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Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300101706
ISBN-10: 0300101708
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Marvelous, devilishly clever, and culturally timely book.... A fascinating exploration.... All of the contributions are outstanding."

From the Back Cover

"This book is a serious attempt to understand a common phenomenon. Students of human behavior should find it appealing and may even learn how to avoid doing stupid things."-Psychology Today; "This original book gathers together the best thinking and research on what causes smart people to do foolish things. A highly original work with an exceptional list of contributors."-Martin Ford, George Mason University; "Marvelous, devilishly clever, and culturally timely book. . . . A fascinating exploration. . . . All of the contributions are outstanding."-Choice;
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300101708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300101706
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #638,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Warning: This book is not for everyone. I'm a college professor and I enjoyed it and will be using it primarily as a reference tool. Because of the pejorative nature of the title, some people may be expecting something a little more reader friendly with a casual tone. That's not the case at all. It's complex and filled with a lot of psychological terminologies.

Written by multiple authors who make key contributions, the book introduces a myriad of compelling reasons as to why smart people can be so stupid in each chapter. But first the definitions. Smart is the psychological concept of intelligence. Stupidity can be the property of an act, behavior, state, or person.

Intelligence seems to be domain specific, meaning that we are smart in one area, and stupid in others; hence the term: smart, but stupid. In general we recognize people as intelligent if they have some combination of these achievements: (1) good grades in school; (2) a high level of education; (3) a responsible complex job, or (4) some other recognition of being intelligent, such as winning prestigious awards or earning a large salary; (5) the ability to read complex text with good comprehension or (6) solve difficulty or novelty problems. Stupid is also defined as failure to use cognitive abilities, the opposite of smart, and mindlessness.

Perhaps the most adopted view of intelligence is defined by the American Psychological Association: the ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, and to overcome obstacles by taking thought.
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Format: Hardcover
Whether one believes acting stupid to be the antithesis of acting smart or intelligently [most of us?], or perhaps prefers to regard stupid behaviour as foolishness in the face of misplaced wisdom [Sternberg], this volume brings together a rich diversity of approaches and opinion to one of life's persistent questions. Some 15 authors gather here in an attempt to inform the reader what stupidity and smartness consist in, whilst providing a breadth of examples from both the empirical literature (laboratory studies, psychometric survey) and the popular press (typically involving embarrassed politicians). Over the course of some eleven chapters, a number of recurrent themes and proposals address the ways in which stupid behaviour might best be characterised, identified or defined, but of more interest (at least to me) was to also find a number of attempts to explain the behaviours so described. A number of the contributors point (directly or indirectly) to particular instances of `stupidity' which may well have been construed as having demonstrated adaptive, rather than maladaptive behaviour under different circumstances. In this respect, the reader is repeatedly lead to the view that personal trait labels such as smart, intelligent or stupid, should be viewed as context dependant terms, if not entirely context-specific, characterisations of human behaviour. In short, what might be considered stupid behaviour under one circumstance, might well be considered smart behaviour in another. So, why do these authors think that smart people can be so stupid?Read more ›
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