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One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Wright's "Moral Animal:" "...human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their ignorance of the misuse." Although this book is not about the morality of our decision-making, it is completely about how we delude ourselves about ourselves, our situations, and others.

Borrowing heavily from Carl Sagan, Michael Shermer, Skeptic Magazine, and Skeptic Inquirer, Kida starts off with standard issue debunking of pseudoscience. Soon he zeroes in and concentrates on the faulty ways we reach assessments. These methods worked quite well in our small tribe hunting-gathering days, but nowadays we could do better.

At the risk of losing half the readers of this review, I'll spill the beans. Kida believes in statistics, whereas people evolved to believe in anecdotes. People confidently rely on intuition, then remember the hits and ignore the misses. People seek to confirm what they already believe and gloss over contradictory evidence. People rarely consider the role of chance and coincidence, preferring to give credit to metaphysical causes. People consistently misinterpret events to bolster their deluded self-images. People oversimplify complex situations, tending to shun the gray areas for black or white assessments. Finally, our memories are the pits - remolding and enhancing the original memory more and more as time goes by.

For the above data, Kida has documentation galore, but in the face of volumes of evidence, we continue to do more of the same. After blasting our anecdotal way of proving our theories, Kida uses his own anecdotes, saying "we evolved to love learning from stories." The difference is, the stories he tells survive sophisticated statistical analysis of the data.

There are fascinating stories on every page of this book, with conclusions that will bowl you over if you're not used to this kind of analysis - but it's so true to life. Every day, I hear people justifying their decisions on the basis of someone else's single experience, their own biased conclusion based on erroneous information, a TV show, a hot tip, or other bad data. Every day, I hear stories told that have been enhanced. Confrontations usually don't turn out quite as well as what is later reported to spellbound listeners.

I wish all high schools and colleges would offer a required course on critical thinking - for that group that really would like to take a more scientific approach, but didn't know it existed. Prepare to be blown away - this is a great book!