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on 12 April 2013
Ok, I understand that the Kindle edition is free, but I wanted to read the book last night. I downloaded it and only got the first 5 chapters. I could not find a way of getting the other 95 chapters for love or money. So Frustrating. What I read was interesting but if I had only wanted 5% of the book I would have downloaded the free sample. Please Fix ASAP
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on 25 September 2013
The book is a nice, handy guide to showcasing just how badly human beings think and reason. It's a comprehensive guide to a huge chunk of major and minor psychological software errors that we humans are so prone to. Some will be already known by the reader, many will come as a surprise, especially the more mathematical ones. It's a great book to show to friends as the chapters are short and easily digestible, and can be read independently of eachother.

It is by no stretch a perfect guide. It makes mistakes and can often come across as far too cynical and cut-and-dry. It seems as if the book preaches that a logical solution is always within reach, but this is not always the case. I'd much rather the overall theme be one of keeping an open mind rather than trying to calculate the most logical course of action in any given scenario (important, yes, but not everything).

The book can also read as a bit disconnected from more common examples. I'd like to have seen some more general examples that most people are likely to relate to. The book emphasizes the business and finance world a lot, which I'm not unsympathetic to since that is the author's background, but it can feel like too much of a business/financial guide sometimes instead of a book on clear thinking. It can demonstrate how a businessman might be financially better off by thinking clearly, but how is the average person going to benefit from clear thinking? This is something I hoped the book would delve into more, as I think clear and critical thought should be encouraged universally, not just for academics.

As a book I'd probably give it 3 stars, but I rate it higher since books like this are so few but so very needed. Self-scrutiny and objective admission of one's stupidity is always a difficult process, so the book gets an "A for effort" even though I find I might disagree with moderate chunks of it (which, to be fair, the book itself states as a likelihood and even encourages).

I've found two other books similar to this which I'll read afterwards. At first glance they seem much more relateable and light-hearted, so I'll see how they all compare.
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on 3 April 2015
really just states the obvious and regurgitates common wisdom

I bought it because he had written a brilliant piece in the Guardian titled 'news is bad for you'

read this book in a few hours - it is well written but nothing new or startling in it
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on 26 October 2014
In one important sense, we are already excellent decision makers. Each of us has a mind chock full of thinking gizmos that can draw upon millions of years of evolution without the conscious bits having to make the slightest effort. Interpreting a shadowy pattern as a person down a dark alley or following our instinct to stick with the crowd might mean that we make it home safely. In our ancestral environment, figuring out the truth about that movement in the bushes might have meant ending up as lunch for the tiger: better to be wrong and alive than right and dead. The intuitions and cognitive biases that have served us well throughout evolutionary history can, however, lead us astray in the modern world. And there are a lot of ways in which we can go wrong, more than enough to fill the 99 chapters in this handy guide (and this is far from an exhaustive list). Ralf Dobelli has distilled a huge amount of psychological research into bite-size entries that entertain as well as instruct, each chapter a nugget of scepticism in action.

Each chapter cross references other related chapters to create various pathways through the book. On a smaller scale, unexpected connections are often made between familiar concepts. For example, it may not be obvious that anecdotes are "a particularly tricky sort" of cherry-picking (which involves "showcasing the most attractive features and hiding the rest"). The links at the end of this chapter to the story bias and the self-serving bias illustrate just how much our brains love to consume mini-stories (a fact exploited by advertisers the world over).

One advantage to this approach is that readers won't be fooled into thinking there's a single, easy fix. Dobelli does, however, occasionally identify a simple and general takeaway message: "whoever hopes to think clearly must understand the difference between risk and uncertainty." Risk means that the probabilities are known. Uncertainty means that the probabilities are unknown. Understanding the difference is the risk literacy advocated by Gerd Girgerenzer in Risk Savvy: How To Make Good Decisions. Working against this is our aversion to ambiguity: we just don't like uncertainty, and prefer meaningless figures to nothing at all.

Another important theme (also explored by Girgerenzer) is the importance of emotions in decision-making. These are a different form of information processing, "more primordial, but not necessarily an inferior variant" to the explicit, rational thoughts generated by System 2 (for more on Systems 1 and 2, see Daniel Kahneman's excellent Thinking, Fast and Slow). Dobelli warns against thinking too much, lest "you cut off your mind from the wisdom of your feelings." He admits this sounds a bit odd coming from someone who strives to rid his thinking of irrationality, but he's backed up by research on the efficacy of heuristics in a world of uncertainty (again see Girgerenzer).

There are plenty of insights into how our minds work that do suggest simple solutions. We've all been guilty of procrastination at some time or other, and perhaps concluded that our lack of self-control is a permanent feature of our personality. So it's reassuring to learn that self-control is not available around the clock (it "needs time to refuel").

Two of Dobelli's personal bugbears will also be among the more controversial he raises. Have you ever wondered why we invaded Iraq or the banks failed? The real reason, not the sales pitch? Dobelli "can't abide questions like that" because they are symptomatic of the most common of all mental errors: the fallacy of the single cause. We are geared up for storytelling and causal reasoning but are less good at taking into account the thousand different factors about which we know absolutely nothing.

While this fallacy is ancient, the second "toxic form of knowledge" was invented only two centuries ago: the news. News is to the mind what sugar is to the body: appetizing, easy to digest, "and highly destructive in the long run." Dobelli wants us to kick the habit, completely, and "read long background articles and books" instead: "nothing beats books for understanding the world." While the short chapters in his own book are both appetizing and easy to digest, they should destroy nothing but cognitive complacency. His book might even turn you into a better decision maker (although remain sceptical of the publisher's hype that herein are the "secrets of perfect decision-making").
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on 27 April 2013
`The art of thinking clearly' by Rolf Dobelli took 10 days to arrive. It is hardback, but thick paperback sized (326 pages), made up of 99 Chapters each of two to three pages.

Originally the text was written as a series short magazine articles, so this is in effect a bound collection all in one place.

Rolf tackles the many ways in which thinking errors can occur (what we think is going on, and what is actually going on, can and often is very different). In a sense this is quite profound, we all run around with models of how the world works (and interconnects), and these models provide a handy short cut to quick decisions rather than thinking things through from scratch every time. Rolf clearly and logically and with examples shows us how and why these models are in error (the links are incorrectly connected) and while there might be good material going in, the wrong model all but guarantees the wrong material out.

As humans we are programmed for the here and now, long and very short time scales are difficult for us to grasp, big numbers are just big numbers etc. Rolf tackles psychological perception and how we can be confident and sure about something, yet we have mislead ourselves or been mislead by others, but our confidence means the alarm has not sounded. These sorts of thinking errors have been well researched by psychologists, but largely buried in academic journals and tomes. Rolf brings them out, makes them live and contemporary, and with examples shows, actually, anyone with a working brain needs to beware.

So this is less a book about `The art of thinking clearly' and more a book about `I think, therefore I err', and is no less valuable for that, just don't expect methods, plans and exercises for thinking clearly.

Finally, perhaps a perfect book for the modern age, we move too fast for our own good, a book which in very short hops takes you on a (thoughtful) journey, easy to pick up grab a page or two, put down to await the next `reading bite' opportunity. Take it from start to finish, or dip in an out, it makes no difference, each Chapter is stand alone. For me at least, £7 very well spent.
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on 20 July 2013
This is an example book for encouraging passivity in life, call for not ever do anything, not reach for the stars (since it's not real, you are not thinking clearly) and basically be where you are, with clear mind though. It is a call to regain your scepticism. Which is more than fine, and a really funny and good read for all the sceptics in the world who need good argumentation on why they are the way they are. So, I am not saying the book is not a good read, or it is badly written, quite the opposite! The book is very well written and has some truths in it.
However, I bought it for other reasons, perhaps even because of the title "the ART of thinking CLEARLY". Which is misleading.It is the art of thinking sceptical. I didn't gain what I wanted, but it was a nice laugh here and there.
What has made me give it only two stars? Stories like this:
if you would like to have a body like professional swimmers, and decide to heavily train and swimm each day, it's an illusion, since you won't look like them at all. they don't look like that because they are professional swimmers, they look like that because of their physiques. (How their body is designed is a factor of selection, not the result of their activities). So you have succumbed an illusion. Don't bother. Just DON'T DO it. It's a fun killer! In a way - I've been there, it doesn't work, just don't do it. Like an old man saying to a young man - don't bother with women, in the end you'll just end like an old f.. so, why bother. The book neglectes the fact that the JOURNEY is the most important thing, and not the outcome.

It's not an really uplifting book, it's just an amusing one, if you read it always keeping in mind that it is told by the two old man in the balcony of the Muppets Show. Nag, nag, nag...
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on 9 October 2013
'The Art of Thinking Clearly' is a slightly misleading title. Rather than being a systematic manual of instruction in how to reason, the book collects a series of short observations about errors in practical reasoning that bedevil all of us at one time or another. These were composed as newspaper columns, and the book has the episodic structure and absence of clear development that one would expect from such a compendium. Nonetheless, some effort has been made to draw thematic links between the separate chapters, so that the interested reader may follow particular themes further if he so wishes; and there's an index.

This may give the impression that the book is trivial. In fact, it is entertaining and lucidly written. It might be an ideal introduction to the problems of thinking for an intelligent teenager. The short chapters and episodic structure lend themselves to dipping, but most of what Dobelli has to say is reasonable and accurate. He may focus on the negative side of reasoning - how to avoid error - but if we could all take these lessons to heart the world might be a saner place.

The faults in reasoning that Dobelli covers in his ninety-nine chapters are quite various: everything from purely logical fallacies to intellectual misunderstandings of probability and psychological weaknesses receives some attention. Dobelli is well versed in recent science - or at least in the popularised versions of recent science - and properly sceptical of our ability to detect the most likely flaws in our own reasoning and protect ourselves from the consequences.

The book has been very successful and widely translated; as a taster, one could do much worse. A reader genuinely interested in the subject will probably want to look further, but there is no shortage of books, many written for students, that take a more systematic approach.
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on 25 April 2013
In his book The Art of Thinking Clearly Dobelli listed almost 100 thinking errors. This begs the question: Why are there these traps? For many decades, the origins of these errors remained in the dark. Why should our brains of all things experience lapse after lapse?
Here is Dobelli's answer: Thinking is a biological phenomenon. Evolution has shaped it just as it has the forms of animals or the colours of flowers. Physically, and that includes cognitively, we are hunter-gatherers in Tom Ford clothes (or H&M, as the case may be). What has changed markedly since ancient times is the environment in which we live. Back then, in our hunter-gatherer past, things were simple and stable. We lived in small groups of about fifty to a hundred people. There was no significant technological or social progress. Only in the last 10,000 years did the world begin to transform dramatically, with the development of crops, livestock, villages, cities, global trade and financial markets. Everything is more sophisticated today, but also more complex and interdependent. The result is overwhelming material prosperity, but also systematic errors in thinking. If the complexity continues to rise these errors will only increase and intensify. That's why everyone in business should read this superb book.
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on 9 June 2013
This is just fabulous, the title says it all.
I opened the amazon box, made a coffee, sat down to have a browse .... and had read 50 pages before I even looked up.
It's a collection of 100 short articles (each is just 3 small-sized pages) on different aspects of thinking and where we (tend to) go wrong.
Each article starts with 'a story' to grab your attention, then explains the thinking process involved and the mistakes we may make on the way to a (poor?) decision and/or maybe how big business cashes in on that erroneous thinking.
It's compulsive reading. The individual headings drag you in....'oh, just one more chapter, then I'll put it down'
E.g. Would you wear Hitler's Sweater? (Contagion Bias)
E.g. Live each day as if it were your last - but only on Sundays (Hyperbolic Discounting)
E.g Hurts so good (Effort Justification)
You may not fall into all the traps, but you're guaranteed to fall into some of them. You'll learn something, you'll likely learn a lot. But who cares anyway? Just read the book because it's FUN.
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on 4 August 2014
Oh dear. Chapter one Visit Graveyards Often, and bury yourself came to mind. Talk about starting on a big fat negative. Perhaps I prefer to see the World through rosy coloured specs as in Visit Graveyards often because life it short, so follow your dreams. Not visit graveyards often to see how many fail. Obviously this is not the right book for me and honestly when I am presented with a negative in chapter one the book gets buried. Unfair possibly to a well rated (by other readers) book, but life really is to short.
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