The Wisest One in the Room

In the words of the publishers, The Wisest One In The Room by Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross, is a ‘brilliant compendium of psychological discoveries’, and a ‘users guide to living on earth’.

I can’t really argue with them – it’s so good, I now constantly reference bits of their work and re-tell some of their best stories. So whilst there’s no substitute for reading the thing yourself (go and buy it!), I’ll put down a brief review of some of the key ideas here. NB This is work in progress…

The book is in two parts, with 5 chapters on the general principles of human behaviour and 4 applying those to Happiness; Conflict; Education and Climate Change. Each principle comes with reference to experimental testing and striking stories that drive the point brilliantly home. I’ll say again, for the full installation of ideas get the book and your thinking will be properly upgraded. My biggest challenge in writing this review was to resist simply repeating the line for line, so this review can be no more than a thinking system patch.

Here are the key points:

The Objectivity Illusion

Each of us believes ours is the most realistic view of life. We take our own position as the central point, and all others are relative to that. So whether it’s driving, our experience of temperature, or even how we judge ‘left’ and ‘right’ in politics, we’re not as objective as we think we are.

Primacy of behaviour – Many of us work hard to persuade others to change their views, but attitudes often change after behaviour change. If you’re working to change behaviours, small punishments or incentives are more effective than big ones.

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