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Quirkology: The Curious Science of Everyday Lives Paperback – Unabridged, 1 Jul 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Review

'Wiseman's easy-going divertissement recounts numerous curiosities
of modern psycology.' -- Guardian

'entertaining and energetic...packed with vignettes that are
perfect for dinner parties or pub conversations.' -- The Times --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

From the bestselling author of 59 Seconds

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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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