It appears that I am not as smart as I thought I was. And guess what? You are not as smart as you think you are, either. Hence the title of David McRaney’s book: You Are Not So Smart. In his very interesting work, McRaney details 48 ways in which we fool ourselves every day. That is OK, though. We need these coping mechanisms to make it through life. McRaney explains: “[We are all] ﬁlled with beliefs that look good on paper but fall apart in practice. When those beliefs fall apart, you tend not to notice. You have a deep desire to be right all of the time and a deeper desire to see yourself in a positive light both morally and behaviorally. You can stretch your mind pretty far to achieve these goals.”
One of my favorite examples is “Confirmation Bias.” Most of us like to think that we are objective in our opinions and beliefs, but the truth is that we pay attention to facts that line up with what we already believe while we ignore truths that contradict our beliefs. Here is one simple way this works: you read an article about the new Chevrolet Camaro and suddenly you see them everywhere, when you had not before. Does this mean that more people have purchased them in the last few weeks? No, it just means that they are on your mind so you now notice them. Your bias (from reading the article) is confirmed (now you notice them).
I could go on all day about how we have an illusion of control in our lives (so we blow on dice before we roll), or how expectations can cause a person to change his behavior. I won’t, however, because I know that you will want to read this cool book for yourself. The author backs up all of his assertions with tons of research and scientific studies, but the book is never boring. He gives many real-life examples of how these things work and that keeps the pace moving and piques your interest. I want to thank Dave, our assistant library director, for turning me on to this book and the website www.youarenotsosmart.com. Once you read it, you will be a little bit smarter than you were!
McRaney wrote a second book in this vein entitled You Are Now Less Dumb, which is also worth checking out.