Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for "You Are Not So Smart"

I was midway into teaching a course in Learning & Behavior when one of my favorite students came up to me and simply said, "You are not so smart."

I must have noticeably paused, wondering where he was going with this, when he got a look of total embarrassment on his face and said, "No, I mean, that's the name of a book I think you would love. You Are Not So Smart. I don't mean you're not smart."

I laughed and thanked him for his recommendation, and immediately added the book to my wishlist. As I was doing some additional research, I learned that not only is You Are Not So Smart a book, it's also a website and a series of podcasts, all about the various cognitive biases humans experience.

So my student was right - I love You Are Not So Smart. And also, I am not so smart. But that's okay, because the same is true for everyone.

The book/website/podcasts are all about the various ways we delude ourselves. This includes, for instance, self-enhancement biases - ways in which we make ourselves seem better than we are. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a great example. It also includes simply skewed perception, such as our tendency to rewrite our memories to make them fit with our current identity.

On the flipside, it can also include self-deprecating biases, like impostor syndrome, and self-handicapping, like learned helplessness. Humans are complex creatures, after all.

The great thing about You Are Not So Smart is that it is incredibly approachable, even for people with little to no knowledge of psychology, and it clearly explains and applies this information, with lots of pop culture references sprinkled in. David McRaney, the man behind You Are Not So Smart, skillfully does what I hope to do with this blog, and he's a great role model for my own writing.

So be sure to check out You Are Not So Smart. If you enjoy it as much as I do, be sure to check out his follow-up book - which I'm embarrassed to say I just learned about - You Are Now Less Dumb!

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