HOW WE KNOW WHAT ISN'T SO
The fallibility of human reason in everyday life
by Thomas Gilovich
The Free Press, 1993
ISBN 0029117062

There are very few books of which you can say "the world would be a better place if everyone read it". This is one of them. It zeros in like a guided missile on the irrational thought processes that we all harbour, some more than others, and it does so with a wit and clarity that make it a pleasure to read. It is one of the few books that have made me examine my own belief system, and amend it. It explains, with the help of experimental results from psychologists, why we see what we expect to see, believe what we are told and misinterpret partial data.

The origins of virtually every one of the dubious stories covered in Number Watch is explained in these pages. It is all summed up by the quotation from Artemus Ward that heads the Introduction:

It ain't so much the things we know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that just ain't so.

If you have not yet read it you are in for a treat. If you have read it, perhaps it is time you read it again. It should certainly be compulsory for all scientists and media people.

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