In Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking, Thomas E. Kida provides a skeptic’s guide to thinking about thinking. What a great title, hunh?
On my copy of Professor Kida’s treatment of the errors in how people make decisions, those six mistakes are listed right on cover:
- We prefer stories to statistics;
- We seek to confirm, not to question our idea;
- We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in shaping events;
- We sometimes misperceive the world around us;
- We tend to oversimplify our thinking;
- We have faulty memories.
Of course, the details of these mistakes form the contents of the book. Professor Kida presents them in a readable and informative way. More importantly, he predicates his case on extensive scientific evidence and documents the research thoroughly. (I took a bit of personal pleasure in finding the names of some folks whom I know.) Although I may be committing an error of the second type in saying that I agree with much of Professor Kida’s argument, I found his book very encouraging. It was rewarding to have some many of my biases presented by someone else.
I do not, however, wholly endorse his analysis. I found my skeptical hairs standing on end when Professor Kida repeatedly referred to an abstraction that I think he neither showed by reason nor documentation. He too often attributes behavior to inborn factors (e.g., “We have an innate desire to find patterns in our world”; p. 86). When he finds the evidence to document that learning hasn’t operated in such behavior, I hope Professor Kida presents it. Meanwhile, I recommend that folks forgive him this relatively minor transgression and encouage them to read Professor Kida’s book.
There is an MP3 of a 2006 interview with Professor Kida available from D. J. Grothe’s Point of View. See the post or download the MP3 directly. While you’re visiting there, check some of the other fine resources available from that site.