15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars
Interesting but ultimately disappointing, 13 Mar 2010
I bought this on the recommendation of a reviewer of "Blink", but I'm disappointed to say that it suffers from similar flaws. Early in the first chapter, Gigerenzer appears to frame the question that the book will try to answer: "...the real question is not *if* but *when* can we trust our guts?" However, no clear answer to this question is then proffered. The research and anecdotes which follow are interesting in themselves (to a point), but the book would benefit from Gigerenzer commencing each example with a clear statement of the proposition(s) that he seeks to draw from it (and how those propositions contribute to answering the core question).
The later chapters are weaker, with Gigerenzer introducing a number of topics with no clear thread running through them (yes it's very interesting that the Berlin Wall fell due to a rumour that it had already fallen, but what does that have to do with the rest of the book?). He also drops the odd clanger e.g. "Your brother shares half of your genes...". The correct answer is between c.99% and 100% and, even if you ignore the commonality of genes in unrelated humans and focus on direct chromosomal inheritance, the answer is between 0% and 100% (depending principally on the lottery of meiosis). To draw the conclusion that "...from your genes' point of view, the lives of two brothers are as good as yours, but those of three are better" is therefore questionable at best.
Some obvious questions arising from the research go unanswered. For example, Magistrates' decision making: why is it not the case that there exist high correlation rates with decisions of prosecutors/police because there are strong underlying reasons for the prior decision(s) (or indeed one good reason, which Gigerenzer tells us is often enough). The researchers in question may have dealt with that point, but Gigerenzer needs to explain this if he wants to persuade the critical reader of his hypothesis (without having to refer to other materials). One might think, conversely, that there would be something seriously wrong with our criminal justice system if there wasn't such a correlation (e.g. prosecutors/police frequently seeking to deny bail where such denial is not warranted in the circumstances). If one asserts a sweeping conclusion that Magistrates are primarily interested in covering their backsides rather than protecting the community and doing justice (and are failing to comply with the law in doing so), one needs to be a little more rigorous than that!