Review: You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

You Are Not So Smart
I read the entirety of this book during my lunch breaks, and since there are 48 chapters, it kept me occupied and amused for 48 days. At the end of those 48 days, my Facebook friends list got a lot shorter; I reminiscing about the past a lot less; I am more wary of groupthink; and I stopped trying to think of reasons/excuses for why I do what I do, because I’m not so smart. 😋

 

Introduction

You Are Not So Smart is marketed as “a celebration of our irrational, thoroughly human behavior.” The blog that this book was based on was started by David McRaney after he watched the Selective Attention Test and Person Swap videos. The book seeks to show us why we do what we do, and why what we think we do what we do is wrong. (Did that last sentence even make sense? Sorry! I’m not so smart…)

Discussion

I got this book as a present from one of my close friends who was like: “I think you’ll like this book because PSYCHOLOGY!” And she was right. The cover of this book claims to have the answers for

  • Why you have too many friends on Facebook
  • Why your memory is mostly fiction
  • And 46 other ways you’re deluding yourself

And everyone likes to read about their faults and flaws, right? Also, McRaney prepares you well for the feeling-stupid moments to come:

You will soon realize you are not so smart, and thanks to a plethora of cognitive biases, faulty heuristics, and common fallacies of thought, you are probably deluding yourself minute by minute just to cope with reality.

Don’t fret. This will be fun.

The chapters all start out with the misconception and then the truth; needless to say, I was immediately hit with hindsight bias because as soon as I finished reading those two lines, I thought, “Oh, of course, I knew that!” (Thankfully, the hindsight bias was introduced in Chapter 4, so I spent the rest of the book trying NOT to do that.) McRaney explored biases, effects, and fallacies, some of which I was familiar with, some not so much. Throughout it all, McRaney made this very personal by using the second-person narrative most of the time; at other times, he switched to anecdotes about research findings or specific events to highlight the bias in that specific chapter. Personally, I think my enjoyment of this book was maximized by me reading it in small chunks, since each chapter brings together a lot of interesting information (aka a lot to be digested!) and chapters are usually unrelated to one another.

Some of the chapters were actually pretty terrifying. Deindividuation, which is NOT included in the book but IS on McRaney’s blog, is an example of human behavior at its worst. Even in thinking about recent events that have happened locally and around the world, I can see that psychology has a lot of answers for why certain things happen, or why certain events blow up more than we expected them to.

Conclusion

You Are Not So Smart is an entertaining (and sometimes disturbing) collection of cognitive biases and logical fallacies that most human beings succumb to unconsciously. I learned a lot from this book, and it made my lunch breaks infinitely more fun! (Because food is infinitely fun, and You Are Not So Smart is more fun!)

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5 thoughts on “Review: You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

  1. This book sounds pretty interesting! My library actually has an e-book copy, so I’ve put it on hold. Some time in the next 10 years I will attempt to read it. 😛 (I do like your strategy of reading non-fiction in small chunks.)

  2. I also love books about psychology and this sounds like a fun one. It seems like the way you read it could be really enjoyable. It would give you a chance to digest each chapter and possibly even take action based on what you learned.

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