If you are a narcissistic, self deluded, douchebag, this might be for you. Because that is what this book claims every human being is.
Summary... "you think you are smart and that other people idolize you. You think the world revolves around you and that all other human beings are morons. You are wrong. Only the author of this book is that smart. Not you." This book is simply that message repeated about 100 times in different words.
Most of these things are, well, not to say rehashed, but somewhat of a collection of familiar stories. It's pop sociology/psychology, for sure - but I'm giving it four stars because it's well-written and organized, and, as collections go, it's fun and informative to read.
This book is presented as a serious journalistic approach to an aspect of the human psyche, specifically the way in which people tend to delude themselves. Points are well explained and the author frequently cites scientific studies to back his claims. But he also uses teenage slang expressions (something "sucks", is a "bummer") and gratuitous profanity (which Audible.com will not allow me to quote) that is incongruous with the general tone of the book. At best, this is distracting for the listener. At worst, it leads me to have doubts about the author's credibility. In sum, a credit could have been better used on a different book.
Todd W. Brown
It takes a little getting used to as the studies are listed and the myths about your normal thought process are systematically dismantled. And I imagine a lot of people are going to become a bit uncomfortable hearing some of the things that we do in our heads all the time, everyday, but this can really be a great book to launch a change in cognitive thought.
I already have a few areas that I am trying to really focus on right now, and I will likely return to this book over the next year or two as I try to self-improve how I approach things in life that I often come at with my biased lens and misconceptions.
This is an intriguing book, but the choice of reader is completely off-base.
The voice of the author is a youthful one; one that inserts silly and somewhat snarky remarks here and there. The reader, however, delivers everything in a flat, humorless monotone. The humor and wit of the book are, as a result, lost.
A bit like speed dating, just replace the Hunks and/or Hotties with general psych topics centered on self-delusion. The voicing is witty and casual and reads like a somewhat snarky friend who is done taking crap from his co-workers. Chapters are brief and feel more like blog entries than science writing, approaching their topics with sufficient information to communicate the colors and contours of each concept but never getting grittily into details. This makes the book great as a (VERY) quick survey of self-delusion for those who have a slight or budding interest, but less than great for those already familiar with the scientific treatment of self-delusions and who might be interested in a more in-depth treatment. Little to no effort is made to prove points, and much of the information is presented in a "well, just believe me" kind of casual style. This is perhaps frustrating in light of the fact that ALL of the phenomena covered by the book are very well-evidenced in the psychology literature and are grounded on far firmer footing than McRaney makes them seem. With this considered, perhaps YOU ARE NOT SO SMART is best evaluated as Gateway Reading, with its merit lying more in pulling psychological phenomena into public awareness than in explaining or exploring them in any sordid detail.
This started a little slow for me, but it picked up quickly. There were some interesting psychology principles presented in an easy to understand manner; some of them I was familiar with from undergrad and life, and some were surprising (yet made perfect sense once explained).
I have to say that the narration was very good. I was highly amused because the author uses the word "asshole" or expressions like "you are not the shit" sporadically. It came far and few between enough so that I chuckled each time. The narrator has this very cultured, proper voice, and that is how I picture him. When he calmly reads "you are not the shit" in the same tone as the rest of the book, it really is quite funny (or I just have a strange sense of humor, which is also quite possible).
There were some logic games that were fun to do. I also enjoyed the exposure of the logical fallacies that we all (yes, ALL of us) commit. Even your feeling of "I would never fall for that" is not as unique as you think!
Some of the chapters I enjoyed the most involved the memory and how false memories are created. I had the image that he described of memories being retrieved like files on a disc; however, that is not true. We reconstruct memories based on experiences and the author shows how false memories are created. I also really like the chapter about egocentrism and how you feel that everyone is noticing you - the big zit on your forehead, your new haircut, new outfit, etc. In reality, that is not the case and people are too busy focusing on themselves to focus on you as much as you think. There was a bit about catharsis that I can apply to may daily commute to work. The author explains how you feel good after making a rude gesture to someone after you are cut off in traffic. However, this does not get rid of the negative emotions that the cutting off evokes; what it does do is provide a cathartic effect so it feels good to you. In turn, you seek out that feeling again. Hm, that would explain why I find the need to use "sign language" so often as I drive to and from work!
I'm sure that most people will have different chapters that they feel are interesting or pertinent to them, but there is enough in this book that I think many people will find several interesting areas.
I love the chapter on hypochondria and how a hypochondriac uses the excuse of not feeling well to avoid projects that feel overwhelming to them or so that they avoid failure. The author also explains how the self-fulfilling prophecy works and how you can talk yourself into things. On that note, I need to end this review now......suddenly, I'm not feeling well.
I've read books like this before but written by the scientists or researchers. David McRaney however is a journalist and therefore makes conveys the information faster, in a more entertaining manner, and in a way that is easier to absorb. In other words he doesn't go on and on detailing experiments, their shortcomings, and so on. He also often talks in the language on a common man, cuss words and all, which drive home the points and makes them easy to relate to. Great fun but sometimes a bit depressing to know how dumb I am. Of course there is the famous saying that goes... "The more I know, the more I know I don't know". Loved it
I really enjoyed this book. Each chapter discusses some condition, brain quirk or tendency we all share, and makes us all, "Not So Smart". There's a new show on National Geographic Channel that touches on many of the same topics you can find in this book. If your interested in such things, or just want a book to point out that you aren't nearly as smart as you think you are, (and who doesn't love that), this is definitely worth the read.
Read like a list of hypotheses, that I had no interest in ... or any reason to be. I kept hoping for the "list" to stop, so that the author would provide me with a reason to find any of it layperson compelling.. I couldn't make it through this one. I'm sure,however, a textbook read like this will be of value to some. The title and packaging drew me in (brilliant marketing), but was left yawning.