The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone

Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach. Riverhead, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-399-18435-2
Sloman, a professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences, and Fernbach, a cognitive scientist and professor of marketing, attempt nothing less than a takedown of widely held beliefs about intelligence and knowledge, namely the role of an individual’s brain as the main center for knowledge. Using a mixture of stories and science from an array of disciplines, the authors present a compelling and entertaining examination of the gap between knowledge one thinks one has and the amount of knowledge actually held in the brain, seeking to “explain how human thinking can be so shallow and so powerful at the same time.” The book starts with revelatory scholarly insights into the relationship between knowledge and the brain, finding that humans “are largely unaware of how little we understand.” Sloman and Fernbach then take the reader through numerous real-life applications of their findings, such as the implications for non-experts’ understanding of science, politics, and personal finances. In an increasingly polarized culture where certainty reigns supreme, a book advocating intellectual humility and recognition of the limits of understanding feels both revolutionary and necessary. The fact that it’s a fun and engaging page-turner is a bonus benefit for the reader. Agent: Christy Fletcher, Fletcher and Co. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2016
Release date: 03/14/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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