Everything is Obvious Book Summary - Everything is Obvious Book explained in key points

Everything is Obvious summary

Duncan J. Watts

How Common Sense Fails Us

4.1 (18 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Everything is Obvious by Duncan J. Watts is a thought-provoking book that challenges our assumptions about how we understand the world. Through compelling stories and research, it shows how common sense can often lead us astray and offers insights that can help us make better decisions.

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    Everything is Obvious
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    What we consider to be “common sense” varies strongly across societies.

    How do you know that you shouldn't hop onto the subway if you’re not wearing pants? Or that you shouldn’t cheat someone out of their money? The answer is common sense, i.e., a set of shared beliefs that we gather during our everyday lives.

    Common sense can define everything from knowing which side of the escalator to stand on to treating people fairly.

    Interestingly, however, what some of us in the West consider to be common sense does not apply in the same way in other cultures.

    For example, the way people play the ultimatum game is significantly different across cultures.

    In the ultimatum game, one player proposes a division of $100 between herself and the other player, offering the second player anything from nothing to the entire $100. The other player then chooses to either a) accept the offer so that both players get the money as proposed, or b) reject the offer, so that both players get zilch.

    Several studies have found that in Western societies players generally made a “common sense” evaluation of what a fair division should be, and proposed a 50–50 split. Offers short of $30 were usually rejected.

    However, when members of the Machiguenga tribe in Peru played the game, they tended to offer the other player only 25 percent of the total amount, and virtually no offers were rejected.

    Conversely, the Au and Gau tribes of Papua New Guinea preferred to make offers that were even better than 50–50, and yet these generous offers were rejected with the same frequency as unfair offers.

    This shows us that, although we may be unaware of this fact, common sense is not set in stone – rather, it is a product of our particular society. This distinction matters, because as we will find out when we invoke common sense to solve society’s problems, we don’t always get the results we expected.

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    What is Everything is Obvious about?

    Everything Is Obvious offers insights into the failures of the most commonly used method of explaining human behavior: common sense. By offering sound solutions to common sense reasoning, this book gives the reader the tools to better attempt to understand human behavior.

    Everything is Obvious Review

    Everything is Obvious (2011) by Duncan J. Watts explores the concept of common sense and challenges our assumptions about how we understand the world. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Unveils the unexpected consequences of relying on intuition, exposing the flaws in our everyday thinking and decision-making.
    • Presents a fresh perspective on social dynamics, explaining how networks, influence, and context shape our understanding of events and people.
    • Offers eye-opening examples from various fields, including business, politics, and sports, illustrating the complexities of social systems and how they impact outcomes.

    Who should read Everything is Obvious?

    • Anyone who wants a better approach to explaining or predicting human behavior
    • Anyone involved in policy making or business strategy

    About the Author

    Duncan J. Watts is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and well known for his work on network science. He has also authored the bestseller Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, and was formerly a professor of sociology at Columbia University.

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    Everything is Obvious FAQs 

    What is the main message of Everything is Obvious?

    The main message of Everything is Obvious is that common sense is often flawed when it comes to understanding the complexities of the world.

    How long does it take to read Everything is Obvious?

    The reading time for Everything is Obvious varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in about 15 minutes.

    Is Everything is Obvious a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Everything is Obvious is a thought-provoking book that challenges common assumptions. It's definitely worth reading for those interested in understanding the limitations of our intuitive thinking.

    Who is the author of Everything is Obvious?

    Duncan J. Watts is the author of Everything is Obvious.