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Quirkology

The Curious Science of Everyday Lives

By Richard Wiseman
12-minute read
Audio available
Quirkology: The Curious Science of Everyday Lives by Richard Wiseman

Quirkology (2007) takes a uniquely scientific look at some common questions that are often dismissed as trivial: What kind of impact does astrology have on our lives? Is the number 13 really unlucky? Can a joke truly be harmful? And more!

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“These blinks are fantastic! They look into academic studies of the weird and wonderful to explain many of our quirks and peculiarities. For example, did you know you can tell a liar by the way they draw a “Q”? And that black cats are nothing to be feared? These blinks are just packed with fascinating anecdotes and examples.”

– Thomas, English Editorial Lead at Blinkist

  • Readers who enjoy quirky scientific facts and experiments
  • People who like to debunk superstitions and myths
  • Anyone interested in popular psychology

Richard Wiseman is Professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He specializes in magic, astrology, deception and the paranormal. His other books include Rip It Up, The Luck Factor and 59 Seconds.

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Quirkology

The Curious Science of Everyday Lives

By Richard Wiseman
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Quirkology: The Curious Science of Everyday Lives by Richard Wiseman
Synopsis

Quirkology (2007) takes a uniquely scientific look at some common questions that are often dismissed as trivial: What kind of impact does astrology have on our lives? Is the number 13 really unlucky? Can a joke truly be harmful? And more!

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“These blinks are fantastic! They look into academic studies of the weird and wonderful to explain many of our quirks and peculiarities. For example, did you know you can tell a liar by the way they draw a “Q”? And that black cats are nothing to be feared? These blinks are just packed with fascinating anecdotes and examples.”

– Thomas, English Editorial Lead at Blinkist

Key idea 1 of 7

Astrology doesn’t work – or, at least, not as expected.

Do you check your daily horoscope? Are the predictions always mysteriously accurate? Well, that notwithstanding, science demonstrates that astrology actually does a poor job of predicting the future.

In one experiment, the author tried to determine if astrology could help make predictions about the stock market. He asked three individuals – an astrologer, a normal investment specialist and a four-year-old girl – to pick successful financial investments.

The results spoke for themselves: the astrologer was the least successful, losing 10.1 percent of the money he invested. The regular financial expert did only slightly better, losing 7.1 percent. And, surprisingly, the four-year-old girl, who invested at random, fared the best, losing only 4.6 percent.

Furthermore, when the participants were asked to make a second round of investments, the child made a profit of 5.8 percent, while the astrologer remained at a loss of 6.2 percent.

You may be thinking: Okay, so astrology can’t predict events, but it can still tell us about who we are, right?

Actually, the stars don’t affect us. What changes our behavior is our belief in what astrology says.

For example, renowned psychologist Hans Eysenck performed a test on over 1,000 students to determine who were extroverts and who were introverts. It turned out that students with an “extrovert” astrological sign (such as Aries and Leo) scored as extroverts on the test. The same held true for students who were born under “introvert” signs, like Virgo and Scorpio.

But Eysenck suspected that the students’ knowledge of what their sign supposedly means had an influence on their answers. So he performed another test, this time with children, and the results showed that there was no relationship between personality and astrological sign.

As we can see, astrological predictions are often wrong, and even when they aren’t, this is because we tend to unconsciously change our behavior in order to make them seem right.

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