Stuart Sutherland book "Irrationality" explores the vast areas of irrational thinking omnipresent in human judgments and decisions. Sutherland was professional psychologist, hence the book is not a set of novel-like digressions about human nature. It is scientifically grounded analysis of sources of our mistakes and misconceptions. For example, it explains how skin-deep obedience, false conformity, biased impressions or communal follies bring disaster to many organisation, from army units he comes back to the Pearl Harbour attack through government organisations to business organisations. Some of the examples he gives are just hilarious

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First published in , Irrationality proposes, and to any reasonable mind proves, that we are for the most part credulous fools who would do well, in most circumstances, to stop and think before we go and do something stupid; for stupid things are what we often end up doing, however much we congratulate ourselves on being rational animals. Not that it is actually grim or depressing. Idiocy is, after all, funny, and the late Stuart Sutherland, despite or perhaps because of having been professor of psychology at Sussex University, had an eye for the absurdities to which we subject ourselves.

There are few books about psychology that can make you laugh out loud; this is one of them. Take one familiar example: "Almost everyone reading these pages will at some time have paid money to see a bad film or a bad play. Despite excruciating boredom, people often refuse to leave, even if the show is so bad that they would have paid a small amount of money to avoid seeing it at all.

The sensible thing for them to do is to leave, which means they only suffer the monetary loss. Although, as a confirmed interval-leaver, I can smugly pat myself on the back for having worked that one out for myself. The hope that "it might get better" has never once been justified. Most chapters end with a few points going under the heading "moral", which clarify what he has said. You could, if you were in a real hurry, read only these morals and find your powers of ratiocination enhanced.

The morals at the end of his chapter on obedience are: "1. Think before obeying. Ask whether the command is justified. Never volunteer to become a subject in the Psychological Laboratory at Yale. The civil service comes in for some gleefully pointed criticism - he quotes one civil servant who once said: "The civil service is a self-perpetuating oligarchy, and what better system is there?

It is an extraordinary exercise in large-scale clarification. And with Sutherland, clarity of thought and clarity of expression are one. Bemoaning the reluctance of medical institutions to trust actuarial methods, he says: "It would appear that where money is at stake, the best method of taking decisions is often employed, but when it is merely a human life at risk, we continue to rely on a discredited ability - human intuition.



Mar 24, Orestes rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Anyone who wishes to learn to make better judgements and thus to take better decisions Recommended to Orestes by: Su Pezuela Shelves: interesting , non-fiction , economics , psychology This book shows a number of psychological biases during human assessment of reality which, the author claims, moves us away from taken optimal decisions. It does so by means of captivating and many times funny examples, mainly drawn from psychological experiments, but also from interesting historical events and common behavior. The author is competent in explaining each type of irrational behavior, but the book lacks a global perspective. The instances of irrational behavior introduced in the This book shows a number of psychological biases during human assessment of reality which, the author claims, moves us away from taken optimal decisions. The instances of irrational behavior introduced in the book could be classified into three categories: psychological biases, sociological base biases and biases due to the lack of knowledge.


Stuart Sutherland

And how can we improve? Open Preview See a Problem? Irrational beliefs and behaviours are virtually universal. This is a comprehensive eye-opening read but also a somewhat infuriating one, though not through any fault of the author.

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