I was skeptical about this book at first.

The title sounds too gimmicky to me, who needs a book to teach them on how to think clearly? Aren’t we human have the best cognition and conscience amongst any living-being? So I didn’t bothered at all to check this on book every time I stepped at bookstores, even though it could be easily spotted sitting confidently on the best-seller shelf for many weeks.

Then my colleague was kind enough to offer me this book, though he didn’t finish this book himself. Out of boredom, I gave it a try and it was one of the best decision I made in 2015.

the art of thinking clearly

It’s an easy-bite psychology book

There are 99 most common cognitive bias that Rolf Dobelli tried to cover. Each fallacy topic has 3-4 pages slot, certainly not enough if you’re looking for a well-researched analysis but this way makes it extremely readable even for anyone who doesn’t like to read.

Perhaps ‘A compilation of thinking errors you need to know‘ is an appropriate tagline for this book.

Though it doesn’t emphasize much on why, I learned many interesting fallacious thought-patterns we probably have encountered and repeated throughout our life such as:

Swimmer’s Body Illusion

I think this bias was first coined by Nassim Taleb which elude an illusion we think of a good swimmer; a professional swimmer may not have a perfect body because he is trained extensively but rather he is a good swimmer because of his physiques.

Dobelli also throws a very good starting question: We all know how prestigious Harvard university is and many of its graduates become successful in their field. But does that indicate Harvard is a good school? Or maybe…Harvard is considered the best because it is very selective and recruits only the brightest students around? You know, the A-type students who more likely to success anyway.

Not everybody can be Phelps, you know.

Effort Justification

Or more popularly known as Ikea Effect. Those furnitures you assembled yourself feel more valuable than any other designer’s piece, why? Because when we put a lot of energy into a task, we tend to overvalue the result. You can put this perspective in romance too, the girl/guy you’ve been chasing for years may not actually be better than the other who might say yes straight away, you may have mistaken the effort with the subject (outcome).

The Problem With Average

In any data report, we can easily spot the word ‘average’; how many download does an average iphone app gets? How many visits does an average Buzzfeed article get? We can of course calculate the answers butbe wary of the underlying distribution

Suppose you want to find the median average salary of South East Asia country political leaders in usd. Let’s say you get USD X amount as the result, now try to re-count the average without Lee Hsien Loong’s salaryand see how totally different the aftermath can be. That’s right, when an extreme factor dominate the distribution, the ‘average’ concept is senseless.

This average problem has been a royalty issue for streaming services like Spotify for these past years. Just keep in mind, average or median doesn’t always mean the fairest method.

Either you love it or you hate it

Seems like there are two opposite sides for this book, either you praise it or loathe it. Even worse, I’ve read many reviewers mentioned that this book steals many ideas from Nassim Taleb. Though to be fair, Dobelli did mentioned Taleb and his experiences in this book many times as references.

So to align the expectation, if you’re an avid psychology reader who like to know deeper experiment studies then perhaps Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, or Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow are more suitable for your taste.

But if you don’t have the time nor the interest, do give this book a try. I highly recommend The Art Of Thinking Clearly to everyone.

Further reading:

The Art Of Thinking Clearly: Goodreads review

Does Harvard Make You Smarter?