Thinking about fallacies and bias

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding YourselfYou Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this and McRaney’s sequel (You Are Now Less Dumb) because I’m teaching our advanced expository writing class this fall, and I am looking for entertaining and accessible ways of expanding my section on logical fallacies and on bias in argument. I found more than I was looking for because these two books are a treasure trove of amusing anecdotes and intriguing psychological studies all presented in a light way that can easily hook students into more serious discussion. There’s plenty of overlap between the various categories, and a fair amount of repetition, but that’s a natural part of any taxonomy of thought. Because of the repetition, I would not recommend reading these books cover-to-cover. They’re best appreciated in small snippets. In aggregate they can be fairly depressing, too. If you’re serious about psychology you may also be irritated by McRaney’s oversimplification and overgeneralization. Anyone who has paid even casual attention to psychology over the years will recognize that the studies McRaney mentions have been challenged and nuanced in many ways. Still, I think he’s done a great service by collecting all these delusions into one place and making them fun to read about. Fallacies and biases pervade public discourse, and our first and best defense against them is knowing they exist and having some idea about why.

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