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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 Hardcover – October 27, 2011


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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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (October 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592406599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592406593
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

Customer Reviews

The book is very interesting, easy to read and well supported in science research.
María Guadalupe Montaño
The book present peer-reviewed research on 48 topics about how we all have cognitive biases that influence our thinking and decision making.
Marc Luoma
This book will help you understand that better, while making you smile, laugh and nod your head with "Aha!" insights along the way.
Timothy Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

288 of 308 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Miller on 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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118 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 27, 2011
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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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Amos on 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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By M. E. Taylor on 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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