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How We Know What Isn’t So

Thomas Gilovich (Free Press: Mar 5, 1993), 224 pages.

When can we trust what we believe – that "teams and players have winning streaks", that "flattery works", or that "the more people who agree, the more likely they are to be right" – and when are such beliefs suspect? Thomas Gilovich offers a guide to the fallacy of the obvious in everyday life. Illustrating his points with examples, and supporting them with the latest research findings, he documents the cognitive, social and motivational processes that distort our thoughts, beliefs, judgements and decisions. In a rapidly changing world, the biases and stereotypes that help us process an overload of complex information inevitably distort what we would like to believe is reality. Awareness of our propensity to make these systematic errors, Gilovich argues, is the first step to more effective analysis and action. ~ Book Description

Table of Contents

    • Acknowledgments   viii
    • 1. Introduction

    Part One: Cognitive Determinants of Questionable Beliefs

    • 2. Something Out of Nothing: The Misperception and Misinterpretation of Random Data   9
    • 3. Too Much from Too Little: The Misinterpretation of Incomplete and Unrepresentative Data   29
    • 4. Seeing What We Expect to See: The Biased Evaluation of Ambiguous and Inconsistent Data   49

    Part Two: Motivational and Social Determinants of Questionable Beliefs

    • 5. Seeing What We Want to See: Motivational Determinants of Belief   75
    • 6. Believing What We are Told: The Biasing Effects of Secondhand Information   88
    • 7. The Imagined Agreement of Others: Exaggerated Impressions of Social Support   112

    Part Three: Examples of Questionable and Erroneous Beliefs

    • 8. Belief in Ineffective “Alternative” Health Practices   125
    • 9. Belief in the Effectiveness of Questionable Interpersonal Strategies   146
    • 10. Belief in ESP   156

    Part Four: Where Do We Go from Here?

    • 11. Challenging Dubious Beliefs: The Role of Social Science   185
    • Notes   195
    • Index   214