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The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
Read in 2014



 - the secrets of perfect decision-making

This small and simple book contains a collection of 99 cognitive biases, as Wikipedia states on the topic, these can lead to "inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality." Dobelli catalogues the biases he has come across and provides real-world examples to aid explanation, he also provides tips to recognise, avoid and counteract these biases. eg:

- The self-serving bias tip: Invite your enemy over for coffee and ask for an honest opinion about your strengths and weaknesses.

Each topic is given its own chapter, but these span only a few pages - ideal for an introduction to each, and to grab a bite during a busy and distracted day, but if you want a more in-depth read on anything in particular then you'll want to look elsewhere. At the end of each chapter is a list of other related biases so you can skip back and forth and branch out on a particular area of interest if you want to. This is how I read the book, rather than reading through each chapter from 1-99 - a sign, I suppose, that the small snippets were perhaps a little too brief for me.

The chapters of this book can be read in any order, or dipped into at random when you have a spare minute to absorb something (ideal when you haven't the time to absorb anything more substantial.) Some things I did notice in reading through this book quickly were that Dobelli used the "our ancestor's would have benefited from this behaviour, whereas we don't" reasoning a few times, and also quoted Mark Twain more than once!

One particular bias I was interested to find out more about after reading Dobelli's chapter, was the News Illusion. In reading about this illusion I realised I had discovered this illusion myself a few years ago, but had never come across a name for it or realised there was such a documented thing. In searching on the internet for some more insight I discovered there were some disgruntled people objecting to Dobelli's use of their work/ideas (on a number of areas of the book). I read on to find arguments and explanations from both sides. Once I had read these is was hard for me not to then automatically question or downgrade Dobelli's efforts - Dobelli does state at the beginning of the book that this collection of biases is just things he has picked up on through life and then, as I mentioned, listed them and provided real world examples. He does mention the work of others (including Nassim Taleb a number of time and his books Antifragile and The Black Swan) - but, I agree, he doesn't have dedicated section at the end to 'properly' acknowledge these or state his sources. To read that he had plagiarised the work of others does seem extreme, but when he has provided real world examples in the form of personal experiences that other's claim were never his experiences in the first place, one can't help but to paint a different picture of Dobelli's life, and also the lives of others when they use "their own life experiences" to produce a piece of non-fiction - I guess some authors either like to gloss-up their own life for the sake of it, or do so to make their book more exciting.

For a book about cognitive biases, it's own revelations seem to add reasoning to the above issue. Maybe it wasn't intentional, but cognitive biases on the authors part contributed to this outcome. Quite ironic I thought!

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