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Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human by Michael…

Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human

by Michael Kaplan, Ellen Kaplan

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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I received this book for free via the Goodreads First Reads program.

Bozo Sapiens was surprisingly dense, but don't let that discourage you! I found it both interesting and engaging. The authors included so many fascinating studies of human behavior and brain function. Our brain is "wired" in such a way that errors are inevitable. So don't beat yourself up so much when you make a mistake or two. It's natural! Two things I found especially interesting were bonnet syndrome and sine-wave speech (I was so intrigued that I had to google it and test it out on myself-very cool!)
Michael and Ellen Kaplan gave me much food for thought but the chapter "Fresh Off the Pleistocene Bus" cost them a star. The main focus of this section was on evolutionary psychology and attempts to explain why our brains have developed they way they have and how this has been advantageous to our species as a whole. While not boring, there were some things that bothered me. Not all human beings are motivated by the urge to procreate. It also bothered me that they completely ignored those people who choose partners, for life or otherwise, that are of the same sex. Can't ignore homosexuality out of convenience! There is no excuse for this. Homosexuality is not new or even exclusive to human beings. It would have been interesting to see how these types of social relationships were explained as a natural part of our evolutionary development. ( )
  diovival | Oct 14, 2013 |

Wonderful, wonderful title (in a recent interview I was asked if I'd ever buy a book on the basis of title alone, and I said no, of course not, but I'd forgotten about this one); a shame about the actual book, really. What the Kaplans set out to do is explain the science behind why, individually and as a species, we're capable of such godawful stupidity: in the largest and wealthiest democracy in the world, there are people who in a few weeks' time will vote for someone who thinks scientists are transplanting human brains into mice. No one could more overwhelmingly subscribe to the worthwhileness of their aim; my difficulty was that very often I couldn't follow the Kaplans' arguments. Obviously I suspected (a) this might be my own failing, because I'm stupid, (b) the problem might be that the subject matter is too complex for me, (c) both. But then I recalled how I'd been able to wade through popularizations of far more complex scientific matters -- yer quantum, like -- and came to the conclusion the fault was perhaps not entirely mine. My guess is that people steeped in psychology may not have this problem.
( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
I won this book on a Goodreads giveaway (thank you Goodreads!). This book was interesting but could have been put together better. In certain parts of the book, especially the first couple of chapters, the authors seemed to jump around quite a bit. They covered a lot of ground but it had some flow issues.

On the plus side, I did learn several interesting facts about how the brain works and how humans interact with each other. The authors did a very good job with giving examples and boiling down the huge amount of studies into something very readable. Well written and, once you get past the choppy first section, a very interesting read. These authors have written another book about probability that I am going to check out.
  walterqchocobo | Apr 8, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This work is full of fascinating little tidbits from a great expanse of information related to the many types of errors that humans commonly make--judgment, memory, biases, and so on. The Kaplans are clearly nothing if not intelligent and chock-full of insight on this topic. Their book overlaps into so many areas of human experience that it is a great starting point for many good discussions. That said, attempting to cover, at least in representative pockets, the gamut of common human errors is perhaps this work's greatest flaw. Frankly, it's an overly ambitious goal, and while hte authors admit to not being exhaustive, there is enough material in the book that it perhaps would have to double in size or take on a few more volumes for a few components of the discussion to be thorough enough to warrant teasing the reader with in the first place. A couple of other books are made on topics that seem to be covered in a quick glance (for instance, The Tipping Point, Freakonomics, Black Swan, The Drunkard's Walk, Predictably Irrational, and so-on, along with a healthy troupe of other pop-economics/psychology/science/philosophy/ethics/business books). The problem becomes that a few topics are given inadequate grounding or have to be explained in half sentence without much analysis. There were even a handful of topics which seemed to be alluded to only as a slight joke or through the use of some unexplained key term. While I was keen enough to pick up on a number of these, I do wonder how many explanations would have been better filled-out if I had recognized the clandestine shibboleth thrown into a sentence. On the plus side, these kinds of clues are a bit of fun and speak to the authors' acuity and respect for the reader's keenness as well, but on the negative side hints like these often only fully explain things to readers who already comprehend them. More troublesome, though, was the book's organization issues. Again perhaps largely because of the ridiculous scope of the topic, it strikes me that effective and coherent organization of a work like this could be very difficult, and I think the final product of Bozo Sapiens verifies this to a fair degree. Especially near the beginning, there appears to be little logic to the system of organization. The book is divided into chapters and little subsections that perhaps bear some loose categorical resemblance to the main chapter (the middle of the work is a bit more coherent in this regard), but really I found it as easy to read a few of these subsections at random--as if they were little news blurbs--as I found it to read the book through. True, these little subsections are interesting and insightful in their own regard and generally speaking independent of each other, making them quite useful. However, their independence from each other contributes to a disorienting sense while reading the book through from beginning to end.

To make a long review short: the information is primarily valuable for being insightful, and potentially problematic for being not discussed thoroughly enough (due to the ambitious scope), and the organization could use a fine-tuning still. Still, a worthwhile read for the insight it provides if one approaches it more like a potpourri of knowledge about error rather than a book making a point or to be studied as a text (or a guide/handbook as the authors seem to want to make it). ( )
  jxn | Jan 19, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Are humans hardwired to act stupid? Has evolution created humans that behave irrationally in the modern context? Bozo Sapiens suggests that the answer is yes and provides abundant and interesting examples to back up the claim.

The book begins, "People--other people that is, makes such stupid easily avoided mistakes and never seem to learn from them." The book is a veritable catalog of human errors based in our stone age hardwiring. We misjudge risk, make unwarranted assumptions about others and foolishly gamble hard earned cash on lottery tickets when the odds are so clearly stacked against us.

Are homo sapiens all bozos? To err is human, it is true. We are touchingly vulnerable to impulsive purchases based on "sale" prices, transparently impossible political appeals and attractive members of the opposite sex. We are often self-deluded and hopeful when we should be wary. This provides us with our most comedic and tragic cultural narratives from the Odyssey to the present. Indeed, this is why we go to the theater and enjoy songs about lost love and hard luck. And yet, calling us all bozos seems to be a cheap shot. A good look at the human condition calls for compassion and understanding and in this Bozo Sapiens fails.

This is a highly readable account of the pleistocene brain meeting the modern world with a lot of good stories thrown in. I'd recommend it for the curious, casual reader. For more meaty treatments of the subject, I recommend Joseph LeDoux's "Emotional Brain" and Matthew Ridley's recent "The Rational Optimist." ( )
  etsmith | Dec 27, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kaplan, Michaelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kaplan, Ellenmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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To both our families,
who forgive us our errors
and make none themselves.
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Truth has an uncorrupted kingly bloodline; yet our world seems peopled with Error's bastards.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Our species, it appears, is hardwired to get things wrong in myriad different ways. Why did recipients of a loan offer accept a higher rate of interest when a pretty woman's face was printed on the flyer? Why did one poll on immigration find that the most despised foreigners were ones from a group that did not exist? What made four ace pilots fly their planes, in formation, straight into the ground? Why does giving someone power make him more likely to chew with his mouth open and pick his nose? And why is your sister going out with that biker dude?

In fact, our cognitive, logical and romantic failures may be a fair price to pay for out extraordinary success as a species--they are the necessary cost of our adaptability. Bozo Sapiens swoops effortlessly across neurochemistry, behavioral economics, evolutionary biology, and other disciplines, to answer, with both clarity and wit, the questions above--and larger ones about what it means to be human. [jacket]
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A survey of the science of mistakes reveals how the human race is hard-wired to get things wrong, citing such examples as successful racy advertisements for inferior products and the socially unacceptable behaviors of leaders.

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