Have you ever wondered how close your beliefs come to fact—or fiction? Learn how your assumptions can both help and deceive you in this guide to fallacy of the obvious in everyday life.
When can we trust what we believe, and when should we question our beliefs? Illustrating his points with examples and supporting them with the latest research findings, Thomas Gilovich documents the cognitive, social, and motivational processes that distort our thoughts, beliefs, judgments, and decisions. In a rapidly changing world, the biases and stereotypes that help us process an overload of complex information inevitably distort what we would like to believe is reality. Awareness of our propensity to make these systematic errors, Gilovich argues, is the first step to more effective analysis and action. Indeed, as he writes in the introduction, “Thinking straight about the world is a precious and difficult process that must be carefully nurtured.”
Sports fans who think that basketball players shoot in ``hot streaks,'' and maternity nurses who maintain that more babies are born when the moon is full adhere to erroneous beliefs, according to Gilovich, associate professor of psychology at Cornell. With examples ranging from the spread of AIDS to the weight of Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, he skewers popular but mistaken assumptions. Faulty reasoning from incomplete or ambiguous data, a tendency to seek out ``hypothesis-confirming evidence'' and the habit of self-serving belief are among the factors Gilovich pinpoints in his sophisticated anaylsis. However, in the book's second half, his debunking of holistic medicine, ESP and paranormal phenomena is superficial and one-sided, marred by some of the very tendencies he effectively exposes in the ``true believers.''