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Think Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter about Almost Everything [Kindle Edition]

Stephen J. Dubner , Steven D. Levitt
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

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Review

In one of the many wonderful moments in Think Like a Freak, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner ask the question: Who is easier to fool-kids or adults? The obvious answer, of course, is kids. The cliché is about taking candy from a baby, not a grown man. But instead of accepting conventional wisdom as fact, the two sit down with the magician Alex Stone-someone in the business of fooling people-and ask him what he thinks. And his answer? Adults.

Stone gave the example of the staple of magic tricks, the "double lift," where two cards are presented as one. It's how a magician can seemingly bury a card that you have selected at random and then miraculously retrieve it. Stone has done the double lift countless times in his career, and he says it is kids-overwhelmingly-who see through it. Why? The magician's job is to present a series of cues-to guide the attention of his audience-and adults are really good at following cues and paying attention. Kids aren't. Their gaze wanders. Adults have a set of expectations and assumptions about the way the world works, which makes them vulnerable to a profession that tries to exploit those expectations and assumptions. Kids don't know enough to be exploited. Kids are more curious. They don't overthink problems; they're more likely to understand that the basis of the trick is something really, really simple. And most of all-and this is my favorite-kids are shorter than adults, so they quite literally see the trick from a different and more revealing angle.

Think Like a Freak is not a book about how to understand magic tricks. That's what Dubner and Levitt's first two books-Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics-were about. It's about the attitude we need to take towards the tricks and the problems that the world throws at us. Dubner and Levitt have a set of prescriptions about what that attitude comes down to, but at its root it comes down to putting yourself in the mind of the child, gazing upwards at the double lift: free yourself from expectations, be prepared for a really really simple explanation, and let your attention wander from time to time.

The two briefly revisit their famous argument from their first book about the link between the surge in abortions in the 1970s and the fall in violent crime twenty years later. Their point is not to reargue that particular claim. It is to point out that we shouldn't avoid arguments like that just because they leave us a bit squeamish. They also tell the story of the Australian doctor Barry Marshall, who overturned years of received wisdom when he proved that ulcers are caused by gastric bacteria, not spicy food and stress. That idea was more than heretical at first. It was absurd. It was the kind of random idea that only a child would have. But Dubner and Levitt's point, in their utterly captivating new book, is that following your curiosity-even to the most heretical and absurd end-makes the world a better place. It is also a lot of fun.

(Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink))

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From the rule-breaking authors of international bestsellers Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, this is the ultimate guide to how to Think Like a Freak



The Freakonomics books have come to stand for something: challenging conventional wisdom; using data rather than emotion to answer questions; and learning to unravel the world's secret codes. Now Levitt and Dubner have gathered up what they have learned and turned it into a readable and practical toolkit for thinking differently - thinking, that is, like a Freak. Whether you are interested in the best way to improve your odds in penalty kicks, or in major global reforms, here is a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems.



Along the way, you'll learn how the techniques of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion can help you, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they're from Nigeria, and why Van Halen's demanding tour contract banning brown M&Ms was really a safety measure. You'll learn why sometimes it's best to put away your moral compass, and smarter to think like a child. You will be given a master class in incentives-because for better or worse, incentives rule our world. And you will learn to quit before you fail, because you can't solve tomorrow's problem if you aren't willing to abandon today's dud.



Levitt and Dubner see the world like no one else. Now you can too. Never before have such iconoclastic thinkers been so revealing-and so much fun to read.



Steven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, given to the most influential American economist under the age of forty. He is also a founder of The Greatest Good, which applies Freakonomics-style thinking to business and philanthropy.



Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He quit his first career-as an almost-rock-star-to become a writer. He has worked for The New York Times and published three non-Freakonomics books. He lives with his family in New York City.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Economics meets self-help? 13 May 2014
By Nicholas J. R. Dougan VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I didn’t get around to reading Freakonomics until 2007, but loved it, and immediately read Superfreakonomics, which while also good was less remarkable. It did draw me to the blog, and latterly the podcast which I download and listen to each week. When Dubner and Leavitt (D&L) announced their third book, I was happy to pre-order. (Pretty annoying that we Brits had to wait a whole extra day to get it – in the US it was released at just after midnight on Monday 12 May, it didn’t become available in Britain until the 13th!) That having been said, it downloaded onto my Kindle this morning and I’ve read it cover to cover.

“The plural of anecdote is not data”, the authors remind us, and I suppose that the one criticism I would level at this book is that quite a lot of the characteristics of “Freak” thinkers are based on singular or occasional observations by the authors and their many collaborators/cited sources. While the earlier books focussed mainly on Professor Leavitt’s research into criminal and other rule breaking activities and referenced what were clearly large data sets, that seems to be less the case here. This is a book that is based as much on psychology as it is on economics and statistics, although there is a light sprinkling of economic concepts - sunk costs, opportunity costs, incentives to name just a few.

This book is a manual of sorts to help thinking about the way that the authors do. There is a slight feel of a self-help book, but with such laid back authors, there’s no feeling of being presented with an insurmountable challenge – the first bit of advice to help you “Think like a Freak” is to admit you don’t know, and the last is to quit if you want to – it might make you happier.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short and again not as good as Freakonomics 9 Jun. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very quick read. While better than the flawed Superfreakonomics it is very different from the original book. Fewer examples and interesting pieces, more a companion to the first book and covering much the same ground as their podcast.

If you pick this up cheap it's worth the hour or two it'll take you to read, but if you've not read Freakonomics that is the book to go for.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Mike N
Format:Hardcover
I've read the other 2 freakanomics books, and though this one is just as entertaining I'm not sure it says anything about how to think that you wouldn't pick up from the first and/or second book(s).

It's a very similar format - give us a story about somebody that looked at the world in a slightly different way to solve a long standing problem that others had tried and failed with (or perhaps not even thought about thinking about). This book makes a point of saying "look what they did there", but otherwise it's the same.

That being said, it's still an entertaining and enlightening read, and well worth the short amount of time it takes to get through. If you haven't read the other books though I'd suggest starting with them. They're perhaps a bit more substantial than this one.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
In their latest book, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner cite several examples of people who trick guilty parties (i.e. those who prey upon people who are ignorant and/or gullible) into unwittingly revealing their guilt through their own behavior. Here are three examples:

o Two women appealed to King Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of a newborn. Unable to decide, he ordered the child to be cut in half and divided equally. One woman embraced the idea. He knew immediately that the other woman who begged him to let the other have the child was in fact its mother.

o Rock star David Lee Roth of the Van Halen group has a 53-page list of technical and security requirements. One in the Munchies section specifies "M&Ms (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)." Immediately upon arrival, he checks the jar. "If he saw brown ones, he knew the promoter hadn't read the rider [to the otherwise standard contract) -- and that 'we had to do a serious line check to make sure that the most important details hadn't been botched either."

o So-called "Nigerian scammers" send millions of email messages each month to millions of people throughout the world. (It's called the "Nigerian scam" because more than half of the messages invoke Nigeria than all of the other emails combined.) I have received 3-5 each week in recent years. The "Beloved friend" message is always illiterate and ludicrous. Stupid, right? Not so fast. According to Levitt and Dubner, the Nigerian scammers know that almost everyone who receives a message will ignore it. But if only one in a hundred recipients provides the requested bank information....

"The ridiculous-sounding Nigerian emails seem to be quite good at getting the scammers' massive garden to weed itself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
After reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman this book comes across as little more than a Sunday newspaper supplement. It takes little time to read and doesn't offer much that isn't covered in more detail elsewhere (including their own books). This is a vast subject area and this book does little to get involved. Thinking Like a Freak (disruptive thinking) really deserves more than the 210 pages of large font offered here. A fifth of the book is devoted to acknowledgements, but they really didn't use them much.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book, really makes you think....
Published 9 days ago by s p mowbray
2.0 out of 5 stars not as good as the first two in their series, the prior two book in...
not as good as the first two in their series, the prior two book in this series were FAR better
Published 10 days ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
A 5 year old could come up with some better ideas lol
Published 12 days ago by Marie barton-hanson
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
If you liked their "Freakonomics" you will like this
Published 16 days ago by Derrick J Byford
5.0 out of 5 stars If you do not naturally think like a freak
Should be required reading in all high schools around the world. If you do not naturally think like a freak, at least you can learn from this book what is wrong with the way you do... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining - a good read, although the authors draw rather a...
Very entertaining - a good read, although the authors draw rather a lot on research from Freakonomics, ie repeat themselves a bit, and draw the reader into somewhat convoluted... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazonian
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Pretty good read! Short and sweet
Published 1 month ago by David Siciliano
1.0 out of 5 stars If you think people are rational and economists commendable scientists...
Here are two authors who certainly do not think like freaks. Instead they reverently impart the received wisdom of Economic Science, illustrated by some witty anecdotes / thought... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. K. A. Potapov
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty average to be honest - it's basically a re-hash ...
Pretty average to be honest - it's basically a re-hash of Freakonomics with stories backed by certain incomplete economics to prove a point. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jasper Druif
1.0 out of 5 stars A lazy rehash of the first 2 books (which were great). This is not...
They obviously ran out of new material so retold the old stories under the guise of some very weak 'think like a freak' analysis. Read more
Published 1 month ago by fishatpond
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