- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Press (May 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596914009
- ISBN-13: 978-1596914001
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,404,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human Hardcover – April 14, 2009
Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
“Obvious logical errors are always the ones other people make. Michael and Ellen Kaplan put this self-serving idea to rest, brilliantly and wittily exploring the sources of the fallacies that infect the thinking of us all. Bozo Sapiens is a book rich not only in examples, but in wisdom. Every one of its readers will learn from it.” ―Denis Dutton, author of The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution
“A beautifully written book; a heartfelt and powerful summary of decades of research into human reasoning quirks -- the bizarre heuristic and biases which make up the vast majority of our everyday practical 'reasoning'.” ―Metapsychology
“The mother-son co-authors of Chances Are…: Adventures in Probability (2006) turn their considerable authorial skills and wit to human behavior, from our isolated cave-dwelling ancestors to today's globalized, interconnected world… Gourmet reading--rich in ideas, global references and amusing and provocative examples, served with great style.” ―Kirkus
About the Author
Michael and Ellen Kaplan are mother and son, and coauthors of the bestselling Chances Are…: Adventures in Probability. Michael is an award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker who resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. Ellen is an archaeologist and cofounder of the Math Circle, a program for the exploration and enjoyment of mathematics. She is coauthor of The Art of the Infinite: The Pleasures of Mathematics and Out of the Labyrinth: Setting Mathematics Free. She lives in central Massachusetts.
Top Customer Reviews
Bozo Sapiens is a book based on the above premise: that error in thinking is endemic to human nature. Take away our tendency to err, and you take away a part of what makes us human. While no one is saying that humans do not possess a good deal of rationality, the truth still runs contra to what logicians and some philosophers want us to believe: we are not always the rational animal.
The book starts with a lively discussion on what logic is (a tool for thought), why it is important, and why it is not the natural state of the mind. One must work at logic, as evidenced by the bevy just as alive today as when Aristotle first catalogued them. Rather than being the laws of thought (as some have supposed) logic is a sometimes unnatural tool that we can, but often don't, use to think our way to conclusions.
What else do we use? The answer is taken up by the next 2/3rds - the meat - of the book. First, there are sensory mistakes (optical illusions, false memories, selective listening, etc.). Since we humans rely on our senses for much of what we believe, when our senses go wrong, it is hard indeed to rectify the situation (try convincing the schizophrenic that there is no CIA plot to listen to his inner thoughts, or the ghost-hunter that it is all smoke and mirrors).
Another favorite fallacy of the Kaplan's is "motivated reasoning,"; what is more commonly called "confirmation bias.Read more ›
This book intrigued me, because I have a strong interest in books on human intelligence or the lack thereof. Bozo Sapiens talks about the mistakes we make and misperceptions we have, and the reasons behind them. It explained some things I have been wondering about and caused me to think about other things I hadn't previously considered.
Bozo Sapiens was also well-researched. Since it draws from the literature in areas of brain research, neurochemistry, behavioral science, evolutionary biology, and other related topics, many of its references will be familiar to a person who is reasonably well-read in these topics.
One of the key concepts this book brought to me is there are good reasons for why we get things wrong. The brain adapts and alters its perceptions of reality to fit its expectations of reality. If we can account for that, we can avoid pointless self-flagellation and get on with things. We can also understand others better by recognizing that people can see the same facts or situation differently for reasons that have nothing to do with comparative intelligence.
The authors devote a significant amount of page space to exploring how and why our illusions and delusions serve good purposes.Read more ›
But, there was something in its construction that left me flat. For one thing, there was no particular narrative arc that led anywhere. It was just a, seemingly random, collection of explorations that support the premise that we don't think nor act so rationally. And, then, at a more atomic level, there was something about sentence construction and analogy that stopped me rather than propelled me. For instance, to "illuminate" they offered that the subject they were explaining was like:
* Aishawarya Rai, or
* Waiting for Mr. Darcy, or
* The Great Fear of 1789, or
* The Maori Haka
Maybe what this illustrates is that I'm not as learned as they are. But, it seems to me that if you are using analogy to illustrate, you would choose more recognizable examples. I already knew about what they were trying to explain, but I didn't know about their analogies. It was things like this -- effects of construction -- that detracted from a cogent take-away.
But *Bozo Sapiens* is much more than just an assortment of oddments. In the last decade or so, philosophers and scientists from a multitude of disciplines have been converging on a new understanding of human nature that favors the irrational over the rational, the unpredictable over the regular, the probabilistic over the absolute. The Kaplans survey this new understanding from the standpoint of human error: "Wrong thinking, reasoning that could never stand up to scrutiny, is universal and nearly constant. Why?" They examine the origin and consequences of flawed logic and perceptions gone haywire in a variety of settings, including economics, cognitive psychology, engineering and design, group dynamics, evolutionary biology, and moral reasoning. Errors, they conclude, are "the permanent companions of our capabilities.... We err because we seek, we fail to grasp because we try the furthest reach."
As in the Kaplans' previous books (*Chances Are*, as well as *The Art of the Infinite* and *Out of the Labyrinth*, by Ellen Kaplan and her husband Robert), the writing in *Bozo Sapiens* has the virtues of the best conversationalists: clarity without pedantry, wit without ostentation. (In fact, it has taken me several tries to finish this review, because each time I flip through the book, I cannot resist rereading a few paragraphs...and then another page...and another.) Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Certainly not religious, but this book by mother and son is interesting anyway. The title made me pick it up from the store and got me started. Read morePublished on October 28, 2014 by J. Robert Ewbank
I listened to this book on tape a couple of times, and had to get a hard copy to share with family, friends, and colleagues.Published on October 3, 2013 by Kristine A. Ellor
A book that's packed full of things to think about - about the way we live our lives and the way we believe we think things through. A wonderful paradigm shifter!Published on May 28, 2013 by Patricia L. Sellon
This is a good book on root causes for human fallibility. I rate it at 4 stars rather than 5 for the following reasons. Read morePublished on May 20, 2013 by h-bond
As the owner of a human brain, I have always been fascinated by how it works- and malfunctions. Michael and Ellen Kaplan take a shot at explaining the brain's foibles, and are at... Read morePublished on April 29, 2013 by Andy in Washington
I didn't rate it with the maximum rate because I would have preferred it to be written more concisely and with less kind of paternal preaching.Published on December 15, 2012 by Aron Mueller
Great discussion of human perception and how it leads to conclusions Anne errors. You may have to read it slowly as a lot of material is presented.Published on July 24, 2012 by jng