How many of your Facebook friends do you think you know? Do you think you’d rush to a stranger’s help when no one else would? Do you think you choose which product to buy based on whether you like it? Do you think you know why you procrastinate?
The truth is, you’re probably wrong. You are not so smart. In fact, you’re pretty irrational, just like everyone else. But that’s OK – because that’s all part of being human. Based on the popular blog, You Are Not So Smart explores in 48 short chapters the assorted ways we mislead ourselves everyday. In this pithy celebration of self-delusion, prepare for a whirlwind tour of the
latest research in psychology, and to discover finally why we never get round to our New Year resolutions.
McRaney, a Hattiesburg, Miss., resident and two-time winner of the William Randolph Hearst Award, writes simplified descriptions of psychology experiments on his blog youarenotsosmart.com. He soon found success, receiving between 17,000 to 25,000 hits a day with 6,000 subscribers to the site's RSS feed. Now McRaney's past blog posts resurface in this collection, which he describes as "a compendium of information about self-delusion and the wonderful ways we succumb to it." The format first presents "The Misconception" ("You are a strong individual who doesn't conform unless forced to") and "The Truth" ("It takes little more than an authority figure or social pressure to get you to obey, because conformity is a survival instinct"). The "Conformity" chapter describes how hoax phone calls convinced fast-food managers to strip-search employees, followed by the famous Stanley Milgram obedience experiment in which unsuspecting subjects delivered electric shocks to a screaming actor. Other brief essays cover quitting an addiction cold turkey, first impressions, behavior as a reflection of personality, blind taste tests, and self-fulfilling prophecies. In popularizing these experiments, extracted from psychology books and journals, McRaney is poised to follow in the footsteps of folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, who also mined academic publications when he popularized urban legends in a series of books.