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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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on 27 October 2015
Prof Wiseman has the knack of combined great depth of knowledge with a light, accessible touch. A career of reading academic papers and carrying out a great deal of his own research has been distilled for the lay reader. One of the best books I've read for a long time, very engaging and most informative. Q.
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on 19 March 2017
Brilliant - excellent read. Wiseman is a very accessible writer. Interesting, insightful, amusing, clever.
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on 30 July 2015
Funny, witty & wise!! A definite must read!!
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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 July 2012
Really glad I finally bought this. Absolutely brilliant. You must buy it! It's a really easy read, but interesting too.
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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 9 May 2016
I picked up a copy of Quirkology on a French campsite book exchange having previously enjoyed reading Richard Wiseman's self-help book 59 Seconds. Quirkology is a much thicker tome(!) which sets out to explore the findings of many different and unusual psychology studies undertaken over the past century or so and explain their results in layman's terms. I was disappointed by quite how low the bar is set, having hoped for a deeper view of the work with more science and less joky padding, but there are lots of nuggets of interesting information dotted throughout the book. Eccentric Victorian scientist Francis Galton gets several mentions which reminded me of the interesting biography of him I read a couple of years ago: Extreme Measures by Martin Brookes and, in a small world moment, recently read science author Simon Singh crops up too having been involved with making a Tomorrow's World feature where the great British public were asked to determine whether Sir Robin Day was lying. Sir Robin? Surely not!

Although some huge studies are described, I was surprised several times by apparently significant findings being decided from very small samples and I didn't agree with all the results either. Apparently women find jokes funnier than men do because in social situations we laugh at over 70% of jokes told by men, whereas men laugh at less than 40% of jokes told by women. Hmmm. Nothing to do with women traditionally being 'trained' to bolster male egos then? Perhaps the fake smile identification study should have been carried out in tandem? Overall Quirkology kept my attention for a few hours and it is a humorous, light read, but not really sciencey enough for my tastes.
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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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