- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (March 5, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0029117062
- ISBN-13: 978-0029117064
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Sports fans who think that basketball players shoot in "hot streaks," and maternity nurses who maintain that more babies are born when the moon is full adhere to erroneous beliefs, according to Gilovich, associate professor of psychology at Cornell. With examples ranging from the spread of AIDS to the weight of Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, he skewers popular but mistaken assumptions. Faulty reasoning from incomplete or ambiguous data, a tendency to seek out "hypothesis-confirming evidence" and the habit of self-serving belief are among the factors Gilovich pinpoints in his sophisticated anaylsis. However, in the book's second half, his debunking of holistic medicine, ESP and paranormal phenomena is superficial and one-sided, marred by some of the very tendencies he effectively exposes in the "true believers."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
The subtexts of this first-class critique of human (non)reason are that we all tell ourselves lies (at least some of the time)...that if you want to believe it's true, it is (faith healing, ESP)...that humans can't help seeing patterns where none exist (in clouds, in disastrous events, in gamblers' streaks). Furthermore, if you would like to learn more about how not to deceive yourself, you might take a course in one of the ``soft'' probabilistic sciences like psychology. This might be construed as self-serving, since Gilovich happens to teach psychology at Cornell. However, the point is well taken because such courses should expose students to a minimum of statistics--such as the law of regression, which says that when two variables are partially related, extremes in one variable are matched, on average, by less extreme variables in the other. (Children of tall parents are tall, but not as tall as their parents.) Gilovich attributes the general lack of appreciation of the law to ``the compelling nature of judgment by representation''--by which the predicted outcome should be as close to the data as possible: the son of a 6'5'' dad should be close to 6'5''. Gilovich also points to other pitfalls in reasoning, such as failure to record negative outcomes (how many times do you dream of an old friend and not bump into him the next day?). And he discusses deeper motives--e.g., fear of dying, prospects of power or immortality, and similar self-aggrandizing traits that fortify superstitions and the will to believe. Altogether, a satisfying splash of skepticism and reason in a world where the Lake Wobegon phenomenon--``the women are strong, the men are good-looking and all the children are above average''- -prevails. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I decided to check the book out after hearing it highly recommended by Dr. Steven Novella on the Skeptics Guide to the universe podcast. I expected the book to be of more recent vintage but in fact it dates from 1991. That explains the frequency of AIDS related examples in the book. But the book is not as dated as the twenty odd years since its publication would suggest. Doubtless more contemporary examples would have been nice but the underlying principles are as sound as ever and the need for critical thinking as important as well.
In books such as these where the author is spending a lot of time pointing out popular foibles and errors I try to read between the lines and see if I can detect if an author has his own blind spots. In some like Sagan's excellent "Demon Haunted World" and Dawkin's equally excellent "God Delusion" one does detect places where sound principles are giving way to personal convictions. The present book is largely free from that; the author chooses examples equally from across political and economic spectra. He seems to be going out of his way to fair and objective.
I purchased the Kindle edition. The book is quite readable but not completely up to the latest Kindle standards. There is no Table of Contents in the menu although there is a linked Table of Contents at the beginning. The progress bar only marks out the Parts of which there are only four. Each Chapter (eleven total) should have been marked on the bar. The index is not linked; it just mirrors the print edition. There are a few tables which might be hard to decipher at font sizes higher than the smallest. On the plus side the chapter reference notes and footnotes are linked.
Highly recommended. The book is an enjoyable read because the author has a very conversational style which places the reader at ease.
Unfortunately, the vendor of this book did not disclose that it had been exposed to great quantities of smoke, so because of my allergies, I cannot read this particular copy. I won't hold it against the book, though.
Written in the 80s so a great deal of it is terribly outdated but the fundamental information supplied is still valuable if you want some insight on how people think...or don't think. How people see patterns where there are none. Why people believe something when all the evidence points to the contrary (in this day and age, think climate control) and why we believe the unbelievable.