Behavioral Science, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago

“Epley delivers the good news that we all have a sixth sense, an ability to read minds. The bad news is that we are not very good at it…Epley draws on a wealth of empirical social psychological research to help make sense of how humans understand and misunderstand one another.”—Science (2014 Summer Reading Selection)

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Customer Reviews

Overall, this was a great book--very well-written and incredibly engaging.
Ladybug
The book was based on the authors own scientific research and referenced additional studies which gives the book a lot of credibility.
Stanton Anderson
An important book for helping us understand ourselves and others better than we do now.
Shalom Freedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Why do we so often fail - in spite of our best efforts - to grasp the minds of those we meet? Do we truly know what our spouse thinks about common situations? Can we even vaguely imagine what it feels like to walk in another person's shoes?

According to Nicholas Epley, the answer is often a resounding "No". But he counters this discouraging conclusion with many suggestions, often supported with lively examples, for gaining new insights about what might work better. Reading this well-researched book offers readers the opportunity to foster understanding and closeness, not only with casual acquaintances, but those we think we know - spouses, children, close friends.

I think it is important to note that the book isn't filled with step-by-step directions or techniques for "reading" people's minds. But gaining a new perspective about how others think can be invaluable. A changed outlook may automatically lead to new and better ways of understanding others.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book for me focused on couples, including those married for many years. Most had the illusion that they could easily predict how their spouse would react or feel in a common situation. But when put to the test, Epley proves that they were often way off the mark.

Many people also believe that they can size up another person. So they listen to conversations and form conclusions about what others feel and believe. Or they try to grasp another person's lifestyle and views, yet are baffled when this doesn't foster any real communication.

To improve understanding, Epley suggests we examine our conclusions about other people's thoughts and beliefs. Real examples underline the importance of positive relationships. Slip-ups at work can threaten job security.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M.A. Hallisey VINE VOICE on April 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When it comes to understanding other folks, we do a fairly good job, but - according to Mr. Epley, author of this book - we botch it up by over-estimating how good we are. We have the correct tools, but we both over-use and under-use them. Epley addresses essential social survival skills (such as dehumanizing, stereotyping, empathizing, inferring, etc.) and attempts to demonstrate that our best intentions generally go awry. In the end, Pogo was right: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

While the title of the book tells us it will address how we understand others, we learn that the first "other" is not someone else but our own self (see page 29 where Epley quotes Jung: "In each of us there is another whom we do not know"). This is an awfully good insight and one that should be remembered while reading the book: we will never be better at reading others while we kid ourselves about our own selves.

So Mr. Epley gives us (or tries to) the tools to make us better mind readers (of our own selves and of others). I'm not sure he makes his stated case. So while this is not a bad book, it certainly does not seem to me to be a great (or even good) book. While there are a number of good/interesting insights, anecdotes, and notes throughout (who would have thought a psychology monograph would cite John Mearsheimer?), I found myself alternately intrigued and bored. The book would catch my attention and within paragraphs lose it. I found it a struggle to stay engaged.

Whether my struggle came as a result of a writing style that just wasn't my cup of tea or a recognition of the trouble the author has integrating philosophy and rhetoric (and what not) into a psychology book I can't say.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Loarie VINE VOICE on February 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
With "Mindwise," Author, Financial Times' "professor to watch," and University of Chicago Booth School of Business' professor of psychology, Nicolas Epley, PhD., brings our "sixth sense" of understanding others out of the shadows into the light of scientific inspection. This "sixth sense," an extraordinary ability to understand what others think, feel, and believe, allows us to connect with others deeply, intimately, and honestly. Unfortunately, this ability can also be the greatest source of misunderstanding, leading to damaged relationships, bitter fights, and even war.

"Mindwise" brings your brain's greatest ability out of the shadows and into the light, showing how, and how well we reason about our thoughts, motives, attitudes, beliefs, and emotions of others. Epley's insights, gained over two decades of scientific inspection, will serve as a guide to show how predictable malfunctions (dehumanization, egocentricity, stereotypes, and misleading information from behaviors) keep us from truly understanding the minds of others and create personal difficulties. With this knowledge as the backdrop, he sets out to show us how our ability to think about the minds of others can improve so we can be wiser in our personal and professional relationships, improving our lives and the lives of those we come into contact with.

"Mindwise" is organized into four parts - (Mis) Reading Minds, Does It Have a Mind?, What State Is Another Mind In?, and "Through the Eyes of Others." Some takeaways include:

* Reading minds is a sense we use with great overconfidence. We are likely to understand much less about the minds of family members and friends, neighbors, coworkers, and competitors than we guess.
* We cannot read anyone's mind perfectly.
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More About the Author

Nicholas Epley is the John T. Keller Professor of Behavior Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He received a bachelor's degree in psychology and philosophy in 1996 from Saint Olaf College. In 2001, he graduated from Cornell University with a PhD in psychology and then began his career as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He joined the Chicago Booth faculty in 2004.

Epley conducts research on mind reading--not the spooky or psychic versions but rather the everyday version in which we routinely make inferences about what others think, believe, feel, or want. People routinely misunderstand each other without knowing it. Epley's research pinpoints the chronic mistakes we all make, and tests how all of us might learn how to understand each other better.

His research has appeared in more than two dozen journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, Psychological Review, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. His research also has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Wired, and National Public Radio, among many others, has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and has earned the 2008 Theoretical Innovation Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. He was named a "professor to watch" by the Financial Times, and was awarded the 2011 Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology from the American Psychological Association. In 2014, Epley was named as one of the "World's Best 40 under 40 Business School Professors" by Poets and Quants, and identified as one of 8 Young Business School Professors on the Rise by CNN.

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