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

David McRaney
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (251 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.71
You Save: $6.29 (39%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

An entertaining illumination of the stupid beliefs that make us feel wise.

You believe you are a rational, logical being who sees the world as it really is, but journalist David McRaney is here to tell you that you're as deluded as the rest of us. But that's OK- delusions keep us sane. You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of self-delusion. It's like a psychology class, with all the boring parts taken out, and with no homework.

Based on the popular blog of the same name, You Are Not So Smart collects more than 46 of the lies we tell ourselves everyday, including:

  • Dunbar's Number - Humans evolved to live in bands of roughly 150 individuals, the brain cannot handle more than that number. If you have more than 150 Facebook friends, they are surely not all real friends.
  • Hindsight bias - When we learn something new, we reassure ourselves that we knew it all along.
  • Confirmation bias - Our brains resist new ideas, instead paying attention only to findings that reinforce our preconceived notions.
  • Brand loyalty - We reach for the same brand not because we trust its quality but because we want to reassure ourselves that we made a smart choice the last time we bought it.

    Packed with interesting sidebars and quick guides on cognition and common fallacies, You Are Not So Smart is a fascinating synthesis of cutting-edge psychology research to turn our minds inside out.



Editorial Reviews

Review

"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 Reddit.com )

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

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

"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 youarenotsosmart.com. 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; 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: #19,734 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
314 of 334 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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122 of 132 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
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
Format:Hardcover
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
Format:Hardcover
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
4.0 out of 5 stars nice read
This and his sequel are fascinating and easy to read. Pop psychology isn't the best name for it, but it's really fun while being informative.
Published 1 day ago by William Abbott
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a very fun book to read
This is a very fun book to read. I repeatedly found myself stopping to tell my wife (or anyone else nearby) about what I was reading. And a lot of the points will stick with you. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Jon B
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
David McRaney has written a fantastic piece here. If you follow his podcast (of the same title as this book) he makes amendments to some of what he wrote as more research is done... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Teresa
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A very good read. It really makes you think.
Published 18 days ago by poprocj
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Ok book.
Published 28 days ago by George L. Adleman
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 1 month 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 1 month 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 1 month 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 1 month ago by PK
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very well written and filled with good information.
Published 1 month ago by bludimon
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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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