Think Like a Freak

Think Like a Freak

Think Like a Freak

Think Like a Freak


    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Monday, March 4
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came SuperFreakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more.

Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.

Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.

Some of the steps toward thinking like a Freak:

  • First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.
  • Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.
  • Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.
  • Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world.
  • Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
  • Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.

Levitt and Dubner plainly see the world like no one else. Now you can too. Never before have such iconoclastic thinkers been so revealing—and so much fun to read.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062218339
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/12/2014
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Steven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given to the most influential American economist under forty. He is also a founder of The Greatest Good, which applies Freakonomics-style thinking to business and philanthropy.

Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning journalist and radio and TV personality, has worked for the New York Times and published three non-Freakonomics books. He is the host of Freakonomics Radio and Tell Me Something I Don't Know.

Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He quit his first career—as an almost rock star—to become a writer. He has since taught English at Columbia, worked for The New York Times, and published three non-Freakonomics books.

Table of Contents

1 What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak? 1

An endless supply of fascinating questions

The pros and cons of breast-feeding, fracking, and virtual currencies

There is no magic Freakonomics tool

Easy problems evaporate; it is hard ones that linger

How to win the World Cup

Private benefits vs. the greater good

Thinking with a different set of muscles

Are married people happy or do happy people marry?

Get famous by thinking just once or twice a week

Our disastrous meeting with the future prime minister

2 The Three Hardest Words in the English Language 20

Why is "I don't know" so hard to say?

Sure, kids make up answers but why do we?

Who believes in the devil?

And who believes 9/11 was an inside job?

"Entrepreneurs of error"

Why measuring cause-and-effect is so hard

The folly of prediction

Are your predictions better than a dart-throwing chimp?

The Internet's economic impact will be "no greater than the fax machine's"


The cost of pretending to know more than you do

How should bad predictions be punished?

The Romanian witch hunt

The first step in solving problems: put away your moral compass

Why suicide rises with quality of life-and how little we know about suicide

Feedback is the key to all learning

How bad were the first loaves of bread?

Don't leave experimentation to the scientists

Does more expensive wine taste better?

3 What's Your Problem? 54

If you ask the wrong question, you'll surely get the wrong answer

What does "school reform" really mean?

Why do American kids know less than kids from Estonia?

Maybe it's the parent's fault!

The amazing true story of Takeru Kobayashi, hot-dog-eating champion

Fifty hot dogs in twelve minutes!

So how did he do it?

And why was he so much better than everyone else?

"To eat quickly is not very good manners"

The Solomon Method

Endless experimentation in pursuit of excellence


How to redefine the problem you are trying to solve

The brain is the critical organ

How to ignore artificial barriers

Can you do 20 push-ups?

4 Like a Bad Dye Job, the Truth Is in the Roots 73

A bucket of cash will not cure poverty and a plane-load of food will not cur famine

How to find the root cause of a problem

Revisiting the abortion-crime link

What does Martin Luther have to do with the German economy?

How the "Scramble for Africa" created lasting strife

Why did slave traders lick the skin of the slaves they bought?

Medicine vs. folklore

Consider the ulcer

The first blockbuster drugs

Why did the young doctor swallow a batch of dangerous bacteria?

Talk about gastric upset!

The universe that lives in our gut

The power of poop

5 Think Like a Child 98

How to have good ideas

The power of thinking small

Smarter kids at $15 a pop

Don't be afraid of the obvious

1.6 million of anything is a lot

Don't be seduced by complexity

What to look for in a junkyard

The human body is just a machine

Freaks just want to have fun

It is hard to get good at something you don't like

Is a "no-lose lottery" that answer to our low savings rate?

Gambling meets charity

Why kids figure out magic tricks better than adults

"You'd think scientists would be hard to dupe"

How to smuggle childlike instincts across the adult border

6 Like Giving Candy to a Bady 119

It's the incentives, stupid!

A girl, a bag of candy, and a toilet

What financial incentives can and can't do

The giant milk necklace

Cash for grades

With financial incentives, size matters

How to determine someone's true incentives

Riding the herd mentality

Why are moral incentives so weak?

Let's steal some petrified wood!

One of the most radical ideas in the history of philanthropy

"The most dysfunctional $300 billion industry in the world"

A one-night stand for charitable donors

How to change the frame of a relationship

Ping-Pong diplomacy and selling shoes

"You guys are just the best!"

The customer is a human wallet

When incentives backfire

The "cobra effect"

Why treating people with decency is a good idea

7 What Do King Solomon and David Lee Roth Have in Common? 155

A pair of nice, Jewish, game-theory-loving boys

"Fetch me a sword!"

What the brown M&M's were really about

Teach your garden to weed itself

Did medieval "ordeals" of boiling water really work?

You too can play God once in a while

Why are college applications so much longer than job applications?

Zappos and "The Offer"

The secret bullet factory's warm-beer alarm

Why do Nigerian scammers say they are from Nigeria?

The cost of false alarms and other false positives

Will all the gullible people please come forward?

How to trick a terrorist into letting you know he's a terrorist

8 How to Persuade People Who Don't Want to Be Persuaded 188

First, understand how hard this will be

Why are better-educated people more extremist?

Logic and fact are no match for ideology

The consumer has the only vote that counts

Don't pretend your argument is perfact

How many lives would a driverless car save?

Keep the insults to yourself

Why you should tell stories

Is eating fat really so bad?

The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure

What is the Bible "about?"

The Ten Commandments versus The Brady Bunch

9 The Upside of Quitting 213

Winston Churchill was right-and wrong

The sunk-cost fallacy and opportunity cost

You can't solve tomorrow's problem if you won't abandon today's dud

Celebrating failure with a party and cake

Why the flagship Chinese store did not open on time

Were the Challenger's O-rings bound to fail?

Learn how you might fail without going to the trouble of failing

The $1 million question: "when to struggle and when to quit"

Would you let a coin toss decide your future?

"Should I quit the Mormon faith"

Growing a beard will not make you happy

But ditching your girlfriend might

Why Dubner and Levitt are so fond of quitting

This whole book was about "letting go"

And now it's your turn

Acknowledgments 239

Notes 241

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews