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Publisher's Summary

We all make bad decisions. It's part of being human. The resulting mistakes can be valuable, the story goes, because we learn from them. But do we? Historian Zachary Shore says no, not always, and he has a long list of examples to prove his point.

From colonialism to globalization, from gender wars to civil wars, or any circumstance for which our best solutions backfire, Shore demonstrates how rigid thinking can subtly lead us to undermine ourselves. In the process, he identifies seven "cognition traps" to avoid. These insidious yet unavoidable mind-sets include:

  • Exposure Anxiety: fear of being seen as weak
  • Causefusion: confusing the causes of complex events
  • Flat View: seeing the world in one dimension
  • Cure-Allism: thinking that one-size solutions can solve all problems
  • Infomania: an obsessive relationship to information
  • Mirror Imaging: thinking the other side thinks like you do
  • Static Cling: the refusal to accept that circumstances have changed

    Drawing on examples from history, politics, business and economics, health care, even folk tales and popular culture, Shore illustrates the profound impact blunders can have. But he also emphasizes how understanding these seven simple cognition traps can help us all make wiser judgments in our daily lives.

    For anyone whose best-laid plans have been foiled by faulty thinking, Blunder shines the penetrating spotlight of history on decision making and the patterns of thought that can lead us all astray.

  • ©2008 Zachary Shore; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

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    • Andy
    • Westport, CT, United States
    • 07-11-09

    helpful extension of the genre

    Blunder is a net add to the whole "wisdom of crowds" discussion. What I liked most about this book was how Shore provided a handful of obscure but interesting examples of how decision makers'charateristics impacted their decisions. Intro by the author is solid. Narration is also solid.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Performance
    • Story

    Critiquing "Blunder"

    There is a section of my (virtual) bookshelf (stored on the Audible/Amazon cloud) that could be titled: "Why You Are an Idiot". When my spouse, kids, boss (or you) asks me how I can be so dumb so often, I can just point to these books.

    My most recent addition is, Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions by Zachary Shore.

    Blunder has its limitations (see below), but is a great addition to the oeuvre books on human failure. My favorite example of this genre is,Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz

    Other books of this type that I've read in the past couple of years include:

    The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

    Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and

    Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average by Joseph T. Hallinan

    My next book is,On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits by Wray Herbert

    Any other "dumb us" books that you can recommend?
    In Blunder, Zachary Shore (who has the cool sounding job of professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School), sets out 7 big reasons why we get things wrong.

    The theme that runs through Blunder is that expertise and knowledge are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for making good decisions.

    The 7 cognitive mistakes include:

    Exposure Anxiety: Our predilection to project overconfidence as a response to fear or uncertainty, based mostly on our desire not to appear weak.
    Infomania: Our tendency to hoard information for ourselves, or ignore information that we don't want to hear.

    Static Cling: Our desire for constancy and stability in a changing world, which leaves us unable to grasp when things have changed.

    Causefusion: Our propensity to confuse correlation with causation, and to inappropriately assign a narrative to explain unrelated events.

    Flatview: Our inclination to see the world in black and white terms, rather than recognizing shades of gray.

    Cure-allism: Our proclivity to try and solve diverse problems with a single solution.

    Mirror Imaging: Our penchant to transfer out reactions and beliefs on others, thinking that everyone will react to events the way we would.

    Shore is not interested in explaining the psychological, biological, or sociological roots of our blunders,. Rather, he gives examples of when people (in government or business) screw up, then tries to understand these errors through the framework of his 7 cognitive mistakes.

    Perhaps we should run through the list of 7 each time we make a big decision, but I'm afraid we might end up not making any decisions or taking any actions at all.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful

    • Overall

    A Gem for Critical Thinkers

    For anyone interested in Critical Thinking and the traps faulty thinking can lead us into, this book is a must! Shore offers one of those rare gems of intellectual thought: a thoroughly accessible, clear, engagingly written work, supported with one compelling and illustrative anecdote or example after another from a variety of fields, including history, biology, psychology, economics, and literature. The result is a book that is not just enlightening in its analysis, but absolutely enjoyable to read.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Andrew
    • San Diego, CA, United States
    • 06-17-11

    Pulls No Punches

    A splendid introduction to the concept of cognition traps, into which we all inevitably fall, and which we all need to learn to avoid and recover from. Well read by the author, who clearly has the a passion for the subject.

    Once caveat for the listener -- if you have any problem hearing candid analysis of what went/is going wrong in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afganistan, then this may potentially offend you. However, be advised that the author DOES teach to various staff of DoD and the US armed forces, so he does, in my opinion, present these without and deliberate biases.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    • Performance
    • Story

    Worth the listen, enlightening

    Good book overall, a worthwhile look at the mental stumbling blocks that cause people to commit to counter-productive courses of action. I found the case he makes for each of his points interesting, and I was able to look at my own decision making in light of each of his points. I did find some of his made up words a little annoying, insisting on using "Cause-fusion" to refer to the confusion of causal relationships irritating, especially when it conjugated into other verb forms, "He was cause-fused..." I also found his example for the final chapter to be too mired in his own interests - as a blind person, he was clearly interested in the example of another blind person recovering part of his site, but the example ended up feeling somewhat contrived, and went on too long.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

    • Overall

    Finally, A Book Everyone Must Have

    You have what it takes to shine, but sometimes find yourself falling flat? I thought I had to work extra hard and go through struggles to achieve my goals, until I got this book. I realized that altering my approaches just a little, with the concepts mentioned in this book in mind, helped me get ahead more.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Delano
    • Philadelphia, PA, United States
    • 02-02-10

    Don't waste your time

    I was expecting a book based on solid psychology research. Instead, it's a "historian" making obvious points, yet basing them on very little evidence. To make each point he goes on for about 20 minutes longer than necessary - it sounds like this book received no editing at all. And his use of historical examples is very simplistic to the point of being amateurish. Apparently he's really a professor, but I shudder to think that this is how students are being taught history. Please, choose any other book in this category instead.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful

    • Overall

    Only Human

    Found this very interesting, smart people can make mistakes, but a wise person would learn from theirs.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Performance
    • Story
    • Otis
    • Round Rock, TX.
    • 04-06-12

    Good points but stories are boring

    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    More interesting events

    What didn’t you like about Zachary Shore and Kevin Pariseau ’s performance?

    Performance was Okay.

    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?


    Any additional comments?

    More modernized events to bring point home to the listner.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    • Anon
    • 03-24-16

    Everyone needs to read or listen to this book

    We live in a world where more and more people are educated however there is a distinct lack of wisdom in them. Their contribution to the wellbeing of the planet is questionable at times due to some of the cognition traps as described in this book. Could the world be a better place if we practiced more wisdom?