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The Art of Thinking Clearly Hardcover – May 14, 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 175 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Why do we stay in bad relationships or stubbornly hold on to failing investments? Dobelli, author and founder of Zurich.Minds, a community of thinkers, explores the natural tendencies we have to think illogically and how we can overcome them. This is not a facile how-to book but a serious examination of the faulty reasoning that leads to repeated mistakes by individuals, businesses, and nations. Among the logical errors Dobelli explores are survivorship bias, or systematic overestimation of the chances for success, and social proof (otherwise known as herd mentality), or feeling that an action or decision is correct because so many others are doing the same thing. Herd mentality is often demonstrated in the stock market, triggering bubbles and panics alike. Dobelli warns against the influence of so-called experts, news anchors, beautiful people, teams of workers, and others, cautioning readers to learn to think clearly for themselves. He offers some 99 common errors, drawing on social science, psychology, economics, and politics for amusing and sobering examples of the failure to think logically. In this fascinating book, Dobelli does not offer a recipe for happiness but a well-considered treatise on avoiding “self-induced unhappiness.” --Vanessa Bush

Review

“A fireworks show of insights into how our minds work. If you want to avoid tripping on cognitive errors, read this book.” (Iris Bohnet, Professor and Academic Dean, Harvard Kennedy School, Director of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory)

“Dobelli examines our most common decision-making failings with engaging eloquence and describes how to counter them with instructive good sense.” (Robert Cialdini, author of Influence)

“…a serious examination of the faulty reasoning that leads to repeated mistakes by individuals, businesses, and nations…In this fascinating book, Dobelli does not offer a recipe for happiness but a well-considered treatise on avoiding ‘self-induced unhappiness.’” (Booklist (starred review))

“…easy-going prose…what [Dobelli] does is pinpoint exactly the assumptions, bias and illusions that shape our thinking and decision-making processes in both business and personal relationships that can cost us dearly as individuals and as a society.” (Financial Times)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062219685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062219688
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #481,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rolf Dobelli is a bestselling writer and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Zurich.Minds, a community of some of the world's most famed and distinguished thinkers, scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs, and a cofounder of getAbstract, the world's largest publisher of compressed knowledge. A novelist, sailor, and pilot, he lives in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, let me tell you what this book is not:

It is not "art", neither "thinking", neither "clearly". In fact, let me quote from the "Introduction":

"This is not a how-to book. You won't find "seven steps to an error-free life...Although this book may not hold the key to happiness, at the very last it acts as insurance against too much self-induced unhappiness...If we could learn to recognize and evade the biggest errors in thinking...we might experience a leap in prosperity."

Fair enough.

So the title should be "How to recognize mistakes that cause us to act irrationally".

Then you would search for the "Art of Recognition". How do I prevent myself from committing these errors, how do I recognize that my thinking is indeed influenced by cognitive errors, fallacies, biases? Here you find no help. Say, you finish reading the book and then face a decision that could be crucial, yet you instinctively sense (gut feeling is at work here) the danger of a thinking error. Would you quickly go over every one of the 99 listed biases to check for these errors? What kind of quick check could you use to ensure you are acting rationally? What would warn you? What is the art?

Second, let me tell you what this book is:

A list of 99 fallacies, biases that influence our thinking and actions (i.e. "personification, confirmation bias, hindsight bias, etc.) and in fact, if the title would be "Fallacies and biases" I would give it a five star.

But shortly after you start reading this book, you realize that it is indeed "just" a list of errors, with brief explanations of their nature, occurrence and evolution. Yes, there are the stories and facts to back them up. Yet there is not a hint to know or recognize the risk when you face them.

At the end the book is a good read. But the practical use of such lists is quite limited. It is a database, but not an algorithm.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am interested in the concept of "self help" books. Most of them follow the formula - "do as I say, and you'll be happier, wealthier, more productive, etc."

This book is a departure, a welcome departure, from such reads. It is a true "self help" book, with the emphasis on self, because the author does not seek to stuff ideas down your throat. Instead, he presents a series of short, cogent articles that clearly illustrate fallacies and shortcomings in our thinking today. By supporting them with real life examples, he provides the thinking reader with some new ammunition in cutting through some of the "fluff" that defines modern communications.

I have really taken my time reading this book, and now that I am at the end I will start again. Each short chapter deserves your full attention if you are to get the most from it. You will find yourself asking - but how does this idea relate to a previous one that seems, at first glance, to be contradictory? Helpfully, the author calls out any apparent paradoxes and explains their coexistence quite rationally - I found that I was not dissatisfied with any of his explanations.

Back to the "self" aspect - the end of each chapter contains some small advice to assist you in dealing with the fallacy that has been exposed in the chapter, but I find that the greatest value is in relating the subject matter of the chapter to your own experience before reading the advice - you will get much more out of it that way.

My final piece of advice? Read this book like a child using a playground - dip in again and again and again. You are never really finished reading it - instead I recommend turning it into a habitual read - something you continually refer back to.

I am looking forward to being able to see more clearly as a result of applying the lessons in this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure why so many readers enjoyed this book. First of all, if you act how the book tells you to act, you are going to be a jerk. Second, I possess only the most basic familiarity with Bayesian statistics, economics and heuristics and I found this book to not only oversimplified but patently wrong in many places. Amazingly, this book falls victim to many (if not most) of the fallacies of which it attempts to disabuse the reader. Three examples:

1. The chapter explaining Base Rate Bias (which says we systematically fail to account for the base rate of an event's occurrence) uses the example of Mike, a fan of Mozart. Is Mike more likely to be a truck driver or an English professor? If you said "professor" you're wrong because you fell victim to the "base rate bias." Hahahaha. Isn't irrationality funny? There are 100 times more truck drivers than English professors so it's statistically more likely that Mike is a truck driver, right? WRONG. We actually don't know the answer. This example succumbs to the very bias it ostensibly reveals. Mike-is-a-truck-driver makes sense as an answer only if the incidence of Mozart-liking in English Professors is less than 100 times greater than the incidence of Mozart-liking in truck drivers. In other words, we cannot say whether Mike is more likely to be a truck driver unless we know the BASE RATE of Mozart-liking. If the incidence of Mozart-liking in English professors is 75% but only .001% in truck drivers, it's more likely that Mike is an English professor even if there are 100 times as many truck drivers as English professors. Yet, the author sticks by his "rational" conclusion that Mike is more likely to be a truck driver.

2.
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