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Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things Hardcover – August 27, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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About the Author

Richard Wiseman, Ph.D., is the first and only Professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is also a practicing magician and was one of the youngest members of The Magic Circle. Wiseman has published over forty papers in academic journals and gained an international reputation for research into unusual areas of psychology, including deception, luck, and the paranormal. He is the author of eight books, including The Luck Factor, which has been sold in twenty-five countries. He lives in Hertfordshire, England.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (August 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465090796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465090792
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Julia Flyte TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Recently I read an article in a magazine which was about the art of making small talk at parties. One of the suggestions that it made was to take note of interesting facts or stories to bring up if the conversation stalls. The example given was a study in which men and women were asked which superpower they would like to possess. Top of the women's list was being invisible, while men were far more likely to want to be able to fly. Not only is this an interesting nugget of information, it also immediately stimulates discussion.

If you enjoy these kinds of conversations, you will love this book. (It even includes a list of the factoids most likely to prompt discussion). Psychologist Richard Wiseman has conducted a number of studies over the years looking into the ways that people behave and also reports on some other people's experiments. Some of the things that I learned while reading this book were:
- How asking people to trace the letter Q on their forehead is a good predictor of how good a liar they are.
- How our memories can be tricked into creating false memories and why this happens.
- How a waiter can dramatically increase his chances of getting a tip.
- Why you are more likely to be attracted to people when you're in a precarious situation that elevates your heart-rate (so maybe Hollywood storylines aren't so far-fetched after all)
- That words containing the "K" sound are especially likely to make people laugh, because of the way they contort the facial muscles.

The book is written in a lively and entertaining fashion and in parts is very amusing. While it's quite disjointed, it held my interest throughout. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest why people behave the way they do. Our behavior is more predictable than we think.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Richard Wiseman is an experimental psychologist and professor of "public understanding of psychology." In this book, he discusses dozens of experiments performed by himself and other psychologists around the world over the course of the last hundred years. All these experiments have in common is unusual research methodology or amusing results.

Each experiment is described in as little as a paragraph, or as much as a chapter. Old favorites like the Milgram "Obediance to Authority" experiments make an appearance, and some of the recent experiments discussed got a lot of press ("what is the funniest joke in the world"), but most of the content will be new to most readers.

Topics include studies of personal ads and pickup lines, determining which are most effective, how to detect liars, manifestations of prejudice and hypocrisy (are religious people or priests more honest or generous than others? it has been tested). Wiseman even ran tests to see which experiments in the book are the most interesting, to help the reader know what would be the best conversation starters at parties.

Unusually for a mass market book, it is copiously footnoted.
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Format: Hardcover
How should one rate a book that's a kick to read but is bad "science"? This is a well-written and amusing -- even sometimes fascinating -- book. I liked it. However, I found myself wanting to contact the author and say, "Yes, that's one interpretation of the data, but what about..." for nearly every experiment he cites. The "Q" experiment he begins with, which is a sort of self-analysis/personality-profile parlor game, was utterly wrong in my case. Wiseman might dismiss that statement as an instance of self-deception (which is too easy an answer to fall back on, but common in this type of pop-psychology), but accepting his analysis of "me" would actually be far more flattering that the truth! I won't spoil the game for those who haven't read the book. If you want a taste of Wiseman's style before committing to this, go to [...] (but doing so WILL ruing the "Q" test for you), where you can even participate is some of his "research". The questions are pretty general, even vapid -- so obvious that you can see the "trick" behind them. So much for science.

I should point out, in fairness, that I already knew a lot of the information Wiseman offers here. For another reader, this book might be a revelation. Maybe.

Overall, I'd say this is a fun book that will give you some good talking points for dinner parties, and which might give you a new perspective on a few things. But it's really just an entertainment. I think Wiseman would be a wonderful lecturer for one of those lite intro courses that fulfill your university science requirement. He'd be great fun as a drinking buddy. But I'm hard pressed, after reading this book, to think of him as a serious academic. All of which shouldn't keep you from reading the book, of course. Just don't expect too much.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I bought this book, but it turned out to be a lot like the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.) - only Dr. Wiseman's book is much, much better. Wiseman says that: "Put simply, quirkology uses scientific methods to study the more curious aspects of everyday life. This approach to psychology has been pioneered by a few researchers over the past hundred years who have followed in Galton's footsteps and had the courage to explore the places mainstream scientists avoid."

Hopefully the chapters can give you a gist as to what you will find in this book: Chapter 1 - What does your date of birth really say about you?, The New Science of Chronopsychology; Chapter 2 - Trust everyone, but always cut the cards, The Psychology of Lying and Deception; Chapter 3 - Believing six impossible things before breakfast, Psychology Enters the Twilight Zone; Chapter 4 - Making your mind up, The Strange Science of Decision Making; Chapter 5 - The scientific search for the world's funniest joke, Explorations into the Psychology of Humor; Chapter 6 - Sinner or saint?, The Psychology of When We Help and When we Hinder; Chapter 7 - The pace of life and other quirkological oddities, The Future of Quirkology.

In short, this is a terrific book. In many respects it shares a lot in common with not only Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, but also books like
...Read more ›
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