For those inclined to engage, a useful handbook for dealing with the pizza-and-pedophilia devotee of the family.

The well-known psychologist and behavioral economist explores the rabbit holes that lead to conspiracy theories and other brands of irrational thought.

Duke psychology professor Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, Payoff, and other books, begins by chronicling how he was accused of being a shill for big pharma and the “Deep State” for supporting Covid-19 vaccination. Why him? The conspiratorial echo chamber, he notes, searches high and low for heretics, aided by “technology, politics, [and] economics.” The technology is beyond individual control, the politics and economics thorny, and the battle against what Ariely characterizes as misbelief, “a distorted lens through which people begin to view the world,” is endless. Too many people are not just suckers for misinformation; they go out of their way to perpetuate it. As Ariely explains, it’s easy for a person to become ostracized by peers and family for believing that the Illuminati or lizard people control the Earth and, once ostracized, to double down, feeling persecuted and isolated, in a kind of rolling martyr complex. It’s difficult to reason with someone battered by precarity, stress, and loneliness—and if nothing else, holding outlandish ideas will earn people a place in a community thanks to, yes, technology. Still, the author urges us to try the best we can. “Providing reassurance to someone in stressful circumstances can make a big difference,” he writes, and introducing talking points designed to increase “intellectual humility,” or the ability to admit that it’s possible that one is wrong, may help, too. Empathetic but not overly soft, Ariely counsels readers to try to understand why ostracism won’t do the trick, why social roles help drive extreme emotions and polarization, and why dealing with the “funnel of misbelief” is a proposition both staggeringly challenging and wholly necessary.

For those inclined to engage, a useful handbook for dealing with the pizza-and-pedophilia devotee of the family.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780063280427

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023



Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Close Quickview