The Intelligence Trap Book Summary - The Intelligence Trap Book explained in key points
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The Intelligence Trap summary

David Robson

Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes

3.7 (217 ratings)
9 mins
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    The Intelligence Trap
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    The trap

    On June 17, 1922, on the beaches of New Jersey’s Atlantic City, a seemingly supernatural occurrence tested the friendship of magician Harry Houdini and author Arthur Conan Doyle.

    Jean, Doyle’s wife, was a fervent believer in spiritualism, and she hoped to contact Houdini’s deceased mother through a séance. Though Houdini was a skeptic, he was still open-minded enough to agree to the séance. During the session, Doyle was entranced by his wife’s seeming possession: the way she furiously beat the table and scribbled across sheets of paper. Houdini, however, was less than impressed and pointed out several inconsistencies. Why had his “mother” professed to be a Christian when she was actually Jewish? And how was his mother able to write in perfect English, even though she’d never learned the language?

    This episode illustrates the concept of dysrationalia, which describes how even highly intelligent individuals can fall prey to irrational beliefs. Dysrationalia is evident in Doyle’s unwavering belief in spiritualism, despite his logical prowess as the creator of super-rational Sherlock Holmes. 

    Dysrationalia may explain smart people’s susceptibility to paranormal beliefs and conspiracy theories. These tendencies are usually fairly innocuous. However, dysrationalia can become dangerous when people use their intelligence to justify pre-existing beliefs while ignoring objective truth. Additionally, intelligent people often have a slightly larger “bias blind spot” than less-gifted people. That is, they’re aware of their cognitive abilities and believe themselves to be unbiased –⁠ which can lead them to justify prejudiced opinions or rationalize toxic relationships. 

    Dysrationalia may also be behind polarization on political issues. Intelligent people on both sides use their knowledge to marshal evidence for their positions, rather than weighing it objectively. Intellectual pride and identity further entrench biases. As such, intelligence and expertise don’t guarantee wise judgment and action. 

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    What is The Intelligence Trap about?

    The Intelligence Trap (2019) presents a compelling argument that high intelligence does not always equate to good thinking. In fact, intelligence can lead to significant mistakes, and intelligent people can fall into the trap of simplistic reasoning. As a solution, it offers strategies to cultivate wisdom and make better decisions, stressing the importance of intellectual humility, critical thinking, and the ability to learn from mistakes. 

    The Intelligence Trap Review

    The Intelligence Trap (2019) by David Robson is a thought-provoking exploration of the ways in which intelligence can sometimes lead us astray. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers insightful revelations about the limitations of intelligence, challenging commonly-held beliefs about the relationship between smartness and success.
    • Through a compelling collection of case studies and scientific research, it presents a compelling argument that emotional intelligence and self-awareness are just as important as raw cognitive abilities.
    • The book’s accessible writing style and relatable anecdotes ensure that even readers who are not experts in the field can easily engage with the fascinating concepts and ideas presented.

    Who should read The Intelligence Trap?

    • Educators and academics
    • Students and lifelong learners
    • Anyone interested in self-improvement

    About the Author

    David Robson is a distinguished science writer and journalist. He spent five years as a features editor at New Scientist, was a senior journalist at BBC Future, and has had his work featured in the Guardian, the Atlantic, and many other publications. He has received awards for his writing on misinformation and risk communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his book The Expectation Effect won a British Psychological Society Book Award. 

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    The Intelligence Trap FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Intelligence Trap?

    The main message of The Intelligence Trap is that intelligence does not guarantee success, and can even lead to costly mistakes.

    How long does it take to read The Intelligence Trap?

    The reading time for The Intelligence Trap varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Intelligence Trap a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Intelligence Trap is a thought-provoking read. It explores the pitfalls of intelligence and offers insights for personal growth and decision-making.

    Who is the author of The Intelligence Trap?

    The author of The Intelligence Trap is David Robson.

    What to read after The Intelligence Trap?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Intelligence Trap, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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