I don’t know about you, but as smart as I think I am, I can make some really dumb decisions. Aside from that, like millions of other people, I have an anxiety disorder, which can make decision making much more difficult.
Over the last year, I’ve been trying to read more books on decision making as well as books to just help break down different biases. Something I learned during my own mental health journey is that my thoughts are not facts; they’re just opinions. Sometimes these thoughts and biases can get us into trouble, but these books are a great way to help us all become better thinkers.
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I learned about Shane Parrish and this book when I was in a really bad head space after being attacked by an internet mob. It came at the perfect time because I was making so many decisions based on emotions that were just making my situation worse. This was the first book I read on decision making, and it really got me into the genre. The Great Mental Models is a shorter book, but it packs in a ton of value and taught me the importance of Hanlon’s Razor, which helps me be much more empathetic towards others.
“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”-Hanlon’s Razor
Annie Duke is one of the best poker players in the world, and that made me more interested because I used to love playing poker. Aside from winning multiple championships, she teaches seminars on how to make better decisions. I loved this book because she loves psychology and behavioral economics as much as I do. Most books help teach you why other people are so irrational and make bad decisions, but this book really has you look in the mirror. Once you realize how your mind leads you towards irrational decisions, you can then work towards making smarter choices; even when you don’t have all the facts.
I slept on the authors’ best-selling book Freakonomics for way too long. Once I read it, I was obsessed with these others. I just loved the way they think and tackle situations from different angles to get closer to the truth. Before I jumped into their other books, I came across Think Like a Freak, which is an entire book dedicated to becoming a better thinker. Levitt and Dubner have proven time and time again that causes and effects aren’t always what they seem, and this book teaches you how to discover the truth about what’s going on in your own life and how to make smarter decisions.
Although we hardly ever admit it, most of us have this idea that we’re the smartest person in the room. But what happens when you put a bunch of smart people in the room? Dumb things happen. Sloman and Fernbach start the book with a variety of examples of how groups of smart people made really dumb decisions. This book dives into how our thoughts are sometimes influenced by others as well as how we’re more ignorant than we think. Not only is this book humbling, but it has some great tools to help us overcome our ignorance before making big decisions.
I will recommend this book until the day I die and will put it on as many reading lists as possible. Jonathan Haidt is one of the greatest moral psychologists and philosophers of our time. So many of us get into these standoff arguments with people that make us extremely angry and frustrated. I realized that most of these arguments are ones over morality. We forget that morality is subjective and based on so many different factors. Haidt helps us broaden our minds and empathize with others who were raised differently than us, from different parts of the country, and think differently than ourselves. Once we can understand where the other person is coming from, we can think better and have more productive conversations.
Ever since I fell in love with philosophy, I’ve become more frustrated that people have arguments rather than conversations when they have different points of view. In this book, Boghossian coins the term “street epistemologist”, which is based on the old philosophy practice of epistemology; trying to understand how we know what we know. By reading this book, you’ll learn how to have difficult conversations about politics, religion, and other hot-button issues without coming off like a jerk. I’ve used the techniques in this book, and it’s crazy how effective they are. It’s like a Jedi mind trick, and all you have to do is restructure how you form your sentences a little while coming from a place of trying to understand instead of pushing your ideas on the other person.
This instantly become one of my favorite books as soon as I started reading it. I just recently finished it, and I already want to read it again. Tavros and Aronson start the book by presenting the argument of dissonance theory. If you’ve ever looked at someone and wondered how they could justify their completely irrational actions or views, you need this book. I feel that if you want the most out of this book, you really need to pay attention to how often your cognitive dissonance gets the best of you as well.
Most of the books I listed here reference the work of Philip Tetlock. Tetlock is known for one of the longest studies on the accuracy of pundits and other prediction experts that spanned over 20 years. Through his research, he found that most “experts” are no better at predicting events than a “monkey throwing a dart”. Philip Tetlock starts the book explaining how that whole monkey thing is an analogy that people ran with, so he wrote this book about his team of “super forecasters”. This book lost me a few times with some global political matters, but it still does a great job explaining how to make better predictions in your own life.
If you love learning and reading non-fiction as much as I do, I highly suggest you check out some of these books. Not only will they help you become a better thinker and decision-maker, but they help with not taking everything you read at face value. I’ve found myself questioning authors more, but in a good way to get my own wheels turning, and I also do additional research to learn even more.
And if you have any book suggestions in this realm, I’d love to hear them.
If you need help with your mental health, I highly recommend the service I use, BetterHelp. They’re an affordable online therapy service, and by using this affiliate link, you help support The Rewired Soul.