• The Intelligence Trap

  • Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes
  • By: David Robson
  • Narrated by: Simon Slater
  • Length: 10 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (238 ratings)

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The Intelligence Trap  By  cover art

The Intelligence Trap

By: David Robson
Narrated by: Simon Slater
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Publisher's summary

An eye-opening examination of the stupid things smart people do - and how to cultivate skills to protect ourselves from error.

"As a rule, I have found that the greater brain a man has, and the better he is educated, the easier it has been to mystify him" (Harry Houdini to Arthur Conan Doyle). 

Smart people are not only just as prone to making mistakes as everyone else - they may be even more susceptible to them. This is the "intelligence trap", the subject of David Robson's fascinating and provocative book. 

The Intelligence Trap explores cutting-edge ideas in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, including "strategic ignorance", "meta-forgetfulness", and "functional stupidity." Robson reveals the surprising ways that even the brightest minds and most talented organizations can go wrong - from some of Thomas Edison's worst ideas to failures at NASA, Nokia, and the FBI. And he offers practical advice to avoid mistakes based on the timeless lessons of Benjamin Franklin, Richard Feynman, and Daniel Kahneman.

©2019 David Robson (P)2019 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

What listeners say about The Intelligence Trap

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great except for one big thing

Most of this book was great. There was a good deal of useful discussion of common thought patterns that lead to poor decision-making and how to avoid them. Useful concepts about how people learn (e.g. "productive struggle" and "growth mindset") are presented here which, as an educator are not new to me, but are useful enough concepts that they warrant repetition.

However, the author falls victim to some of the same lapses of reasoning he discusses. He opens the book telling us about Kary Mullis, the biochemist who won a Nobel Prize for his role in the invention of PCR. Mullis had some fringe viewpoints which, in Robson's view, makes him a poster child for "smart people who make dumb mistakes." A big part of the problem with this is that, while fringe ideas are often wrong, they are not necessarily wrong. Ridiculing uncommon beliefs without truly evaluating them critically doesn't make one rational. In the terminology Robson utilizes, it is an act of cognitive miserliness and shows a lack of intellectual humility. In particular, Robson dismisses all supernatural topics as absurd with no discussion as to how he came to that point of view. All supernatural topics, that is, except for religion, which he seems to give a free pass. This leads me to believe that he came to these beliefs purely based on what is socially acceptable, not based on any rational inquiry.

Amusingly enough, between finishing this audiobook yesterday and sitting down to write this review, I started Dr. Jeffrey Kripal's "The Flip", in which he discusses Mullis in a much more favorable light. According to Kripal, Mullis had an experience which might be viewed as a UFO abduction, but Mullis refuses to put that label on it. Mullis simply described what he experienced (and which his daughter and one of his colleagues would each experience at separate times at the same cabin) but does not attempt to shoehorn it into any particular explanation. This ability Mullis demonstrates to dwell with uncertainty is a quality that Robson praises (though not in connection to Mullis) as a quality of wise people. But Robson would rather simply dismiss him as a UFO nut.

If you are now writing off this review, I urge you to seriously question the idea that the scientific method is the only valid epistemology. While it is a fantastically useful tool, it is not a one-size-fits-all path to all truths.

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31 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

application negates knowledge

too much political favor and using the arguments to further the declaration. ie he talks about Trump, and all said and done trump turned 25 million into billions. another example is scientific consensus is not fact. his own logic reasoning around evolution is circular.

further I am in the book this guy is a leftist. very biased and ruins the lessons as his own knowledge is overpowered by his lefty bias, bullshit meter is maxed

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

We’re all More Biased than we Think

While there is a lot of helpful information in this book, I found the execution to be a bit ironic. The author offers several helpful tips into “practical wisdom”, repeatedly encouraging listeners to avoid using bias, being willing to frequently challenge their assumptions, etc. However, his underlying bias becomes quickly and unabashedly apparent.

I found myself checking out occasionally as he lectures us against the dangers of dogmatism, then turns around and expects his listeners to accept various positions as fact. Regardless of what the author’s bias may be, the book loses much of its impact due to these repeated dogmatic statements. I think it’s still worth a listen, but it’s helpful to have this in mind before you commit several hours.

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6 people found this helpful

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Enjoyed the narration...

I really enjoyed the narration and the author lists a history of smart people who were wrong on important issues which impacted their credibility.
The author falls short though, as after he explains how majority opinion is often shown to be incorrect correct over time, he then points to current group think topics and how ignorant those are that have different views. He falls for the same academic bullying he previously called out.

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5 people found this helpful

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Interesting

Not sure I agree with every premise the author proposes, but the book is worthy of a listen and careful consideration. Parts are surprising and most of it is thought-provoking. The writing is good and the narrator performs well.

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2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best books I’ve ever listened to or read

This book covers a multitude of topics surrounding intelligence, the mind, curiosity, misinformation, education, team building and even more. Not only does it go deeply into these topics but it also provides clear actionable advise for how you can prevent the negative effects and pitfalls of the intelligence trap, while encouraging a growth mindset. If that wasn’t enough, the narration of Simon Slater is wonderful!

I found this book so good, I bought the physical copy to take notes in.

I can’t recommend it enough.

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Message: A little bit more push

Overall, highly satisfied with two main comments. First, the book brings together a set of observations and presents them in a logical order which clarifies even one’s own ideas. Secondly, it is not covering some -maybe- more crucial dimensions such as the presence of oil rigs in oceans which can be considered as malfunctioning of reason or intelligence.
Anyhow, a highly recommended work which suggests challenges by challenging some conventional elements we tend to neglect.
The performance was fine except for the nasal voice from time to time.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best books I've ever read.

It would be great if everyone would read this book. No matter how smart we think we are, we are prone to make errors in our thinking. This book explains how and these errors occur and gives tools to spot them and help to avoid them.

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But really, what IS smart?

(As posted in GoodReads)
It points out the fact that there are different aspects of and kinds of "smartness", and the fact that individually they DON'T necessarily preclude dumb actions or ideas or the commission of "dumb things". It specifically mentions some well-known idiotic actions and beliefs of people who are generally considered smart but aren't "above" dwelling on their own individual concern regardless of their knowledge or background (to me the most obvious example it is the Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling who decided to push vitamin C as a cure-all – including being a cure for cancer, despite the fact that that was not even vaguely related to his celebrated research. (I believe he ended up dying of cancer…)
Anyway, there is a difference between being "smart" and being able to demonstrate proficiency in absolutely everything that you address. Only one of those is conceivable, but I'm getting off point. The point is, WHY smart people do dumb things, and the book suggests several reasons. Primarily, it's important to refine our meaning of smart.
I found the last two chapters that old and long, and I need to skim the end, but overall good things and techniques were examined.

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Good listen

This book is a good eye opener to remind us about how we get comfortable and make mistakes. Also how crazy some of the best scientists thought outside their field of expertise. I think this is a great book for ceo's and team members in leadership.

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