You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

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I found my way to this book in a really meandering way. I heard about a book called Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson mentioned on the BookRiot podcast, and then they mentioned that Thompson had been a guest on this other podcast called You Are Not So Smart, and I listened to that episode and it was really interesting and entertaining. And then somehow this came up as a suggestion on Audible, and I recognized the name, and here we are.

You Are Not So Smart (the book) is about all of the little ways we kind of lie to ourselves and are influenced constantly by outside factors. As McRaney says in the introduction:

“You will soon realize you are not so smart, and thanks to plethora or cognitive biases, faulty heuristics, and common fallacies of thought, you are probably deluding yourself minute by minute just so copy with reality. Don’t fret. This will be fun.”

And you know what – it was fun! Each chapter is centered around one idea, which is discussed and given background information on studies and scientific research to prove it’s validity. It was disturbing to learn about such small things can influence your behavior; for instance, something as simple as a briefcase being in the room might make youย behave more competitively and greedily, without you noticing. But mostly, it was fun to learn about all of these bizarre little things.ย The chapters on fallacies were my favorite – the illogical assumptions and arguments we routinely make and try to use. I absolutely recognized some of my own behavior in this book.

The great things about this book though is that it never makes you feel dumb. Someย of the ways we delude ourselves are a result of evolution and were an asset that helped humanity get to where it is now. Also – pop psychology isn’t usually my jam. I tend to take all of this with a grain of salt, or at least with the notion that there were always exceptions to every rule. I appreciated that there seemed to be a lot of data behind the information in this book, and the paper edition has a nice bibliography listed in the back.

If you’re interested in the audiobook, I recommend it. I’ll probably buy myself a paper copy eventually to peruse and refer to, but the audio was engaging. As always, my least favorite thing about audiobooks is the inability to take notes in margins or highlight passages. The narrator, Don Hagen, has a great, cool-sounding voice and he sounded like he had a firm understanding of the book.

Sarah Says: 4 stars

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4 comments

  1. Sounds fascinating, I always know I can get good science/non-fiction recs from you Sarah!

    This sounds like the kinda book my uncle would have written if he was a writer. He was always puntuating our conversations with notes on confirmation bias (like how that song is *always* on the radio) and weird little behaviour quirks that we all share in common. I’ll definitely hunt down a copy of this book, but maybe I’ll go physical (or at least digital) because I reckon there’ll be a lot of passage I want to note.

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