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Everything Is Obvious: Why Common Sense Is Nonsense

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Overview

'A fascinating book that ranges through psychology, economics, marketing and the science of networks' Wall Street Journal

Sociologist Duncan Watts explains in this provocative book that the explanations we give for the outcomes that we observe in life - explanations that seem obvious once we know the answer - are less useful than they seem. Watts shows how commonsense reasoning and history conspire to, mislead us into thinking that we understand more about the world of human behaviour than we do; and in turn, why...

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Everything Is Obvious: Once You Know the Answer

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Overview

'A fascinating book that ranges through psychology, economics, marketing and the science of networks' Wall Street Journal

Sociologist Duncan Watts explains in this provocative book that the explanations we give for the outcomes that we observe in life - explanations that seem obvious once we know the answer - are less useful than they seem. Watts shows how commonsense reasoning and history conspire to, mislead us into thinking that we understand more about the world of human behaviour than we do; and in turn, why attempts to predict, manage, or manipulate social and economic systems so often go awry.

Only by understanding how and when common sense fails can we improve how we plan for the future, as well as understand the present - an argument that has important implications in politics, business, marketing, and even everyday life.

'Penetrating and engaging… Common sense is a kind of bespoke make-believe, and we can no more use it to scientifically explain the workings of the social world than we can use a hammer to understand mollusks… It's this sort of study, not common sense, that will shed bright light on human affairs.' New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781848872165
  • Publisher: Atlantic
  • Publication date: 3/28/2012

Table of Contents

Preface A Sociologist's Apology ix

Part I Common Sense 1

Chapter 1 The Myth of Common Sense 3

Chapter 2 Thinking About Thinking 30

Chapter 3 The Wisdom (and Madness) of Crowds 54

Chapter 4 Special People 82

Chapter 5 History, The Fickle Teacher 108

Chapter 6 The Dream of Prediction 135

Part II Uncommon Sense 159

Chapter 7 The Best-Laid Plans 161

Chapter 8 The Measure of All Things 187

Chapter 9 Fairness and Justice 214

Chapter 10 The Proper Study of Mankind 246

Acknowledgments 267

Bibliography 271

Notes 295

Index 325

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 8, 2012

    My disappointment in this book stems from two sources: First, I have read several books lately that, for me, treat this fascinating subject much more thoroughly.* Second, I ran into a real problem on page 24 when the author, who ¿...holds a PhD in th

    My disappointment in this book stems from two sources: First, I have read several books lately that, for me, treat this fascinating subject much more thoroughly.* Second, I ran into a real problem on page 24 when the author, who “...holds a PhD in theoretical and applied mechanics...” gives his readers examples of physical world phenomena that “defy commonsense reasoning.” I get the one about bullets and gravity. Why, though, would he throw out the worn old urban myth that toilets behave differently in the northern and southern hemispheres? Water would behave according to the myth if the toilets were really, really large. Dr Watts surely possesses the rather simple math and understanding of the coriolis effect to have worked this out. This all-to-casual construction of examples and facts pervades and weakens what could have been a much better book. *I would highly recomment Michael Shermer’s The Believing Brain, and Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Both authors understand the vital importance of careful attention to detail.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2013

    Candace

    Toodles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2013

    Danny

    Gotta shower. Brb.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2012

    Boring

    Im only on page 80 and it's not keeping me interested. I started reading another book.

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    Posted July 11, 2011

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