You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself

David McRaney, Author
David McRaney. Gotham, $22.50 (302p) ISBN 978-1-592-40659-3
Reviewed on: 09/12/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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McRaney, a Hattiesburg, Miss., resident and two-time winner of the William Randolph Hearst Award, writes simplified descriptions of psychology experiments on his blog youarenotsosmart.com. He soon found success, receiving between 17,000 to 25,000 hits a day with 6,000 subscribers to the site’s RSS feed. Now McRaney’s past blog posts resurface in this collection, which he describes as “a compendium of information about self-delusion and the wonderful ways we succumb to it.” The format first presents “The Misconception” (“You are a strong individual who doesn’t conform unless forced to”) and “The Truth” (“It takes little more than an authority figure or social pressure to get you to obey, because conformity is a survival instinct”). The “Conformity” chapter describes how hoax phone calls convinced fast-food managers to strip-search employees, followed by the famous Stanley Milgram obedience experiment in which unsuspecting subjects delivered electric shocks to a screaming actor. Other brief essays cover quitting an addiction cold turkey, first impressions, behavior as a reflection of personality, blind taste tests, and self-fulfilling prophecies. In popularizing these experiments, extracted from psychology books and journals, McRaney is poised to follow in the footsteps of folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, who also mined academic publications when he popularized urban legends in a series of books. (Nov. 1)
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