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Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things [Paperback]

Richard Wiseman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 30 2008
For over twenty years, psychologist Richard Wiseman has examined the quirky science of everyday life. In Quirkology, he navigates the oddities of human behavior, explaining the tell-tale signs that give away a liar, the secret science behind speed-dating and personal ads, and what a person’s sense of humor reveals about the innermost workings of his or her mind—all along paying tribute to others who have carried out similarly weird and wonderful work. Wiseman’s research has involved secretly observing people as they go about their daily business, conducting unusual experiments in art exhibitions and music concerts, and even staging fake séances in allegedly haunted buildings. With thousands of research subjects from all over the world, including enamored couples, unwitting pedestrians, and guileless dinner guests, Wiseman presents a fun, clever, and unexpected picture of the human mind.

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About the Author

Richard Wiseman, Ph.D., is Professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is also a practicing magician and was one of the youngest members of The Magic Circle. Wiseman has published over forty papers in academic journals, and gained an international reputation for research into unusual areas of psychology, including deception, luck, and the paranormal. He is the author of eight books, including The Luck Factor, which has been sold in twenty-five countries. He lives in London, England.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quirks of Human Behaviour Oct. 21 2010
By G. Poirier TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It would be difficult to list the myriad of psychology experiments described by the author in this truly eye-opening and wide-ranging book. But here is a very small sample: searching for the funniest joke in the world, testing whether an average 4-year-old child can outperform experts in investing in the stock market, examining how one's name and one's date of birth can influence one's life, how people can remember things that never happened, detecting lies, testing people's honesty under various conditions, etc., etc. As demonstrated in this book, the human mind does indeed work in unexpected and seemingly mysterious ways. The author, a psychology professor, has a writing style that is very friendly, accessible and captivating. I found the book very hard to put down. This is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone who is fascinated by the odd quirks of human behaviour.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By R3aLiTY_bYt3s TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
If you want to be the life of the party, then by all means read this book. Even skimming through it will give you enough "ammo" to spark interesting conversations and debates at certain types of parties.

As for "real life"; the day-to-day world... I wouldn't recommend it unless you (and who you "use" it on) fall into a very specific category.

This book doesn't take into account people from different countries... people those in Canada, the United States, and England tend to call 'foreigners', even though we live in these countries and we're all mixed together these days.
We tend to presume we're "all the same" but those of us who aren't WASPs, for example, don't fit into nice, neat little boxes. We can't help but react differently, hold our heads differently, have different experiences.
What's considered rude to a WASP may not be rude to us, and vice versa. Our written languages may be very different, so the "Q" test may prove difficult and give false results, fo example. In our other cultures, we may have been raised to never shake hands and not to make eye contact. Signs of deception? No. Signs we aren't WASPs? Yes.

The same can be said of people with the neurological condition called Asperger's Syndrome. Avoiding eye contact, restlessness, aversion to touch, a monotone speaking voice, for example, are in the normal range for those with Asperger's, but can be seen as signs of deception by the neurotypical world.

Before deciding someone is deceptive, for example, take into account their heritage, upbringing, neurophysiology, customs, and so forth. People are a lot more complicated than one book or one viewpoint can show.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  52 reviews
65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arm yourself now for the Christmas cocktail parties Nov. 27 2007
By Julia Flyte - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Recently I read an article in a magazine which was about the art of making small talk at parties. One of the suggestions that it made was to take note of interesting facts or stories to bring up if the conversation stalls. The example given was a study in which men and women were asked which superpower they would like to possess. Top of the women's list was being invisible, while men were far more likely to want to be able to fly. Not only is this an interesting nugget of information, it also immediately stimulates discussion.

If you enjoy these kinds of conversations, you will love this book. (It even includes a list of the factoids most likely to prompt discussion). Psychologist Richard Wiseman has conducted a number of studies over the years looking into the ways that people behave and also reports on some other people's experiments. Some of the things that I learned while reading this book were:
- How asking people to trace the letter Q on their forehead is a good predictor of how good a liar they are.
- How our memories can be tricked into creating false memories and why this happens.
- How a waiter can dramatically increase his chances of getting a tip.
- Why you are more likely to be attracted to people when you're in a precarious situation that elevates your heart-rate (so maybe Hollywood storylines aren't so far-fetched after all)
- That words containing the "K" sound are especially likely to make people laugh, because of the way they contort the facial muscles.

The book is written in a lively and entertaining fashion and in parts is very amusing. While it's quite disjointed, it held my interest throughout. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest why people behave the way they do. Our behavior is more predictable than we think.
83 of 96 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More dessert than main course. Oct. 13 2007
By Always Reading - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
How should one rate a book that's a kick to read but is bad "science"? This is a well-written and amusing -- even sometimes fascinating -- book. I liked it. However, I found myself wanting to contact the author and say, "Yes, that's one interpretation of the data, but what about..." for nearly every experiment he cites. The "Q" experiment he begins with, which is a sort of self-analysis/personality-profile parlor game, was utterly wrong in my case. Wiseman might dismiss that statement as an instance of self-deception (which is too easy an answer to fall back on, but common in this type of pop-psychology), but accepting his analysis of "me" would actually be far more flattering that the truth! I won't spoil the game for those who haven't read the book. If you want a taste of Wiseman's style before committing to this, go to [...] (but doing so WILL ruing the "Q" test for you), where you can even participate is some of his "research". The questions are pretty general, even vapid -- so obvious that you can see the "trick" behind them. So much for science.

I should point out, in fairness, that I already knew a lot of the information Wiseman offers here. For another reader, this book might be a revelation. Maybe.

Overall, I'd say this is a fun book that will give you some good talking points for dinner parties, and which might give you a new perspective on a few things. But it's really just an entertainment. I think Wiseman would be a wonderful lecturer for one of those lite intro courses that fulfill your university science requirement. He'd be great fun as a drinking buddy. But I'm hard pressed, after reading this book, to think of him as a serious academic. All of which shouldn't keep you from reading the book, of course. Just don't expect too much.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent source of cocktail party chat Oct. 1 2007
By Neurasthenic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Richard Wiseman is an experimental psychologist and professor of "public understanding of psychology." In this book, he discusses dozens of experiments performed by himself and other psychologists around the world over the course of the last hundred years. All these experiments have in common is unusual research methodology or amusing results.

Each experiment is described in as little as a paragraph, or as much as a chapter. Old favorites like the Milgram "Obediance to Authority" experiments make an appearance, and some of the recent experiments discussed got a lot of press ("what is the funniest joke in the world"), but most of the content will be new to most readers.

Topics include studies of personal ads and pickup lines, determining which are most effective, how to detect liars, manifestations of prejudice and hypocrisy (are religious people or priests more honest or generous than others? it has been tested). Wiseman even ran tests to see which experiments in the book are the most interesting, to help the reader know what would be the best conversation starters at parties.

Unusually for a mass market book, it is copiously footnoted.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Similar to Freakonomics, but 1 billion times better! Highly recommended! Feb. 14 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I bought this book, but it turned out to be a lot like the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.) - only Dr. Wiseman's book is much, much better. Wiseman says that: "Put simply, quirkology uses scientific methods to study the more curious aspects of everyday life. This approach to psychology has been pioneered by a few researchers over the past hundred years who have followed in Galton's footsteps and had the courage to explore the places mainstream scientists avoid."

Hopefully the chapters can give you a gist as to what you will find in this book: Chapter 1 - What does your date of birth really say about you?, The New Science of Chronopsychology; Chapter 2 - Trust everyone, but always cut the cards, The Psychology of Lying and Deception; Chapter 3 - Believing six impossible things before breakfast, Psychology Enters the Twilight Zone; Chapter 4 - Making your mind up, The Strange Science of Decision Making; Chapter 5 - The scientific search for the world's funniest joke, Explorations into the Psychology of Humor; Chapter 6 - Sinner or saint?, The Psychology of When We Help and When we Hinder; Chapter 7 - The pace of life and other quirkological oddities, The Future of Quirkology.

In short, this is a terrific book. In many respects it shares a lot in common with not only Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, but also books like Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Revised & Expanded Edition), The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives, Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average and How We Decide. I highly recommend this book and also recommend Wiseman's newest book, 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (Borzoi Books). I would definitely have given this book 5 starts even if it only had included the chapters on Lying and Deception and The Scientific Search for the World's Funniest Joke - the whole book is hilarious, entertaining and above all, informative. This is a truly great read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Feb. 13 2011
By Aaron - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I got this book as a Christmas present from my mom. I'm a 17 year old, high school student and I am fascinated by the world of Psychology and the unconscious mind.
I may have already biased you to call this review "unhelpful" because I mentionted the fact that I was 17. This could potentially have impacted you to think "Oh he's just 17, what does he know?"

This book deals with that precise thing.
It deals with the minute things that influence us.
How the letter Q can determine how often you lie, how astrological signs seem to work due to labeling rather than the planets and the stars, how the "c" / "k" sound makes people laugh the most and even how a fast heart beat can make you think you're in love. This book is filled with interesting studies like this.
However some of these studies could be anecdotal. Read wikipedia's second definition for anecdotal. [...]

To make sure studies aren't anecdotal, we need to find the direct cause or root of the evidence. For example.. in one section of the book he talks about how in China a specific animal year (cow, sheep, dragon etc), is considerer bad and that if you have a child durring this year he/she will grow up badly behaved. He looked for data to see if this year (1966) had more abortions in China and it did have more than the surrounding years. It would now seem as though there is a connection between the astrological animal and abortions for this year. And in the case for this book it is likely that this is the case; however many of the studies may still be anecdotal. Just because it seems as though one thing is causing another, this may not be the case. Otherwise, I loved the book and as long as psychologists and scientists etc, have controlled environments and controlled variables and conditions it is unlikely to come out with anecdotal evidence.

Great Book 5/5!
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