I usually don’t dedicate an entire blog post to a book review unless I am extremely impressed with the book. In the case of Thomas Kida’s Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking, “impressed” is definitely a word I would use to describe it.
Even though my last post was also a book review, and I have some very exciting family news (my third daughter was just born!), I decided to write this review now anyway, and delay showing off my daughter until my mom comes in a couple weeks and takes some really nice family pictures. :)
In Don’t Believe Everything You Think, Thomas Kida discusses many beliefs we tend to hold, even though we have no evidence to support them, and often have much evidence against them. More importantly, he disects the ways our mind can make these mistakes, and how we can avoid them. This book is about thinking more like a scientist or statistician, holding back belief until evidence warrants it, and understanding the psychological drama that goes on inside our brains as we form beliefs and opinions and memories.
The six basic mistakes we make in thinking that he discusses in depth are:
- We prefer stories to statistics, giving more weight to a personal story than to testable evidence.
- We seek to confirm, or we find evidence to favor what we want to believe, remembering the hits, and forgetting the misses.
- We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in life, often finding cause and effect relationships when none exist.
- We can misperceive our world. What we see and hear is highly influenced by what we want to perceive, as well as simply faulty senses that we rarely accept we have.
- We oversimplify, which can be helpful in making quick decisions, but can also cause us to leave out important details, leading to mistakes in judgment.
- We have faulty memories, which can be influenced and changed by our current beliefs, expectations, environment, and even suggestive questioning. Our memories can change over time even when we’re confident they haven’t.
Each of these points are demonstrated with stories (because we like them) and also numerous scientific studies. Kida even discusses how to judge between quality science and faulty science, and how to spot errors in scientific studies and their reports in the media. Small amounts of quality evidence outweigh large amounts of poor quality evidence, such as personal stories.
The book asks a lot of questions that get you thinking and test your beliefs. After reading this book, it’s easy to see that we make more mistakes in our thinking than we realize. Fortunately, being aware of this can help reduce errors and incorrect decisions that can have drastic consequences.
This book should be required reading for anyone who has a thinking brain. The critical thinking skills taught in this book can help with every aspect of life. Check out Don’t Believe Everything You Think today.