General Overview: “How We Know What Isn’t So”
This book focuses on the common errors people make when trying to comprehend the world around them and ways to avoid making those errors. The book spent time explaining the realms of pseudo scientific beliefs and testing to disprove those believes. The book forces you to question yourself and your assumptions about the world around you. The Author, Thomas Gilovich uses real research data and logical opinions to support his claims throughout the book. He encourages the reader to think outside of the box.
The book is divided into four main sections. In part one of the book, Gilovich’s stressed that people will ultimately believe what they want to believe. Humans want to find order/ patterns in the world around them even when they do not exist. Most people find randomness unsettling and difficult to comprehend. In part, two of the book the author explains how people only see what they want to see. People will filter what they hear according to their own biases/needs and that wishful thinking can distort reality. In part, three of the book he focuses on the use of ineffective health practices and the idea of holistic medicine. He sets up the cases in this section in a very readable way and then discusses the possible consequences of the misbelieves. In part, four of the book he offers strategies to fight our tendencies to reason incorrectly.
Favorite Part / Class Connection
My favorite part of the book was the section on ineffective and alternative health practices. This part was the most interesting to me because it brought up information that was also introduced within our class. The book discusses how people tend to believe that a certain treatment will work even though medical science has evidence to support that is does not benefit the patient. In some examples, it even harmed the patient!
I was struggling with the creative part of the report until my daughter called me for some advice over my new grandson. Tommy (the cutest baby ever!) was running a fever and was up screaming at night. She did take him to the doctors and they informed her that it was a virus and it had to run its course. Then it hit me… let’s ask people what they do to help a sick child at night. My daughter created a post on Facebook asking people for advice on how to help Tommy. I was amazed at all of the different answers. Some of the most common answers from Facebook included ideas that have no scientific evidence behind them but the mothers were adamant that they work. The most common answers on face book included putting Vicks vapor rub on the baby’s feet and then covering them with socks and giving the child large doses of vitamin C. Unfortunately , despite the near universal belief that these methods will work, there is little to no evidence supporting the usefulness of most home remedies. I think this is a great example of people believing what they want despite scientific data that shows the opposite.
I truly enjoyed reading this book. It made me question my own thinking and how I perceive and process information. It caused me to think about my own common misconceptions and believes. I believed several things to be common knowledge for most of my life only to find out that it is not backed by data. I always thought that your heart stopped when you sneezed, that too much sugar would make kids hyperactive and that chicken soup would help the common cold. Most of the scientific data does not back up this common knowledge believes.
I found a great video from one of my favorite celebrity scientists, Bill Nye, about pseudoscience. The video is slightly dated but I do think it makes some very relevant points.
Feel free to watch and I hope you enjoy it J