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on 6 May 2013
Rolf Dobelli has compiled 99 cognitive errors in one delightful anthology. His text is entertaining, and I often found myself smiling and nodding along in agreement with his short anecdotes. The book reads like a blog; each chapter is discrete. Thus, readers needn't peruse the chapters in any particular order. In that sense, "The Art of Thinking Clearly" is a good coffee table book (an advantage of the hard copy over the ebook); I could pick it up and leaf through the chapters that took my fancy at ease. I found the volume to be a great conversation starter among friends.

Although Dobelli doesn't include any original research, he breaks down difficult cognitive science theories into layman's terms and aptly illustrates various biases that govern human actions. His ideas are provocative and lead to further reflection. I garnered an insight into how my brain's cognitive errors dictate my everyday behaviour. Since I've finished the book, I find it difficult not to analyze my every thought and action to try to figure out what bias - if any - is at work. "The Art of Thinking Clearly" shone a new light on my understanding of the thought process.

This is a light, educational, fun read.
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on 27 April 2013
`The art of thinking clearly' by Rolf Dobelli took 10 days to arrive. It is hardback, but thick paperback sized (326 pages), made up of 99 Chapters each of two to three pages.

Originally the text was written as a series short magazine articles, so this is in effect a bound collection all in one place.

Rolf tackles the many ways in which thinking errors can occur (what we think is going on, and what is actually going on, can and often is very different). In a sense this is quite profound, we all run around with models of how the world works (and interconnects), and these models provide a handy short cut to quick decisions rather than thinking things through from scratch every time. Rolf clearly and logically and with examples shows us how and why these models are in error (the links are incorrectly connected) and while there might be good material going in, the wrong model all but guarantees the wrong material out.

As humans we are programmed for the here and now, long and very short time scales are difficult for us to grasp, big numbers are just big numbers etc. Rolf tackles psychological perception and how we can be confident and sure about something, yet we have mislead ourselves or been mislead by others, but our confidence means the alarm has not sounded. These sorts of thinking errors have been well researched by psychologists, but largely buried in academic journals and tomes. Rolf brings them out, makes them live and contemporary, and with examples shows, actually, anyone with a working brain needs to beware.

So this is less a book about `The art of thinking clearly' and more a book about `I think, therefore I err', and is no less valuable for that, just don't expect methods, plans and exercises for thinking clearly.

Finally, perhaps a perfect book for the modern age, we move too fast for our own good, a book which in very short hops takes you on a (thoughtful) journey, easy to pick up grab a page or two, put down to await the next `reading bite' opportunity. Take it from start to finish, or dip in an out, it makes no difference, each Chapter is stand alone. For me at least, £7 very well spent.
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on 27 March 2013
The concepts in this book are so smart and straightforward, you will kick yourself for not knowing and applying them in your life already. As you read through the book you will find many instances where you can relate your own action or more importantly your own inaction to a cognitive error. In essence, the book provides you with necessary frames to make better more informed decisions. For me, understanding how sunk cost cognitive error has framed my inaction on taking a decision to move past a bad business decision will be worth many times the cost of the book. The Art of Thinking Clearly is for everyone but business people, students and university faculty in particular will find this book a thought provoking read.
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on 9 June 2013
This is just fabulous, the title says it all.
I opened the amazon box, made a coffee, sat down to have a browse .... and had read 50 pages before I even looked up.
It's a collection of 100 short articles (each is just 3 small-sized pages) on different aspects of thinking and where we (tend to) go wrong.
Each article starts with 'a story' to grab your attention, then explains the thinking process involved and the mistakes we may make on the way to a (poor?) decision and/or maybe how big business cashes in on that erroneous thinking.
It's compulsive reading. The individual headings drag you in....'oh, just one more chapter, then I'll put it down'
E.g. Would you wear Hitler's Sweater? (Contagion Bias)
E.g. Live each day as if it were your last - but only on Sundays (Hyperbolic Discounting)
E.g Hurts so good (Effort Justification)
You may not fall into all the traps, but you're guaranteed to fall into some of them. You'll learn something, you'll likely learn a lot. But who cares anyway? Just read the book because it's FUN.
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on 4 July 2013
A quirky book that doesn't have to be read in a traditional style.
Each chapter is short and easy to digest, the chapters don't overlap so can be read one at a time but make great reading if read in succession.

The advice varies from clever and insightful, right through to pointless and repetitive - yet those weak chapters are few and far between and at only three to four pages long don't cause a huge problem.

The minor concern of mine with this book centres on the fact that the chapters are so short. Whilst it makes it an easy book to read, it does mean there is minimal depth to each chapter.

The feeling I was left with after finishing the book is that it had been like having a pint with a friend in a pub, with the friend telling you something profound but then not having time to continue the conversation. You know you've learnt something good, but you now need to find more material to crystallise the thinking.
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on 5 July 2013
I bought this because this genre interests me and it had a glowing reviews. But actually the writing style is simplistic bordering on patronising. The writer comes across as an enthusiastic hobbyist rather than an expert, and he presents some fairly obvious concepts as dramatic revelations. For instance, it turns out advertisers use pretty people to sell products (really, this was one of his breakthroughs). Having previously read Taleb, who is almost hero worshippes in Dobelli's book, I found the art of thinking clearly to be much less of a breakthrough. I would recommend Dobelli's book to anyone who has never thought about behavioural psychology before, but for most people Taleb is better (if in himself, a breathtakingly arrogant writer).
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on 3 April 2015
really just states the obvious and regurgitates common wisdom

I bought it because he had written a brilliant piece in the Guardian titled 'news is bad for you'

read this book in a few hours - it is well written but nothing new or startling in it
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on 25 September 2013
The book is a nice, handy guide to showcasing just how badly human beings think and reason. It's a comprehensive guide to a huge chunk of major and minor psychological software errors that we humans are so prone to. Some will be already known by the reader, many will come as a surprise, especially the more mathematical ones. It's a great book to show to friends as the chapters are short and easily digestible, and can be read independently of eachother.

It is by no stretch a perfect guide. It makes mistakes and can often come across as far too cynical and cut-and-dry. It seems as if the book preaches that a logical solution is always within reach, but this is not always the case. I'd much rather the overall theme be one of keeping an open mind rather than trying to calculate the most logical course of action in any given scenario (important, yes, but not everything).

The book can also read as a bit disconnected from more common examples. I'd like to have seen some more general examples that most people are likely to relate to. The book emphasizes the business and finance world a lot, which I'm not unsympathetic to since that is the author's background, but it can feel like too much of a business/financial guide sometimes instead of a book on clear thinking. It can demonstrate how a businessman might be financially better off by thinking clearly, but how is the average person going to benefit from clear thinking? This is something I hoped the book would delve into more, as I think clear and critical thought should be encouraged universally, not just for academics.

As a book I'd probably give it 3 stars, but I rate it higher since books like this are so few but so very needed. Self-scrutiny and objective admission of one's stupidity is always a difficult process, so the book gets an "A for effort" even though I find I might disagree with moderate chunks of it (which, to be fair, the book itself states as a likelihood and even encourages).

I've found two other books similar to this which I'll read afterwards. At first glance they seem much more relateable and light-hearted, so I'll see how they all compare.
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on 17 May 2014
I hated this book. It displays all the trite 'smart Alec' traits that lead to poor thinking in the first place. In all cases I read the solution was presented as obvious; when surely the whole point is that we think poorly because we face a real dilemma. An example - "never pay lawyers by the hour" - because they then have an incentive to extend the job: the solution apparently is to have a fixed price contract. The ignores the obvious incentive on a fixed cost contract to trim the work, short cut the quality and simplify the problem. I imagined that the first task in thinking clearly is to think, recognise a problem, and then to forensically consider the alternatives; turns out it is all about some superficial but catchy rules.
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on 2 June 2013
This is quite a small book (?2/3 size of a typical hardback format), and while some of the content is hardly new or rocket science, there are many pitfalls to informed decision making that it highlights, that I had not previously consciously considered. K
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