On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits Paperback – Sep 6 2011
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"Eminently "Gladwellian"...Herbert clearly shows the effects of various daily mental maneuvers and peppers the text with explanations of how the human mind has evolved." —Washington Post
"Brings a twist [to the psychology shelf]...could keep us from making mistakes whose consequences range from dying in an avalanche to failing to follow directions because we don't like the font they're written in." —Sharon Begley, Newsweek
"Think twice before you trust your gut...Herbert uses real-world examples and cutting-edge research to show how heuristics--hardwired mental shortcuts we think of as intuition--can both help and hinder the decisions we make every day." —US News & World Report
“Counters the argument set forth in titles like Malcom Gladwell's Blink… successfully shows readers how ancient shortcuts can impact our modern living and how to use this knowledge to make better decisions.” —Library Journal
“Wray Herbert displays his gifts as a science writer par excellence…On Second Thought goes a long way toward leveling the mental playing field by outing the hidden power of our unconscious mental models.” —Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
"There is one way to be rational, and many ways of being irrational. With stories, anecdotes, and studies, Wray Herbert takes us through a guided tour of our many irrational tendencies, holding our hand, and helping us to see the mistakes we all make every day."—Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational
“A wonderful book that should be read by the public and experts alike…the most complete statement currently available on the foibles manifest in everyday decision-making and surely one of the most interesting books that I have had the pleasure of reading." —Ellen Langer, author of Mindfulness
“Wray Herbert is one of our finest writers of psychological science…here he blends the most fascinating findings from cognitive psychology with his own experiences into a seamless story of the mental biases and quirks that help us navigate through life—and occasionally get us stuck in brambles. On second thought . . . I’d say the same thing.”
—Carol Tavris, coauthor of Mistakes Were Made
“A fascinating and important book that reveals the invisible errors we make time and again… don’t tackle any big adventures or major undertakings until you’ve read On Second Thought. It could save your nest egg, your relationship, and even your life. No kidding!”—Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big Life
“From ‘looming maladaptive style’ to the ‘cooties heuristic,’ Wray Herbert takes us on a journey through the styles of thought we usually take for granted. In clear and lively prose, he describes psych experiments and real-life quandaries that reveal how our cognitive habits get in our way – or, occasionally, save our skins. It all adds up to a fascinating book that is altogether a treat. —Robin Marantz Henig, author of Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
WRAY HERBERT has been writing about psychology and human behavior for more than 25 years, including regular columns for Newsweek and Scientific American Mind. He has also been science and health editor at US News & World Report, psychology editor for Science News, and editor-in-chief of Psychology Today. He currently serves as director for science communication at the Association for Psychological Science, where he writes a popular blog about the latest in psychological research. He lives in Washington, D.C.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I do agree that both author's works are captivating and explore brain science and social memes in an entertaining manner; spiced with insight, fun facts and candid stories.
I'm not sure how useful this book is, but it is a great read or listen to, in this case. This book tells of our brain's evolution and how we have become hardwired to certain decision making patterns based on psychological heuristics. After reading this book you may not be able to alter your brain's hard wiring but you will be able to (better) identify why you feel a certain way or make a decision. You'll have a better understanding of the route your mind takes to analyze choices, right or wrong.
Buy this book if you:
a) Want a good, light, non-fiction read about your brain.
b) Want to be entertained and learn something about the mechanics behind your decision making process.
This book might not be for you if you are expert in the field of cognitive brain science and seek a serious, 'just the facts' style research report.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This one is the least nuanced, most bluntly reductionist, most under-argued, and least successful of the ones I have read. I'd recommend THE ART OF CHOOSING, THE INVISIBLE GORILLA, THE HIDDEN BRAIN, PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL, or MISTAKES WERE MADE (BUT NOT BY ME) as much better explained, more carefully argued, and better written.
If you are interested in this genre of cognitive psychology, then a few of may other favorites on the subject include:
Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition by Michael J. Mauboussin
The Little Book of Behavioral Investing: How not to be your own worst enemy by James Montier
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life by Thomas Gilovich
Mean Markets and Lizard Brains: How to Profit from the New Science of Irrationality by Terry Burnham
The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making (McGraw-Hill Series in Social Psychology) by Scott Plous
We're all vaguely familiar with concepts like procrastination, stubbornness, irrationality, hasty decision-making, etc. This book brings a lot of clarity to those thinking patterns and describes their origins and their consequences in a very eloquent way. I came across several thinking patterns that I had been doing unknowingly for years, which was really interesting at a personal level.
I found the book interesting, informative and very helpful from a practical, decision-making standpoint. I've got a better grasp on how the human mind (including my own) works.
It's a great book; I'd recommend it highly.
1. Evolved Brains: Our minds (which drive our thoughts, actions, and reactions), are evolved organs, constructed by adaptation over long periods of time to our environments.
2. Brain / Modern-Environment Mismatch: Unfortunately, our brains evolved in very different environments in which we now find ourselves. This leads to our reactions, biases, and thoughts to be too often mismatched and maladapted to circumstances in a 21st century world.
3. Choice with Knowledge: However, if we understand where our immediate reactions and thoughts come from, we can overcome irrational action and make choices that benefit our long-term goals.
Herbert is a journalist, reporting on the academic work of behavioral economists and experimental psychologists. The strength of On Second Thought is the breadth in which psychological and behavioral theory and experimental results are examined. If you are interested in the academic literature on the limits of rational behavior (as I am), then On Second Thought is both an excellent primer and synthesizer.
Dan Ariely covers much of the same ground in Predictably Irrational and the The Upside of Irrationality, but did so in a much more nuanced, intimate, curious and personal manner. On Second Thought would have been a better book if Herbert had some questions he wanted to answer, or things he wanted to figure out about himself, and was able to weave the research on decision making into a more compelling narrative.
Despite these quibbles, On Second Thought is a worthy addition to our "dumb us" and "getting our minds around our brains" bookshelves.
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