You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself
By David McRaney
Gotham; Reprint edition (November 6, 2012)
I know I said no more brain books, but this one’s been in the pipe. I’ll make this review short. McRaney in his book goes through 48 ‘brain bugs’ that are shortcomings of human cognition where evolutionary advantageous procedures are inappropriate to present-day situations. Having meanwhile read several books on the topic, I knew about 40 of these brain bugs and the rest are very similar to the ones I already knew.
What I was hoping for in McRaney’s book was some kind of structure, maybe a classification or categories, a big picture – some insight as to how it all ties together or where it’s going and what’s next. But the book is really just a selection of little essays, apparently the result of a blog by the same name, and that’s also what it reads like.
The 48 sections of the book do come with selected references and summaries of research studies that have been made, but a discussion of how well-established any particular result is and if there is maybe contradictory evidence is entirely lacking. Also lacking is space to address the question how these studies relate to behavior in the real world, what the evidence is for this, and, most important, if people change their behavior when being educated about shortcomings in their default mode of thinking.
In summary, the book is an easy read, but it’s not terribly insightful and somewhat uninspired. If you follow the popular cognitive science literature you’ll know pretty much everything that is in the book. The book might be useful for you however if you want to get a quick overview on what topics are presently being discussed in this area, without too much skepticsm or scientific background. Also, the essays all probably make good conversation starters.