Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things Paperback – Sep 9 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!