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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 December 2007
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 behaviour is more predictable than we think.
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on 24 March 2011
Having followed Richard Wiseman's blog for a while now, I had high hopes for this book. However, while it was a reasonably interesting, pleasant read, I wasn't blown away by it either, as it seemed to suffer from some considerable flaws.

Firstly, despite promising us examples of all kinds of quirkiness from the world of psychology research, I just didn't find it all that quirky. I felt that some examples, such as the theory that the way to tell if a smile is genuine is to look at the eyes, would already be fairly well-known among the type of people who would be interested in this book.

While I appreciate that writing a book about psychological studies that interests the general public may be rather difficult, I also found the book to be incredibly superficial in its handling of its subject matter. Studies were explained very briefly in the most part, followed by sweeping statements about society based on those studies' findings. Usually only one or two studies were used to form these conclusions, which made me wonder whether Richard Wiseman was genuinely justified to do that or whether he was jumping to conclusions at times. There was hardly any critique or analysis of the studies mentioned; there were times when a study was explained in a reasonable-length summary along with its findings, and then followed by one sentence to tell the reader that "however, other researchers have not been able to replicate these findings". Surely it would have been relevant to give the reader some information about these subsequent studies and the reasons why the researchers weren't able to replicate the findings. I also wondered whether the studies quoted actually showed the things he claimed they did. For example, Prof. Wiseman tells us about a study that "showed" the pace of life in various countries based on how quickly the people there walk. I couldn't help wondering whether walking pace really is a good indicator of the pace of life - maybe the population in some countries is generally shorter than in others, which would have an influence on leg length, which would then probably have a bearing on walking speed. This is just one possible alternative explanation that I can think of and my theory may be completely incorrect, but it's exactly these kinds of alternative explanations and critiques that I felt were missing in the book. It was as if Prof. Wiseman liked his interpretation of the findings and was therefore reluctant to propose any other explanations that didn't fit his neat ideas. I found this surprising considering that Prof. Wiseman is, by all accounts, an eminent psychologist and therefore rigorous critique of studies and their findings should be part and parcel of his job (even I learned to do this during my modest A Level in Psychology, so surely a Professor of Psychology would do this too!). The lack of critique also gave me the impression that readers were expected to accept the information in the book on face value, without questioning how appropriate the studies were for researching particular ideas. This, too, struck me as rather ironic, bearing in mind that Richard Wiseman is an outspoken sceptic of anything paranormal and one would therefore expect him to encourage people to question things more.

That said, I did find some of the ideas in the book interesting. All in all, I would not discourage anyone interested in this book from reading it, but I would urge them to read it with a critical eye, rather than accepting everything on face value.
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on 12 May 2007
Get this book if you want to see yourself and others in a completely new light! Quirkology is about weird, wonderful, and sometimes rather disturbing psychological experiments that reveal our true nature: what makes us help others (or, more often, help ourselves); why we are so poor at detecting when our partner cheats on us; what subtle factors influence our judgements - for instance about guilt and innocence, or about what leader to elect. There's not a shred of padding, and the reader is quickly hooked into wanting to know what happens next. It's not only fascinating, but fun to read: be prepared to be caught out when you least expect it by the author's sly sense of humour. The book also contains built-in experiments and demos so you can experience quirky psychology at first hand. Come on, get quirky: you'll love it!
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on 26 September 2013
I'm a psychology lecturer myself, so it's not surprising that I already knew most of the material in Quirkology. But that's not why I give it such a poor star-rating. I'm even prepared to look the other way when Professor Wiseman tells me over and over again that events are "surreal" when they are in fact nothing more than odd, then gives his book a cringeworthy title that sounds like a rewrite of the phrase "I'm mad, me". The fact is, I wouldn't feel happy recommending this book to any non-psychologist. It irritated me constantly with its misinterpretion (or sometimes just dubious interpretation) of data. On the strength of the first hundred pages or so, I began to wonder whether Professor Wiseman knew the difference between correlation and causation. Well of course he does - he's a psychology professor after all - but the apparent conflation of the two is really going to confuse and misinform the naive reader. This kind of danger is ever-present when professionals try their hand at popular science: and there is more than enough misunderstanding out there as it is. Certainly there is some interesting material in this book, and in places it's handled well - but if you are new to this area please please read a statistics primer before you pick it up. Alternatively, get Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, or Dubner and Leavitt's Freakonomics, which cover much the same ground.
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on 29 June 2009
This is certainly one of the most interesting books that I have read in recent years.
Its writing style is accessible and doesn't assume anything of its readers and it makes its points and tells its story in a clear and concise manner.
All these points add to the backbone of this book, which is the weird and sometimes wonderful experiments that have helped reveal insights into human lives.
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on 28 May 2007
Usually we associate scientists with people working in a lab trying to find a cure for cancer, HIV, hair baldness or any other of a number of ills. Or else they are dabbling in high-tech equipment trying to explore the ultimate questions like the shape of the universe, time-travel and the unifying field theory - things way beyond a normal person's ken.

In contrast, this book is fresh, understandable and exciting. Full to the brim with psychological studies that are anything from interesting to amusing, this book delves not only into the quirkier aspects of human behaviour, but also into some of the quirkier studies that scientists get up to (when no one is looking).

A few examples to illustrate my point:

Quack (as opposed to Moo, Grrr or Woof) is perceived to be the most funny animal sound. Apparently, it's because a `k' sound makes you smile and therefore others with you. A good one to remember for job interviews...

By monitoring behaviour at checkout queues, where you are only allowed to have 10 items (and most people, invariably have 12 or 15), scientists discovered that the people most likely to break minor rules of conduct (which includes speed limits) are female van drivers. Now you know what to beware of when driving!

The book is packed with many more such examples, all with comments on how the findings could be explained.

Ultimately the book is much more than just a series of weird facts and fantastical experiments. As with all good science (and this belongs to the best), it tells us something very relevant about us - our hopes, fears and those mannerisms we just don't seem to be able to shake. Thus, it opens up a whole new way of looking at others - and yourself.
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on 8 January 2011
I've read a few popular psychology books and am very interested in the subject. If, like me, you like to read about science then I suggest this book might irritate you. I repeatedly found that Wiseman jumped to conclusions from his data without considering other obvious possibilities. Now it may be that he did do all this but didn't bother including it in the book, but for me that is annoying. If you just want to read about interesting things then it's not terrible, although frankly I would say there are other much more interesting (and convincing) books out there on similar topics.
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on 21 July 2011
I bought this book (and 59 seconds) after seeing Richard Wiseman on the Uncaged Monkeys tour.

This is the first book of his that I've read, and the first I've read on this sort of subject. I'm about half-way through now, and it's a very interesting read so far. Everything is explained clearly and is easy to follow, without getting too in-depth; and it doesn't require any prior knowledge or reading.

Looking at other reviews, I can see that if you've read a lot of his material or other books on this subject, then perhaps this book is more of an 'easy-reader'; but as first-time reader, I'm enjoying this book.
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on 5 February 2012
This is a well written account of some of the strange ways humans behave, from how we think to how we interact with each other. Highly readable, enjoyable, and a stimulus to further thought which reads more like an extended column in a paper than a textbook (a good thing, in my opinion). Anyone looking for an academic foray into the subjects of neuroscience, psychology and sociology ought to look elsewhere.
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on 28 May 2011
An interesting journey through Richard Wiseman's professional career to-date, investigating quirky science around the world, from how fast people walk in different countries to how your date of birth actually can affect your personality.

It's an interesting quick read full of anecdotes about his own and other scientists' work, but it avoids going into more detail than necessary and, given that its focus is on nothing too technical, is approachable and pitched at a level appropriate for any reader, regardless of their experience in science or psychology.

My main criticism would be that it doesn't quite have enough depth for the reader to get their teeth into. It jumps on fairly quickly from topic to topic and I would have liked a little more information in places. I was also a little disappointed by some of the 'quirky' facts which seemed a little too bland and common knowledge to justify their inclusion.

Overall, an interesting read but nothing special - probably best aimed at a younger audience who may not have heard some of the stories before.
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