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You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself [Kindle Edition]

David McRaney
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (246 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.71
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

An entertaining illumination of the stupid beliefs that make us feel wise, based on the popular blog of the same name. 

Whether you’re deciding which smartphone to purchase or which politician to believe, you think you are a rational being whose every decision is based on cool, detached logic. But here’s the truth: You are not so smart. You’re just as deluded as the rest of us—but that’s okay, because being deluded is part of being human.

Growing out of David McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart reveals that every decision we make, every thought we contemplate, and every emotion we feel comes with a story we tell ourselves to explain them. But often these stories aren’t true. Each short chapter—covering topics such as Learned Helplessness, Selling Out, and the Illusion of Transparency—is like a psychology course with all the boring parts taken out.

Bringing together popular science and psychology with humor and wit, You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of our irrational, thoroughly human behavior.

Editorial Reviews


"Every chapter is a welcome reminder that you are not so smart-yet you're never made to feel dumb. You Are Not So Smart is a dose of psychology research served in tasty anecdotes that will make you better understand both yourself and the rest of us. It turns out we're much more irrational than most of us think, so give yourself every advantage you can and read this book."
(-Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of )

"You Are Not So Smart is the go-to blog for understanding why we all do silly things."
( )

"You'd think from the title that it might be curmudgeonly; in fact, You Are Not So Smart is quite big-hearted."
(-Jason Kottke, )

"In an Idiocracy dominated by cable TV bobbleheads, government propagandists, and corporate spinmeisters, many of us know that mass ignorance is a huge problem. Now, thanks to David McRaney's mind-blowing book, we can finally see the scientific roots of that problem. Anybody still self-aware enough to wonder why society now worships willful stupidity should read this book." -David Sirota, author of Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now

About the Author

A two-time winner of the William Randolph Hearst Award, journalist David McRaney writes the blog A self-described psychology nerd, he lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Product Details

  • File Size: 500 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1592407366
  • Publisher: Gotham Books; Reprint edition (October 27, 2011)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052RE5MU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,274 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
309 of 329 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, entertaining and useful November 15, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a clinical psychologist interested in neuroscience, so much of this material was already familiar to me. Most of the ideas can be found scattered through other books like The Winner's Curse, The Happiness Hypothesis, Predictably Irrational, and others. I've read and admired all of those. I would gladly throw them all away if I could keep You are Not So Smart.

The author understands the science and the facts, and conveys them quite clearly. I didn't find a single error. He writes wonderfully. Crisp, clear, funny, casual, but not too casual. When I read it, I feel I'm chatting with a brilliant buddy. As I understand it, the author is not a professor or scientist. He's certainly smart enough to be one.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, research psychologists generally believed that humans are more or less rational, most of the time. They believed that irrational thinking was caused primarily by disruptive emotions like anger or fear. We now know this is just plain wrong. During the last twenty years or so, research evidence against this view accumulated. Daniel Kahneman became the first psychologist to earn a Nobel Prize for describing the new understanding.

Meanwhile, evolutionary psychology provided a new template for understanding the human mind. It evolved. We often see faces in clouds, but never see clouds in faces. We sometimes mistake a coiled garden hose or rope for a snake, but rarely mistake a snake for a garden hose. These tendencies, and many others like it, reflect our evolutionary history. The reproductive cost of jumping away from a coiled garden hose is very small. The reproductive cost of failing to recognize a dangerous snake is very high.

You do not think rationally, nor does anyone else.
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121 of 131 people found the following review helpful
This is a good book. It's easy to read and can be read in small bite-sized chunks or in several long sessions. There are 48 different cognitive biases, shortcuts, and logical fallacies described in the book. They each take about 5 pages or so. Within each section the author does an excellent job of describing each problem. He references several studies for each and is generally very up-to-date on the latest work.

As an introduction or description to the ways we are irrational this book works very well. I consider myself pretty widely read in this area and still I found some new ideas or studies in this work. I would think that someone new to the topic would be utterly fascinated by it. While this book is well written as narrative it also would server as an excellent reference because of the many short chapters.

The only thing that I think would have made the book better would have been to put more effort into highlighting how you can avoid the biases. Certainly being aware of them helps and this book goes a long way toward that goal. The author does make some small suggestions at the very end of many chapters but they seem like an afterthought. But that is my only real criticism.

If you are interested in the ways that we aren't "the rational animal" this book is easily recommended. It is quite well done. For people new to the subject I can very highly recommend it as an introduction to the topic.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars accessible but maybe too much so October 17, 2012
McRaney is attempting to show us all that behind the thin veneer of our civilized brain, lurks an animal brain that is far more whimsical and powerful than we give it credit for, than our logical brain often does little more than make excuses for behavior it can't predict or control. He does so by examining a variety of behaviors from cold reading to brand loyalty to racism. He conducts his examination be compiling peer reviewed articles from psychology and medical literature.

I give McRaney credit for making the material accessible but I can't say the same about making it interesting. It's incredibly, painfully obvious that the book is little more than a collection of blog posts; the short chapters don't quite run two pages while long ones clock in around ten. Additionally, I feel like the concepts he covers are already in the public eye, available for more complete examination and occasional satire. Finally the author does nothing with the information. No tips for catching yourself in a behavior are suggested, it seems he simply acknowledges the behaviors with an indifferent shrug. I could accept this if McRaney was doing some amount of original work or thought but that's not the case.

The way I most often described this book as I read it was "It's not bad, it's not good, but it's not bad."

ADDENDUM: I later read Thinking, Fast and Slowand recommend that as a far superior book on similar material.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book that any reader should find fascinating December 31, 2011
Not a five-star book, no. But so close! The chapters detailing scientific studies from neurologists and behavioral psychologists are, for this humanities guy, the meat of the book, and they make the book one I would recommend to anyone.
A weakness: long about the middle of the book, we get several chapters rehearsing the logical fallacies of rhetoric (things like the ad hominem argument, or the bias for false authorities), and these are much less interesting, less compelling, and certainly less fresh than what comes before or after. Perhaps without them, the book would have seemed too short, but they nearly derailed the book for me.
Another minor beef I had was that you can, at times, sense the author bending or massaging his data or his analysis to make subtle insinuations about whose politics are smart and whose politics are not. It becomes more overt near the end, and while I am certainly not outraged or offended that someone wants to suggest that smart politics tend to fall with one party and not the other, it wasn't the kind of move I tend to appreciate. (On the other hand, his interpretation of politics may flatter some readers, and they may like the book even better for that very reason... though wouldn't that itself be a cognitive bias?)
Also, I think too often, to make his point, the author makes it seem as if a bias in one direction equals a kind of knee-jerk determinism to act a certain way under certain conditions. That is to say, if people tend to do something under certain test conditions, the author extrapolates that they will pretty much always act that way in the real world. I was often reminded of the notion in Quantum Theory that observation affects reality.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read
Anyone who is a human being needs to read this book. Of course, if that actually occurred, it would destroy social media.
Published 3 days ago by Mmk
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for everyone interested in how the mind really works
An extraordinary good book that, even though it deals with complex human behavior and interactions, is easy to read and understand. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Adam Galai
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, humorous, and thought-provoking
I am half-way through the audiobook and I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of it. It is narrated with humor that keeps me laughing as I listen while I'm at work. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Jessika Cahel
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to understand.
This book is so very enjoyable. The format of one concept at a time is an easy read and it was interesting to,learn about the science.
Published 11 days ago by PK
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very well written and filled with good information.
Published 15 days ago by bludimon
4.0 out of 5 stars but as lot of the stuff is crap i already knew
wife loves it... but as lot of the stuff is crap i already knew...
Published 20 days ago by Dean Young
4.0 out of 5 stars found interesting
I am not literate on subjects concerning human phsyce. maybe it is the reason i found this book so interesting. Read more
Published 21 days ago by mhcandan
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Smart. Now less dumb
Bought after listening to the "You Are Not So Smart" podcast. Enjoyably interesting. Short easily digestible chapters. Great for a dummy like myself to become less dumb. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Travis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fascinating book, very interesting every step of the way!
Published 1 month ago by Soreasan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a fantastic book everyone should read. It is well written clear and funny, ok and a little scarey!
Published 1 month ago by Elizabeth
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More About the Author

David McRaney is a journalist who loves psychology, technology and the internet.

Before going to college, he tried waiting tables, working construction, selling leather coats, building and installing electrical control panels, and owning pet stores.

As a journalist, McRaney cut his teeth covering Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and in the Pine Belt for several newspapers. Since then he has been a beat reporter, an editor, a photographer and everything in between.

He is now employed as director of new media for a broadcast television company where he also produced a television show focusing on the music of the Deep South.

He is married to Amanda McRaney and they live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi


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