Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Report How we know what isn't so

“How we know what we isn’t so” is a book that explains why people believe myths and beliefs that are not true, such as why more babies are born on full moons.  There are many beliefs that people have that are not justifiable but are still believed in.  This book was trying to shine light on why this is the case and it is not because people are not smart or they do not have enough evidence, but because of the way our brains work is why we believe in these things.  According to this book our we believe in these myths because of regularity and patterns in events, wishful thinking, the way we interpret ambiguous data, the need to entertain people, and we do not take into consideration biases.  Believing these myths have led to terrible acts being committed in the past like burning witches, the killing of Chinese green-haired turtles because they are thought to cure cancer, or killing black bears from the Great Smoky Mountains for their gall bladders.  We want to believe in these things to either not be different from other people or because we have so much hope that we could save people that we are blinded by the truth.  The problem with believing in these beliefs mentioned above is that we are killing animals and people for no reason.  People will believe in many things when emotions come into play, and therefore, our mind can play tricks on us like seeing Jesus’s face. Thomas Gilovich makes a good point that we should be “less accepting of the superstition and sloppy thinking and try to develop those “habits of mind” that promote a more accurate view of the world” (Gilovich pg. 6). Many people do not expect clusters in the data, and when we do see this we automatically think it is not random but it is actually random. 
People believe that punishing a child is a better way of shaping their behavior even though there is proof that rewarding them is a better form of changing their behaviors.  This is a common misconception because of the regression effect.  “Which is when two variables are related, but not perfectly the extreme values on one of the variables tend to be matched by less extreme values on the other” (Gilovich pg.23).  Thomas Gilovich is trying to show us that just because two things happen at the same time does not mean that there is any connection between the two but yet mere chance.  I see this happen with my nephew.  When he does something wrong he will get a time out and he does not do it again right after, but I do not believe it is from the time out because an hour later he will do it again.  Most people look at the evidence that supports what we believe verses evidence that disproves our theory.  I can relate to this because I was looking up information on Mirena and I have heard negative things about it, and when I looked it up no matter how much evidence I read on how it works the negative information over ruled it because that is what I wanted to see.  The most recent research on this topic looks at what is called the “false consensus effect which is the tendency for people’s own beliefs, values, and habits to bias their estimates of how widely such views and habits are shared by others” (Gilovich pg. 113).  In other words, humans tend to believe that most people think the same way they do.  If they like dogs better than cats than they would estimate that most people would prefer dogs over cats as well.   This book is very insightful on the way our minds work and why we tend to believe things that are not necessarily true.
The book “How we know what isn’t so” was extremely insightful and a great read.  My favorite chapter is the chapter called believing what we are told.  This chapter interested me so much because people will believe anything they are told with just a little convincing, and this chapter talks about how this changes the true story of what happened like in Little Albert.  People have changed the original study to make it sound better or what is called a good story.  Good stories have sharpening and leveling which means they only remember the main details that they felt were the most important to the story.  That is why secondhand stories according to this chapter become shorter and get to the point faster.  This is a very important concept to me because people are so easily jumping to conclusions about stories they hear from the media.  People do not realize that the news is only feeding us what we want to hear and the most important parts in their minds leaving out others.  This tool can create a wrong opinion about an event or person very easily.  Another reason why the chapter was intriguing was because it makes a good point that when we hear a story from someone else about a person we are not only hearing their side of the story, but that story is being influenced by their opinion on that person.  Therefore, they are jading our opinion and making us feel the same way about that person as the person telling the story. 
When people tell stories to others they tend to change up who the event actually happened to to make them more involved in the story.  An example is when a person tells a story about something happening to their dad when it really happened to their dad’s friend.  By saying it happened to their dad made the story teller closer and more involved in the story.  I believe this happens without complete knowledge or control.  Another issue with hearing stories from other people is that the more people it passes through the more it changes.  As well as people changing things to make it more entertaining for the listener.  This would not matter as much if people did not believe everything they hear so quickly, and then formulate an opinion off that story that was only partially right.  Doing this can cause people to formulate wrong opinions, like our parents telling us to be careful of strangers when we should really be careful of family members and close friends because they are more likely to steal you or commit crime against you.  We believe we should not talk to strangers because of stories that are passed down, or because of the few famous cases about children being abducted by strangers.  Statically, however, more people are taken by people we know. People try and change stories to make people believe their opinion on a subject matter like drugs.  This chapter is a great example of why there are so many myths about things in this world like children’s behavior that we talked about in class.  Parents hear stories about other children and then immediately think that applies to their child.  Examples include kids who write their letters backwards have dyslexia, if your child is too immature have them repeat that grade and they will be better for school, or I was spanked and turned out fine are three myths.  We believe these myths because of stories that are passed down and because the story teller is making the listener believe what they want them to by stretching the facts. 

This book has great potential in teaching us how important it is to take our bias out of the picture and only look at the evidence that is presented about a topic before believing everything we hear.  If we were more aware of how these beliefs and myths are wrong we could help prevent many things from happening like animals going extinct or people ganging up on others because of something that is different.  One issue that I thought of that could be changed if everyone read this book and believed the book would be our racism issue in this country.  Many people think all white people are racist even though that is not true, but since it is all over the media and since there are still people who are, everyone gets lumped into one category.  Although I do not know the statistics on this, by watching the news and seeing all the cop violence it is easy to believe these myths.  Vice versa black people are believed to be dangerous when that is not true either, but since again the media portrays it that way we believe it, despite the facts.  We believe these myths because of things that we hear or see, like in the media, and we tend to believe these things because we are jaded. If we could change our way of thinking, just like trying to convince the Koreans that gallbladders do not cure indigestion, the world would be a much better place.  Through this book we should learn to look deeper into myths and stories that we are told before believing them.  For example many people are claiming to see UFO’s more now, but that could be because of stories that others have told and they are just retelling the story as their own.  We should pay more attention to facts and hard evidence than to stories that are told to us from other people along the way.  We need to start taking stories with a grain of salt and not put so much belief in them.

In the video of my nephew it conforms that most parents use the negative reinforcement method for punishment when it does not actually work since he got in trouble for using the tractor and got put on time out.  After time out was over he went back to the tractor.  Another thing I noticed with him is that if you asked him what he did when he was out shopping he'll always say "I was being bad" because we point out the bad behavior more than the good. 

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