You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself Paperback – 5 Aug 2014
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The author of the bestselling You Are Not So Smart gives readers a fighting chance at outsmarting their not-so-smart brains. A mix of popular psychology and trivia, "You Are Now Less Dumb" is grounded in the idea that we all believe ourselves to be objective observers of reality--except we re not. But that s okay, because our delusions keep us sane. Expanding on this premise, McRaney provides eye-opening analyses of seventeen ways we fool ourselves every day, including: Enclothed Cognition (the clothes you wear change your behavior and influence your mental abilities)The Benjamin Franklin Effect (how you grow to like people for whom you do nice things and hate the people you harm).Deindividuation (Despite our best intentions, we practically disappear when subsumed by a mob mentality)The Misattribution of Arousal (Environmental factors have a greater effect on our emotional arousal than the person right in front of us)Sunk Cost Fallacy (We will engage in something we don t enjoy just to make the time or money already invested worth it )McRaney also reveals the true price of happiness, and how to avoid falling for our own lies."
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This is more or less a continuation of the author's previous book, "You Are Not So Smart", but you need not feel compelled to read the former: you don't really need to know the themes and ideas of the first book to read this one. In essence, the book shows us how knowledge and understanding of our self-delusions can be used to help us become, well, 'less dumb'. Using recent discoveries and research into behavior to help us see that we are not the objective observers of our lives we believe ourselves to be, but, rather, delusional lemmings stuck on autopilot, the author gives us 17 examples of how we fool ourselves in life.
Each example is brilliantly written and fascinating, incorporating science, funny anecdotes and trivia. But don't get the idea that this is just a whimsical 'pop psychology' book; this is a serious study of our irrational unconscious selves, yet presented in a highly entertaining way (much like how Richard Feynman could make quantum physics accessible and understandable to the average person, as Carl Sagan did with cosmology - complicated science explained in an engaging manner).
The author's central theme is that scientific method has saved - and continues to save - mankind from it's delusional dumbness. While you may deny that had you lived a few centuries ago you would have believed geese grew on trees, don't be so sure. In the example of 'Popular Belief', we learn that even today, myths and popular delusions abound: people in Korea - including highly-educated people - "know" that electric fans cause death, invisibly: If you leave a fan on when you leave the house, all of your pets will be dead when you return. But, not to worry, science will eventually save the Koreans from this delusion:
"When you believe in something, you rarely seek out evidence to the contrary to see how it matches up with your assumptions. That's the source of urban legends, folklore, superstitions, and all the rest. Skepticism is not your strong suit. In the background, while you crochet and golf and browse cat videos, people using science are fighting against your stupidity."
You will definitely be enlightened as to the nature of your own existence and the society you inhabit; it's that good of a book. Highly recommended.
The bad: the book was so poorly edited that until the acknowledgements, I speculated that it hadn't been edited at all. For example, neither McRaney nor his editors has mastered the elicit/illicit and elusive/illusive distinctions, among other minor errors of syntax. McRaney's explanation of the Scotsman's Fallacy was unfocused, and his explanation of circular reasoning (petitio principii) was confusing.
The main reason I dinged two stars off this book, however, was McRaney's mini-biography of Freud, which was so poorly written that I initially thought it was a joke and kept hunting for the punch line. Now I keep wondering: what ELSE about this book should I find untrustworthy?
M: You are being of logic and reason.
T: You are a being capable of logic and reason who falls short of that ideal in predictable ways.
M: You make sense of life through rational contemplation.
T: You make sense of life through narrative.
The Common Belief Fallacy
M: The larger the consensus, the more likely it is correct.
T: A belief is not more likely to be accurate just because many people share it.
The Benjamin Franklin Effect
M: You do nice things for the people you like and bad things to the people you hate.
T: You grow to like people for whom you do nice things and hate people you harm.
The Post Hoc Fallacy
M: You notice when effect doesn’t follow cause.
T: You find it especially difficult to believe a sequence of events means nothing.
The Halo Effect
M: You objectively appraise the individual attributes of other people.
T: You judge specific qualities of others based on your global evaluation of their character and appearance.
M: Willpower is just a metaphor.
T: Willpower is a finite resource.
The Misattribution of Arousal
M: You always know why you feel the way you feel.
T: You can experience emotion states without knowing why, even if you believe you can pinpoint the source.
The Illusion of External Agency
M: You always know when you are making the best of things.
T: You often incorrectly give credit to outside forces for providing your optimism.
The Backfire Effect
M: You alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking after your beliefs are challenged with facts.
T: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.
M: Many of your private beliefs are in disagreement with what most people think.
T: On certain issues, the majority of the people believe that the majority of the people in a group believe what, in truth, the minority of the members believe.
The No True Scotsman Fallacy
M: You honestly define that which you hold dear.
T: You will shift your definitions to protect your ideologies.
The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight
M: You celebrate diversity and respect others’ points of views
T: You are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others.
M: Clothes as everyday objects are just fabrics for protection and decoration of the body.
T: The clothes you wear change your behavior and can either add or subtract from your mental abilities.
M: People who riot and loot are scum who were just looking for an excuse to steal and be violent.
T: Under the right conditions, you are prone to losing individuality and becoming absorbed into a hive mind.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy
M: You make rational decision based on the future value of objects, investments, and experiences.
T: Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something, the harder it becomes to abandon it.
The Overjustification Effect
M: There is nothing better in the world than getting paid to do what you love.
T: Getting paid for doing what you already enjoy will sometimes cause your love for the task to wane because you attribute your motivations as coming from the reward, not your internal feelings.
The Self Enhancement Bias
M: You set attainable goals based on a realistic evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses.
T: You protect unrealistic attitudes about your abilities in order to stay sane and avoid despair.
In short, this book is little different from the author's previous work "You are not so smart". Well written and organized like good narratives. Yet, I doubt whether the prescriptions are effective enough for us to conquer our innate weaknesses. So, your liking of it will depend much on whether the above topic suit you well. Recommended, but not on anyone's priority list.
BUT… the author goes on to point out we rationalize and reinvent and think we're better than we are… so maybe I'm fooling myself that I'd choose more logical behaviors in an experiment or in life. Depressing thought.
He belittles the idea that anything bad that happens to us has an outcome for our greater good, saying all people have the capacity and inclination to make themselves believe that. It diminishes meaningful experiences to think I'm just naively making connections that aren't there. He goes on to say we externalize that theory to suppose some being or force is watching out for us. In the end he says we're resilient, etc., but it seems like backpeddling for the disses. It's not *that* negative, but it didn't leave me feeling enlightened… maybe a little less dumb and at the same time a little more dumb.
Also, I'm guessing the "conquer mob mentality, buy happiness, outsmart yourself" subhead was tacked on by an editor or publisher, because there's really no actionable advice to be found.