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You Are Not So Smart (2011)

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You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself By David McRaney read by Don Hagen Unabridged, chapterized, VBR 22.05kHz mono running time 8h24m An entertaining illumination of the stupid beliefs that make us feel wise. You believe you are a rational, logical being who sees the world as it really is, but journalist David McRaney is here to tell you that you're as deluded as the rest of us. But that's OK- delusions keep us sane. You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of self-delusion. It's like a psychology class, with all the boring parts taken out, and with no homework. Based on the popular blog of the same name, You Are Not So Smart collects more than 46 of the lies we tell ourselves everyday, including: * Dunbar's Number - Humans evolved to live in bands of roughly 150 individuals, the brain cannot handle more than that number. If you have more than 150 Facebook friends, they are surely not all real friends. * Hindsight bias - When we learn something new, we reassure ourselves that we knew it all along. * Confirmation bias - Our brains resist new ideas, instead paying attention only to findings that reinforce our preconceived notions. * Brand loyalty - We reach for the same brand not because we trust its quality but because we want to reassure ourselves that we made a smart choice the last time we bought it. Packed with interesting sidebars and quick guides on cognition and common fallacies, You Are Not So Smart is a fascinating synthesis of cutting-edge psychology research to turn our minds inside out.
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The sequel to this audio book can be found here.


Introduction: You
The misconception: You are a rational, logical human being who sees the world as it really is
The truth: You are as deluded as the rest of us, but that's OK - it keeps you sane

1. Priming
The misconception: You know when you are being influenced and how it is affecting your behavior
The truth: You are unaware of the constant nudging you receive from ideas formed in your unconscious mind

2. Confabulation
The misconception: You know when you are lying to yourself
The truth: You are often ignorant of your motivations and create fictional narratives to explain your decisions, emotions, and history, without realizing it

3. Confirmation Bias
The misconception: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis
The truth: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information that confirmed what you believed, while ignoring information that challenged your preconceived notions

4. Hindsight Bias
The misconception: After you learn something new, you remember how you were once ignorant or wrong
The truth: You often look back on the things you just learned and assume you knew them or believed them all along

5. The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
The misconception: You take randomness into account when determining cause and effect
The truth: You tend to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful, or when you want a random event to have a meaningful cause

6. Procrastination
The misconception: You procrastinate because you are lazy and can't manage your time well
The truth: Procrastination is fueled by weakness in the face of impulse, and a failure to think about thinking

7. Normalcy Bias
The misconception: Your fight or flight instincts kick in and you panic when disaster strikes
The truth: You often become abnormally calm and pretend everything is normal in a crisis

8. Introspection
The misconception: You know why you like the things you like and feel the way you feel
The truth: The origin of certain emotional states is unavailable to you, and when pressed to explain them, you will just make something up

9. The Availability Heuristic
The misconception: With the advent of mass media you understand how the world works based on statistics and facts culled from many examples
The truth: You are far more likely to believe something is commonplace if you can find just one example of it, and you are far less likely to believe in something you've never seen or heard of before

10. The Bystander Effect
The misconception: When someone is hurt people rush to their aid
The truth: The more people who witness a person in distress, the less likely it is that any one person will help

11. The Dunning-Kruger Effect
The misconception: You can predict how well you would perform in any situation
The truth: You are generally pretty bad at estimating your competence and the difficulty of complex tasks

12. Apophenia
The misconception: Some coincidences are so miraculous they must have meaning
The truth: Coincidences are a routine part of life, even the seemingly miraculous ones; any meaning applied to them comes from your mind

13. Brand Loyalty
The misconception: You prefer the things you own over the things you don't because you made rational choices when you bought them
The truth: You prefer the things you own because you rationalize your past choices to protect your sense of self

14. The Argument from Authority
The misconception: You are more concerned with the validity of information than the person delivering it
The truth: The status and credentials of an individual greatly influence your perception of that individual's message

15. The Argument from Ignorance
The misconception: When you can't explain something you focus on what you can prove
The truth: When you are unsure of something you are more likely to accept strange explanations

16. The Straw Man Fallacy
The misconception: When you argue you try to stick to the facts
The truth: In any argument anger will tempt you to reframe your opponent's position

17. The Ad Hominem Fallacy
The misconception: If you can't trust someone you should ignore that person's claims
The truth: What someone says and why they say it should be judged separately

18. The Just-World Fallacy
The misconception: People who are losing at the game of life must have done something to deserve it
The truth: The beneficiaries of good fortune often do nothing to earn it, and bad people often get away with their actions without consequences

19. The Public Goods Game
The misconception: We could create a system with no regulations, where everyone would contribute to the good of society, everyone would benefit, and everyone would be happy
The truth: Without some form of regulation, slackers and cheaters will crash economic systems because people don't want to feel like suckers

20. The Ultimatum Game
The misconception: You choose to accept or refuse an offer based on logic
The truth: When it comes to making a deal, you base your decision on your status

21. Subjective Validation
The misconception: You are skeptical of generalities
The truth: You are prone to believing vague statements and predictions are true, especially if they are positive and address you personally

22. Cult Indoctrination
The misconception: You are too smart to join a cult
The truth: Cults are populated by people just like you

23. Groupthink
The misconception: Problems are easier to solve when a group of people get together to discuss solutions
The truth: The desire to reach consensus and avoid confrontation hinders progress

24. Supernormal Releasers
The misconception: Men who have sex with real dolls are insane, and women who marry eighty year old billionaires are gold diggers
The truth: The real doll and rich old sugar daddies are supernormal releasers

25. The Affect Heuristic
The misconception: You calculate what is risky or rewarding and always choose to maximize gains while minimizing losses
The truth: You depend on emotions to tell you if something is good or bad, greatly overestimate rewards, and tend to stick to your first impressions

26. Dunbar's Number
The misconception: There is a Rolodex in your mind with the names and faces of everyone you've ever known
The truth: You can maintain relationships and keep up with only around one hundred and fifty people at once

27. Selling Out
The misconception: Both consumerism and capitalism are sustained by corporations and advertising
The truth: Both consumerism and capitalism are driven by competition among consumers for status

28. Self-Serving Bias
The misconception: You evaluate yourself based on past successes and defeats
The truth: You excuse your failures and see yourself as more successful, more intelligent, and more skilled than you are

29. The Spotlight Effect
The misconception: When you are around others you feel as if everyone is noting every aspect of your appearance and behavior
The truth: People devote little attention to you unless prompted to

30. The Third Person Effect
The misconception: You believe your opinions and decisions are based on experience and facts, while those who disagree with you are falling for the lies and propaganda of sources you don't trust
The truth: Everyone believes the people they disagree with are gullible, and everyone thinks they are far less susceptible to persuasion than they truly are

31. Catharsis
The misconception: Venting your anger is an effective way to reduce stress and prevent lashing out at friends and family
The truth: Venting increases aggressive behavior over time

32. The Misinformation Effect
The misconception: Memories are played back like recordings
The truth: Memories are constructed anew each time from whatever information is currently available, which makes them highly permeable to influences from the present

33. Conformity
The misconception: You are a strong individual who doesn't conform unless forced to
The truth: It takes little more than an authority figure or social pressure to get you to obey, because conformity is a survival instinct

34. Extinction Burst
The misconception: If you stop engaging in a bad habit, the habit will gradually diminish until it disappears from your life
The truth: Any time you quit something cold turkey, your brain will make a last ditch effort to return you to your habit

35. Social Loafing
The misconception: When you are joined by others in a task you work harder and become more accomplished
The truth: Once part of a group, you tend to put in less effort because you know your work will be pooled together with others

36. The Illusion of Transparency
The misconception: When your emotions run high people can look at you and tell what you are thinking and feeling
The truth: Your subjective experience is not observable, and you overestimate how much you telegraph your inner thoughts and emotions

37. Learned Helplessness
The misconception: If you are in a bad situation you will do whatever you can do to escape it
The truth: If you feel like you aren't in control of your destiny you will give up and accept whatever situation you are in

38. Embodied Cognition
The misconception: Your opinions of people and events are based on objective evaluation
The truth: You translate your physical world into words, and then believe those words

39. The Anchoring Effect
The misconception: You rationally analyze all factors before making a choice or determining value
The truth: Your first perception lingers in mind, affecting later perceptions and decisions

40. Attention
The misconception: You see everything going on before your eyes, taking in all the information like a camera
The truth: You are aware only of a small amount of the total information your eyes take in, and even less is processed by your conscious mind and remembered

41. Self-Handicapping
The misconception: In all you do you strive for success
The truth: You often create conditions for failure ahead of time to protect your ego

42. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
The misconception: Predictions about your future are subject to forces beyond your control
The truth: Just believing a future event will happen can cause it to happen if the event depends on human behavior

43. The Moment
The misconception: You are one person and your happiness is based on being content with your life
The truth: You are multiple selves and happiness is based on satisfying all of them

44. Consistency Bias
The misconception: You know how your opinions have changed over time
The truth: Unless you consciously keep tabs on your progress you assume the way you feel now is the way you have always felt

45. The Representativeness Heuristic
The misconception: Knowing a person's history makes it easier to determine what sort of person they are
The truth: You jump to conclusions based on how representative a person seems to be of a preconceived character type

46. Expectation
The misconception: Wine is a complicated elixir full of subtle flavors only an expert can truly distinguish, and experienced tasters are impervious to deception
The truth: Wine experts and consumers can be fooled by altering their expectations

47. The Illusion of Control
The misconception: You know how much control you have over your surroundings
The truth: You often believe you have control over outcomes that are either random or are too complex to predict

48. The Fundamental Attribution Error
The misconception: Other people's behavior is the reflection of their personality
The truth: Other people's behavior is more the result of the situation than their disposition