The Art of Thinking Clearly (Rolf Dobelli) - Book Summary

You think you're a rational person, don't you? You also think you know your abilities best, don't you? Unfortunately, that's just an illusion! But don't worry, you have a lot of people in the same situation: humans are irrational and "sunny in the morning, rainy in the afternoon, shady at noon" when making decisions.

Like it or not, our brains are a jumble of shortcuts and experiences, helping our ancient ancestors avoid falling prey to lions and survive long enough to pass on traits. We survive now for the lives of our children and grandchildren.

However, today, these shortcuts have led to many mistakes and biases, which are both beneficial and harmful.

The following summaries will answer some of the big questions you encounter every day and provide tips for avoiding them so you can think more clearly.

  • You'll know why you shouldn't invite your prettiest friend to the party if you want a chance to find a lover there.
  • You'll also discover why 84% of French people mistakenly believe they are number 1 lovers and how little or no sunshine can cause stock market swings.

And finally, you will no longer trust your eyes because, in some cases, a gorilla may be right in front of your eyes, but you still won't see it.

We systematically exaggerate our abilities in many areas of our lives.

Do you feel that you are the most objective judge of your abilities? Although there are some people who still like to dance with axes through the eyes of workers, you do not? If so, you're not alone: we all tend to see ourselves through rose-colored glasses.

Research has shown that we are overconfident in many areas of our lives.

For example, research shows that 84% of French people consider themselves above-average romantics. However, if statistically speaking, there are only 50% of people above average and 50% of people below average, then there cannot be 84%.

Similarly, the British survey also found that 93% of British students consider themselves to be "above average" drivers, and 68% of University of Nebraska faculty members rate their teaching in the top 25% of the best. It's so absurd!

These numbers show that most of us overestimate our abilities.

Not only that, we also mistakenly attribute success to our own abilities and failure to external factors.

The researchers even tested this phenomenon by giving a group of participants a personality test and then randomly scoring it. When the subjects were interviewed, they found that those with high scores believed that this test correctly assessed their ability, thus successfully diagnosing their ability.

Those who received low scores, meanwhile, viewed the assessments as useless and believed that the test itself—not their ability—was bullshit.

Have you had a similar experience? If you get a 10 on your semester exam, you may feel that you are "responsible" for your success. If you fail, you'll blame the problem again on "difficult," "bullshit, or any other attributable factor.

From now on, you should be aware of your tendency to exaggerate your abilities and take credit for them. An effective way to avoid this perception error is to invite a sincere friend over for coffee and hear their honest opinion about your strengths and weaknesses.

You can control and predict less than you think.

Have you ever wondered why gamblers roll the dice harder if they want big numbers and lighter if they need small numbers?

These gamblers are suffering from the illusion of control—that is, they believe they can influence things that we can't actually influence.

The illusion of control gives us hope: if we believe that we can change our circumstances at all, we can live a better life.

This phenomenon was demonstrated in a study in which subjects were placed in chambers to test hearing tolerance. Amazingly, they can withstand more noise if the chamber is equipped with a red "emergency" button.

However, this button has no effect. The participants had the illusion that they were in control of the situation, so they could endure more pain.

So the "red button" is installed in a variety of areas to create a useful illusion of control.

For example, the buttons you press at the crossroads? Most of what they do is make you feel like you're in control of traffic, making it easier to wait for the lights to change.

The same is true of the many "door close" and "door open" buttons in elevators, which in many cases are not even connected to the electrical panel.

In addition, we are often overconfident in our ability to predict.

For example, the 10-year study evaluated 28,361 predictions from 284 self-proclaimed experts in a variety of fields, such as economics. The "expert" predictions are only slightly better than the random machine predictions.

So it's best to be more wary of predictions and focus your energies on things you can actually influence.

I usually listen to the crowd, and I will obey the majority so as not to be left out.

When the movie ends in theaters, suddenly someone will stand up and clap, and suddenly everyone will follow, including you! But why?

This is called the "social proof phenomenon." It makes us feel that our behavior is right when it is consistent with everyone else's.

In fact, social proof is rooted in the genes of our ancestors, who copied the behavior of others to ensure their own survival.

For example, imagine you're traveling with your hunter-gatherer friend, and then all of a sudden it's all on the run. If you alone decide to stand back and wonder if the animal glaring at you is a real lion, you will soon be its lunch and thus not be able to pass on the "All-them-Run" gene. -and-me-stand still" for the next life.

However, if you follow the group rhythm without hesitation, you will have a chance to survive another day. And so, imitating others was an effective survival strategy of our ancestors and is still inherited to this day.

Another result of the "herd instinct" is that the more people listen to an idea, the more we believe it to be true. We see examples of this phenomenon in everything from fashion to stock market crashes and mass suicides.

Moreover, we not only imitate the majority, we also change our minds to be part of the group.

This type of social proof is called "groupthink." For example, when everyone in the meeting agrees on something, you don't want to be the one who "stones parliament," criticizing mistakes to divide the group.

A perfect example of this bias is the decline of world-class airline Swissair; it was so confident in its success that it snuffed out any doubt about dangerous financial signals and ultimately had to bear the consequences.

We distort information so that it fits our beliefs and opinions.

Do you consider yourself a fair judge of all opinions? A lot of people think of themselves like that, but in reality, the chances are high that learning is just a victim of confirmation bias.

In fact, everyone suffers from this thinking error, which tends to distort information in a way that preserves their previous conclusions. In fact, it's so common that scientists even call it "the mother of all mistakes."

An example of confirmation bias in real life is when we scroll through news sites and Facebook pages on the Internet to track comments on recent events, but forget that our favorites reflect our own beliefs and opinions.

In doing so, we will probably only join a community of people who share our same prejudices, thus strengthening our beliefs even more.

In addition, confirmation bias causes us to accept only external information that matches our friend's beliefs and throw the rest in the trash.

This bias is why people believe in pseudo-scientific things like horoscopes or tarot readings: we always find their correct statements in our lives (wrong ones are eliminated).

To explore this phenomenon, psychologist Bertram Forer fabricated fake personality predictions from a combination of astrological entries from various journals and then told students these were the assessments. specially prepared for them. He then asked students to rate these "personal" descriptions, and on average, they rated them as accurate 86 percent of the time.

This study, which shows that we interpret information so that it is consistent with our previous views, is known as the Forer effect.

In knowing that we are unconsciously influenced by confirmation bias, we should be willing to confront opposing views and evidence in order to form a more balanced worldview.

We determine the value of an item based on the amount available and compare it with other items.

Have you ever been to a party with a friend who is more beautiful than you, expecting to find a lover but failing to flirt with anyone? Why? It's simple: your beauty has been crushed by your other friend.

As it turns out, humans are not very good at making absolute judgments and are more dependent on relative comparisons.

This is clearly demonstrated in a classic experiment involving two pots of water: one kettle and one full of ice. If you put one hand in the cold basin and then both hands in the warm basin, the hand that is just in the cold basin will feel the water extremely hot.

It's due to the contrast effect, and that's why you look less attractive than usual when standing next to your super sexy friend.

This contrasting effect is also why discounts have fooled countless customers. For example, let's consider a product that is discounted from 100,000 to 70,000 as a better bet than one that always costs 70,000 even though the actual value is the same.

Another example of mispricing is when it's about to run out of stock.

This phenomenon was verified in a test of cookies. In the experiment, subjects were divided into two groups: group 1, which each received a box full of cookies, and group 2, which received only 2 cookies.

Then they rate them. Those who only received 2 PCs valued them higher than many groups with excess cakes.

Companies have taken advantage of this psychological flaw by creating a sense of scarcity and using sales pitches like "only today" to boost sales.

Fortunately, this scarcity and comparison bias can be prevented by estimating the value of something based solely on a comparison of costs and benefits. If you do, you'll make a much better choice.

We are often distracted by interesting things.

Do you find it difficult to remember the list of five things you need to buy when you go to the market, just listed five minutes ago, but you can remember the script of the movie you watched last week?

That's because we need information structured into meaningful stories in order to be remembered; otherwise, we will quickly forget the abstract details.

This phenomenon is common in the media, where relevant figures are used as a basis for storytelling.

For example, if a person is driving across a bridge that suddenly collapses, we will often feel more frightened by the news about the ill-fated driver than by the boring technical details about the bridge. Stories about a person's private life are easier to hear than abstract information about how to prevent this disaster from happening, and the stations often report that kind of thing.

In addition, I like new and interesting stories. In fact, we prefer fantastical, unbelievable explanations to something boring and know-it-all.

For example, think about the title of the following article: "A young man was stabbed and seriously injured." In your opinion, could the attacker be a middle-class American or a Russian immigrant smuggling war knives?

Most people would bet on the second, but it goes against the fact that there are 1 million times as many middle-class Americans as there are Russian knife smugglers, and so, if rational, the probability is that Americans must be much taller.

However, it is easy to be fooled by attractive descriptions. This mindset error can be very dangerous in the medical industry. For this reason, doctors are instructed not to look for bizarre diseases first, but to look for common diseases first.

Their slogan is, "When you hear hooves, don't expect it to be a zebra." Though, if it's a zebra, it must be interesting.

We make decisions based on our emotions more than we think.

Do you consider yourself a rational decision-maker? Test it out: right now, choose whether you agree with GM foods.

How do you decide? If you are a really rational person, you would approach this question in a way that clearly weighs the pros and cons of genetically modified foods: first, rate each "plus" by importance, then multiply them by the actual likelihood. Follow the same steps for "minus points".

Tada! The sum of the good points minus the total bad points is the answer you should give: if the value is greater than 0, there are more pluses, and you are in favor of GM food.

However, if you're like most people, you probably won't have the time or energy to do those feats of judgment. In other words, we're not at the top of our minds when it comes to making decisions!

In contrast, our decisions are rarely thought through and instead rely on emotional "mind shortcuts."

For example, when we hear the phrase "genetically modified," positive or negative emotional responses are stimulated, affecting how we assess the risks and benefits of the concept. So, if you think this is a terrible idea at first, you will most likely exaggerate the risks (e.g., negative impact on the environment) while downplaying its benefits. yield (e.g., pest and disease resistance) relative to the actual level.

In this way, our decisions will be limited to only what comes to our mind first. And so, we become puppets of our own emotions, unable to make rational decisions, and this is very troublesome in areas that require a high level of analysis.

Even the general market is not immune to the influence of emotions. In fact, one study showed that stock market performance in 26 major exchanges is influenced by the amount of sunlight. If it's sunny that day, the stock market will thrive. This implies that positive emotions, stimulated by sunlight, have changed the flow of dollars by billions.


The main message in this book is:

We think we're better off than we really are, and we automatically seek out information that helps us confirm our pre-existing beliefs. We also often like beautiful, gorgeous people and prefer a small group to a large one. We only notice a few things that are in front of us and do not know how to make absolute judgments. Our decisions are influenced by our emotions and by how the people around us are behaving.

Here are some tips you can apply right away:

Please give me a sincere review.

Whether you like it or not, the truth is you overestimate yourself all the time—just like everyone else. One way to combat this tendency is to invite a friend (or, ideally, an enemy) out for coffee, and then ask them to give you honest feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.

Don't be fooled by the phrase "limited time."

All types of sales are trying to trick you into valuing things as more important when the probability of owning them is low. Instead, remind yourself that in this day and age, nearly everything can be obtained online. This will help you focus on the real benefits of the product, not on the risk that it might disappear forever.