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Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human by Michael…
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Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human

by Michael Kaplan, Ellen Kaplan

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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Done. Read it very carefully and slowly; tried hard to make sure I was understanding the authors' arguments closely. Again, it boils down to "look at all the ways humans can err, but hey, sometimes it's a good thing we do because of stuff like serendipity, and besides we might make bad errors and good decisions more frequently if we realize that there are no absolutes or guarantees and we remain flexible & ready to own up to errors."

But the book is a mess, despite the chapter introductions, notes, etc. And my cognitive abilities have been (temporarily, I hope) corrupted enough that my review will be a mess. That is, I don't have the energy to edit. Read on only if you're brave. :)

About 1/2 way through, and so far so frustrating. The Kaplans are interested in the subject, and have done a lot of research, and seem to understand science fairly well. But they can't develop a consistent & coherent argument. A string of illustrations about why "we" can't save for retirement or why "we" are duped by advertisements for name-brands does not convince me that, um, wait a minute, what exactly am I supposed to be convinced of??

(They do say they hope readers to learn to "be wrong better" by "thinking probabilistically" - well ok then. Maybe they should've been political speechwriters.)

One example of illogic: p. 3 they use Carlo Cipolla's hypothesis that "stupidity" can be explained by categorizing humans into either "the helpless, the intelligent, the bandit, and the stupid" as an axiom. Um, hello, I don't think I need remind you what it means to assume - but I guess someone should have told the Kaplans.

One example of inconsistency: The Kaplan's devote a whole chapter to the dangers of categorizing people into us v. them. And in a next chapter they illustrate "We" express disgust at eating dog meat. But people in the Philippines say it's tasty. So, does that mean that Filipinos are 'them?' And are 'they' more evolved because they can get over their primal instinct of disgust and benefit from a easily grown source of protein?

(I do wish one of these books would explore more of the differences between people. "We" is a very lazy, imprecise, and inaccurate word.)

[b:Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error|7811050|Being Wrong Adventures in the Margin of Error|Kathryn Schulz|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1275665722s/7811050.jpg|10822812] and [b:On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not|2740964|On Being Certain Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not|Robert A. Burton|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1255628630s/2740964.jpg|2766617] were awfully darn similar. Yes, ok, humans are fallible, ok, so what. Reminds me of [b:Blink|40102|Blink|Malcolm Gladwell|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1255630010s/40102.jpg|1180927] and [b:Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do|2776527|Traffic Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)|Tom Vanderbilt|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1255878139s/2776527.jpg|2802281] in the superficiality of the treatment of a fascinating field.

[b:Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions|1713426|Predictably Irrational The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions|Dan Ariely|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1255573980s/1713426.jpg|3074803] is a somewhat better (as in more scientifically coherent) book. But I'd still love to read one that's actually authentically sensible.

Let me know if you want more specific examples of the inconsistencies & over-simplifications & leaps of logic, etc. Better yet, don't waste your time or mine with any of these books and just accept that none of us have as much control over our minds as we tend to assume, and that being aware of this is a good first step to living smarter.

Received as a giveaway/first-reads whatever. Not, however, an ARC.



( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Such a good book - but it could have been much better.
The book considers the intersection of perception, evolution, social organisation and humanity. There is some of the stuff here from Daniel Kahneman and Jonathon Haidt that I previously read along with much more. I found the information from primate experiments on cooperation to be particularly interesting.

But, for once, I found the book too short. It has been edited down to pare away the explanations and commentary that help the reader grasp the significance of the issues being put forward. At times I found it was only my prior understanding of the content that allowed me to take in some of the material.

Apart from that quibble I enjoyed the lively style and the witty asides that you either got or not.
Read Jan 2015 ( )
  mbmackay | Jan 20, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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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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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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