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293 of 300 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the best popular book on this topic
This is a wonderful achievement of science popularisation. Sutherland had a gift for succinctly and non-technically summarising psychology experiments. In this book he surveys more than one hundred and sixty different studies that expose failings of human reasoning and judgement. Overconfidence, conformity, biased assessment of evidence and inconsistency are among the...
Published on 5 Jan 2008 by Dr. M. L. Poulter

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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
A very good book examining the irrational decisions people make. It also provides methods on how best to make a rational decision and not fall into the common traps. Learning statistics and probability theory are a start.

I did find it a little boring to read at times. The writing style is a little bland and technical in nature. Also, one thing the book only...
Published on 25 Jun 2009 by Ryopinion


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23 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars entertaining, but ignores the most interesting question, 31 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This is an entertaining book - after all, it's fun to read about how stupid we are, and you can certainly learn a lot from it about how to think in complex circumstances - but it is really the raw material for another book which could explore the at least equally question that the author never even acknowledges: if we are so stupid (and the book has lots of evidence that we can be) then how come we are so clever (after all, there is lots of evidence for that, too). In fact, more than that, why is it that we can look so stupid floundering about trying to find the answer to a problem which in a differently phrased, but formally identical, form is trivial?
Actually, we aren't so stupid. What this book documents is the limits of 'natural' human cleverness. But once you have shown that people don't have an intuitive feeling for Bayes theorem, surely the next interesting thing to do is to ask why not. It is not enough simply to leave it at that and warn readers to be careful.
A second flaw is that in some places Sutherland's method, of showing that some behaviour is irrational by argument from a formal reduction, breaks down, when the formal reductions he chooses don't really fit. For instance he assumes that simple natural lanuage statments in some rich context naturally map onto structurally similar propositional logical statments. But, as Grice (I think) was the first of many to point out, this doesn't even begin to follow. In fact I'm surprised that a psychologist would make such a mistake.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What is rational anyway?, 24 Nov 2009
This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
This book goes some way towards identifying some of the ways people make apparently bad decisions but it contains some pitfalls itself. I became irritated that it does not clearly explain how the rational choice in a situation was decided upon before any experiment was conducted. This omission gives a sense that Professor Sutherland is rather smug about his own rationality.

Science has often rightly been criticised for oversimplifications due to a reductionist approach. The same is true for some of the supposed rational decisions Prof Sutherland claims. Humans are social animals so what may appear to be an irrational decision for an individual or group of individuals can be quite rational for a social group.

There seems to be a further reductionist error when the results of small group studies are extrapolated into a wider social context. There are interesting theories arising from looking at how people respond to rewards in some of the experiments this book describes, for example. However without further experiments that look at the more complex situation of workplace psychology it is simply wrong to say, as Sutherland does, that payment degrades peoples' motivation to do a good job. Sadly he repeatedly makes this kind of mistake.

There is much good work covered in this book. Stanley Milgram's work on obedience is outstanding and salutory. Unfortunately not all of the works this book desribes, or the conclusions arising from them, are as good.
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15 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware of cover puffs, 8 Jun 2009
By 
Christopher Vowles (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
Despite the glowing comments from Richard Dawkins and Oliver Sacks on the cover, I found "Irrationality" to be poorly written. In fact, although it's a fascinating subject, most chapters seemed to me to be a tedious catalogue of, in the main, experimental findings. The book's redeeming feature is the brief and witty summing-up (The Moral) at the end of each chapter.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading, 22 Jan 2011
This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
This book should be Required Reading for all politicians, Educators, Religious Leaders (as if)...... in fact anyone who makes decisions that affect the lives of others.

As Dawkins and numerous others are beginning to call: "Its 2011 - isn't it about time the Human Race grew up and left all the Fairy Stories and Mumbo Jumbo behind......"

Read this to see exactly how far reaching our irrational thoughts, behaviour and actions can be and have been (and sadly, no doubt, will be for some considerable time to come).
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Irrational Exuberance, 5 Feb 2010
By 
R. McCarthy (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
I seem to find myself with a minority opinion here. There has been a deluge of science based books published in the last few reads... some great, some not. This book falls into the latter category.

My main criticism is that I didn't find the majority of facts, experiments or observations that new or interesting. I always had the feeling I had read something similar before. But for all that, it is well written and an easy read but there are far better books out there.....Freakenomics,Quirkology,Predictably Irrational
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable and Informative, 7 Oct 2011
This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
In a very enjoyable read, Sutherland takes us through the many examples of irrationality in everyday life. In an effort to avoid text-book technicality, the information is often presented anecdotally which is interesting and makes for a gripping read, but I think takes away from the credibility of the work. Though the body of the work is diligently referenced, Sutherland appeared to the remarkably off-hand with research outside of his field - at one point he suggests DNA may be transferred from rape flowers to microorganisms in the human stomach via honey. Hm.

This book is a very worthwhile read and a great introduction into this area of psychology. Should the reader wish to pursue the subject further, an excellent reading list is provided, and the book is thoughtfully annotated with references throughout. If, like me, you only read non-fiction so you'll have fun facts to tell people in bars, you'll find this book a great boon. Sutherland's passion for the rational shines from every page and his funny little morals at the end of each chapter remind us that, flawed as we are, we keep great company.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is it rational to buy this book based on this review?, 17 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
Or when combined with any of the others for this book? What can you tell from what is 'helpful', what a 4 or 5 star rating might tell you and what value is ascribed to the reviews. (How rational is it I review this anyway)

That's the thinking this book is dealing with and lumme! it deals with it all right. Some people have said this is 'too' detailed but I think the detail is required because each subject is presented with theories, examples, and conclusions, something some popular science books forget these days. You are left with the feeling that the topic has been explained fully and completely which points to good jounalistic and scientific practice from the author.

The book presents the story of rationality from initial discussions of what is rational anyway and then each chapter takes us in to a new area where either rationality can be shown to be markedly absent much of the time or explores one of the causes of irrationality.

I did find that book started off with a positive and enthusiastic attitude but towards the end I almost felt as if the author was getting exasperated with the human race. It's unkind but there were a few places where the tone slipped from one of amused observation and turned to annoyance that people behave in such ways. Sometimes it's difficult for people to beleive humans will act against human nature when provided with logical reasoning. I get annoyed by that myself but it's an annoying trait and should be kept out of any study of this kind.

I dived in to this and loved the first half of the book and then had serious trouble to continue as I felt the author talking down to me. If you can get over that hurdle then this is a lively, funny in parts, and accurate study of one of the most baffling parts of human psychology.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Becomes more irrational the more you read, 25 Mar 2011
By 
M. R. Watts "Mike" (Herts) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Irrationality (Kindle Edition)
Having read the reccommendations and the Amazon sample of the book, I was excited after having downloaded the Kindle version.
As I began to read, sure enough, I found the examples of irrational thinking extremely revealing and entertaining.
Soon though a feeling of unease began to set in.
Little snippets of doubt started springing up in the back of my mind - 'surely that in itself is an irrational conclusion', 'hold on, that's a sudden leap of subjective reasoning there', and so on.
By the time I reached a third of my way through the book I was dissillusioned with it.
As another reviewer stated, its style, and much of its content can be entertaining, but you frequently have to re-read passages to work out what the writer is trying to say - often vainly. This is not just because some of the statistical concepts are sometimes difficult (despite probably being comparitively basic stuff for the subject), but because of the way in which the information is given.
I am now only just over the half way mark and can't reccommend this book.
I am only persisting in reading the rest of it because I have already paid for it.
Read the book to gauge the irony in the above statement.... Or better still, find a different one on the same subject, this one comes with too many faults.
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11 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rationaly good, 7 Feb 2006
I came on this site to write a positive review of this book, as it is a genuinly good read and it happens to help with my psychology course at uni. However when reading the previose reviews that claim the book was flawed, what i planned to write changed. Rather than being less praising of the book I started to want too write it was amazing, unflawed and undoubtably the best book ever. A perfect example of the irrationailty this book discusses, with out it i would have given a very biased review! Just think of the more important opinions it could have effected
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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars nice book, 19 Jun 2010
This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
I recieved it very quick. (The first time I haven't got my order but Amazon resent the new one for me. I'm very impressed with the service.) The quality of the book is good. Just a bit fold at the edge of the cover but it's not thing.
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