Friday, 7 March 2014
Book Review: 'You Are Not So Smart' by David McRaney
Just like Dawkins argues against a creator in showing that evolutionary adaptations can be flawed and seemingly badly designed, David McRaney shows in this work that despite those claims that the human mind is one of the most complex structures in the known universe, it's shoddily put together, with bits that don't work together and bits that were added on at the last minute and that the only way it 'works' is that it constantly lies to itself about the reality it exists in. You have in your head a used car salesman.
David demonstrates the limitations of our brains by picking out these 46 different ways our brain lies to us and writing a small chapter on each. Each lie is well researched and refers to different published studies for evidence. For example the chapter on why you have too many Facebook friends talks about studies about the limitations of how many people you can hold in a social circle in the physical world and compares these figures to the data on Facebook. He also talks about the reason why you 'befriend' all those people using the internet.
Most interesting are the chapters that highlight the limitations in vision and the comprehension of sensory input. You are not a little person in a box watching a ultra high definition surround sound movie of your existence. More like your homonculus watches a scratchy silent movie from 1908 with no sound and missing film cells, a friend tells them about the soundtrack over the phone.
There are also great chapters on how you think you are better than everyone else out there. He actually gives statistics on how many people think they are better than average drivers and how many people think they have a better than average IQ. The figures will astound you.
I highly recommend this fun and enlightening read. It certainly will make you question everything you think and perceive, which is a practice that all science endorses strongly. This book is so much more than your average pop-psychology book that litters the popular science section of bookshops and libraries. It holds no punches and approaches the subject from a critical standpoint. Weeks after reading this book I'm still laughing at my brain when I know it's lying to me.