The subtitle of this book could easily be “We are not Spock.” As much as we like to believe that we are rational free-thinking individuals, McRaney tells us that we are not. I found a lot of the material familiar, but liked this book because of the way it is organized. Unlike most books about human psychology, the chapters are short and snappy. McRaney shares the results of numerous studies anecdotally, adding to the books readability.
So why are we not so smart? Our memories are lousy, we’re controlled by our emotions, we believe a lot of stuff that isn’t true. We think everyone is paying attention to us, we cheat if we can get away with it, we conform.
In the “The Just-World Heuristic” chapter, McRaney reminds us that most people believe that things happen for a reason, that people get what they deserve. If a woman dresses provocatively, get’s drunk, gets raped, people often blame the victim. McRaney explains that you tend to blame the victim, “not because you are a terrible person but because you want to believe you are smart enough to avoid the same fate. You inflate whatever amount of responsibility the victim may bear into something bigger, something you would never do.” Apparently this belief may be anchored in a need to predict outcomes of our own behavior or justify past decisions. (for example, I was safe walking home at night because I was sober and dressed conservatively). McRaney’s point: If we recognize that life isn’t fair, it is easier to fix responsibility where it belongs.
This book reminded me that I’m not so smart, but also that I’m not all that unique, you aren’t either.