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Why Flip a Coin: The Art and Science of Good Decisions Paperback – August 13, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (August 13, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471296457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471296454
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,780,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Life is full of difficult decisions. Do you spend your money today or save it for tomorrow? Which presidential candidate really deserves your vote? How can you find the perfect mate? H. W. Lewis's lighthearted but far-from-flippant book Why Flip a Coin? examines the ways in which you can make a rational decision--that is, the best possible decision given the available information. Along the way he describes probabilities, the prisoner's dilemma, gambling, voting systems, and more, offering a fun, math-free look at the logic behind tricky decisions and common fallacies. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

This well written introduction to an interesting area of science uses real-life examples to demonstrate how to make decisions to the general reader. The author reveals scientific discoveries about the rules that determine the making of a good decision. Some topics covered in this book include, how to pick a spouse, how to win in the office football pool, how to make more money gambling by investing in stocks, and how to pick the best political candidate.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 22 customer reviews
I thought this was an interesting book to read.
Late Night
This only occurred a small percentage of the time much of the book is very generalisable to anyone faced with making a decision.
obediah
Now that a few months have passed since I read the book, I have found some of its ideas very valuable and insightful.
Philip Parsons

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By obediah on January 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a book about the process of making decisions. It covers quite a broad range of topics from individual decision making to group decisions. Both qualitative and quantitative perspectives are considered. Good decisions do not necessarily result in good outcomes. Instead the decision maker is responsible for making the best decision possible with the information on hand at the time. This usually results from an assessment of the projected consequences and the probability of various outcomes.
I like the book because it is easy to read and the author laces the text with some very humorous cynicism. The book covers a diverse number of topics from dating, to gambling, to investing to war. Unfortunately the book is most definitely targeted at the American market. The book includes discussion on American law, the Constitution and American sports. Occasionally I found my eyes glazing over because I couldn't find any broad relevance in the material. This only occurred a small percentage of the time much of the book is very generalisable to anyone faced with making a decision.
Overall the book was a highly enjoyable read. Thoroughly recommended if you would like to improve your decision making or would just like a good intellectual exploration of the process of making sound decisions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chris Wagner on December 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book does what every other math book on the planet fails to do; explain why you need to know math, logic and reason. The situations and logic in this book are easily translatable into every day situations. Each chapter is broken down into short, easy to read, segments that use simple stories to convey otherwise complex concepts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Mitton on December 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Excellent non-mathematical book about probability and decision making. Combine it with a bit of logical thinking and you'll never make another bad decision. Well, that might be stretching it. Still, though, Lewis has written a very readable book about good thinking and making decisions. He works through several different kinds of questions and explains why one decision is better than another. The book primary deals with decisions with a mathematical component - gaming, voting, statistics - and not with ethical or moral kinds of questions but the good thinking skills learned can be used in any context.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Doug Erlandson TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
H.W. Lewis, in this book originally published in 1997, takes the reader through the principles of rational decision making. After laying the foundation in the early chapters, along the way discussing in a nontechnical way probability judgments and the like, Lewis discusses issues such as voting, public decisions, apportionments, decision making in times of warfare, investing, gambling, and sports. Although none of these issues are covered in depth, Lewis provides enough food for thought that the reader will want to explore at least some of these areas in greater detail. One topic that I wish Lewis had covered in greater detail (he hints at it without really going into it) is the issue of whether the most rational course of action is always the course of action with the most likely outcome. (For instance, why is it rational to have homeowners, auto, and life insurance, even though the outcome on which we're betting is one that has a low antecedent probability and one that we hope doesn't materialize?) Otherwise, this is a very informative book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Cleary III on May 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In spite of the writer's Republican party rants, it is a good book on decision making.
it is well written, and while not funny, it is written to be enjoyable.
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Format: Paperback
i teach a course called "Risk" and I have never studied the subject. But I have lived with risks and probabilities. Whether you are a physicist or a mathematician, if you realize that your life sometimes hinges on other people's perception of risk, probabilities or chance, you can observe related behavior and try to examine the inconsistencies and the improbabilities in human thought and actions. I have used this book in my classes, even when I taught Insurance, and I have received e-mail messages of thanks from former students.

It is not what H.W. Smith writes, but what he leads you to think that is so important. It is even enough that other reviewers have admitted that reading the book got them thinking. It sure helps me in understanding myself and others as well as my students.

Although not very scientifically, I formulate hypotheses on 'how many in my class of sixty will prefer a fifty/fifty perspective to what should obviously be different odds, when it comes to personal finance, emotional relationships and even career choices. And the results are incredible. I do not accuse family members of being illogical anymore.

This book is for everyone who wants more hints on understanding human thought and behavior. It allows a further parting of the curtain, in an easy and fun framework.

This is the book that started it all for me, and I cannot thank Mr. H. W. Lewis enough. (I did not say Professor, because his personality and humanity is more important for me than his title, just on the basis of this one book.)

I have only one additional advice to the reader, "If you must flip a coin, please do not regret the outcome of your resulting action. Call it Kismet and continue with your jolly life."
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