Monday, August 7, 2017

"How We Know What Isn't" So Book Report

Thomas Gilovich's book How We Know What Isn't So provides readers with an excellent opportunity to learn about certain areas of psychology while also relating them to real-world instances, most of these being in the case of pseudoscience and other erroneous beliefs. While Gilovich breaks up the book into four parts, I think it could simply be described in two parts - the first being more psychology heavy wherein the reader learns about psychological phenomena and the second being the application of those phenomena in the field of pseudoscience and erroneous beliefs, citing them as the reasons why people adopt these beliefs. Although at times some of the theories may be a bit hard to follow, the author never fails to provide an excellent example that truly explains what is meant by the theory and how we can see it in everyday life. Some examples of what is taught in the beginning parts of the book regard how humans misinterpret data and make connections where connections shouldn't be made, how people are geared to be biased whether they realize it or not, the human mind's tendency to prefer more positive outcomes when a negative outcome would provide the amount knowledge as the positive (one such example Gilovich gives is from John Holt who says "If they say, "Is the number between 5,000 and 10,000?" and I say yes, they cheer; if I say no, they groan, even though they get exactly the same amount of information in either case" (Gilovich 29), among other fallacies of the mind similar to those mentioned. Towards the end, these fallacies are then used as explanations as to why people belief in "alternative" health practices, questionable interpersonal strategies and the belief in ESP (extrasensory perception), concluding the book by giving some possible solutions as to not fall prey to those fallacies of the mind. In my opinion, Gilovich does a great job of being highly critical about these beliefs while also not being completely shaming of those who adopt them and in some cases even sympathizes with those believers to an extent, while also showing why these erroneous beliefs can become very dangerous to not only humans themselves, but the world as a whole in many instances.

I found the section on ESP to be extremely interesting and I'm very glad Gilovich went into detail explaining all that ESP has to offer. The idea of ESP refers to the belief that the human mind is more capable than people think and if we can somehow channel that power, we are then able to have elevated intuition, able to transmit what we're thinking onto others (telepathy), see things that aren't in our peripheral vision and often times very far away (clairvoyance) for some examples. It was neat to learn about the history of the belief in ESP, especially learning about the early studies into the subject and how they were almost always manipulated by the experimenter. Gilovich also gave great insight into why this belief is so widespread, explaining how the belief in something such as ESP would mean there is much more than we know about ourselves and if it were proven to be a real phenomena, it would change human life as we know it, and that is something many people find solace in as it is something that would change their lives and in a sense make it more interesting. I think this chapter can also be linked to the lecture slides on the myth of the 10% brain usage because it follows the same principle that the human mind isn't truly utilized and people that can use more than "10% of the brain" gain these powers which can be seen in cases such as those regarding Uri Gellar, someone Gilovich even mentions. Another way I found that this book was very in line with the lecture slides was when considering how human thought is flawed, and I think that was the main basis of the first half of the book wherein Gilovich wanted to show that yes, indeed the human mind if flawed in many ways and often times we think in rather fast and irrational ways that can then be lead onto bigger things such as the case of erroneous beliefs.  It seemed in a sense to be an extension of the lecture slides and most, if not all of the subjects discussed could directly be related to what I was able to learn throughout the course.

To best honest, I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and I think it's a read that many people could benefit from. It gave me a new perspective on how to intelligently challenge certain ideas that are presented to me as well as to step back so to speak when analyzing other things and instead of trying to have an explanation for anything that happens that appears to be quite strange, accept the fact that most of the time it's just a coincidence that has a much higher probability than I had previously thought.

Being intrigued by the idea of ESP, I decided to dig a little deeper. Although it seems to be such a farfetched concept, it is a belief that many people belief in and truly think they can master, as clearly described in the book. Many people claim to already have full harnessed the powers of ESP while others think that they can train themselves to do so. I found one such website that does just that and decided to take a look at it. The website calls itself an ESP trainer in which the website "transmits and image" to you that you are then supposed to channel in for the set amount of time and then rank four images as a result of the "channeling" you received. When you think about it in this respect, you have a 25% chance of "accurately receiving" this channeling which seems so obscure. They offer a host of tests like these and I hate to be rude but it's quite a shame that some people view this as a means of really being able to train themselves to be masters of ESP. There are countless other videos to find on the web about ESP and how you can test your ESP in these videos which lends itself further to Gilovich's claims about how widespread these beliefs are and how this volume of "information" about ESP gives people a sense of confirmation in their believes.

If you have some time, check out this site and see if you are telepathic!

This video is rather comical and shows two men (Rhett and Link from GoodMythicalMorning) try to see if they express those qualities of ESP

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