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Think Twice summary

Michael J. Mauboussin

Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition

3.8 (191 ratings)
8 mins

Brief summary

Think Twice explores the nuances of decision-making, examining how cognitive biases and social influences can lead us astray. It provides practical advice for making better choices and improving our decision-making abilities.

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    Think Twice
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    Failsafe or flop? Adjust your perspective to avoid errors.

    In horse racing, winning the Triple Crown is considered a monumental achievement. A horse must win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in the same year – a feat that’s been accomplished only 13 times. In 2008, horse trainer Rick Dutrow was certain his horse, Big Brown, would capture the Triple Crown. After decisive victories in the first two races, Big Brown looked unstoppable. Shockingly, not only did Big Brown lose the Belmont, he finished dead last – something no prior Triple Crown contender had ever done. 

    The oddsmakers that had Big Brown picked as a 3 to 10 favorite made a critical error in judgment: they failed to properly consider the context of how previous Triple Crown hopefuls had performed. Analyzing past data reveals a sobering fact – only about 40 percent of horses who’ve won the first two Triple Crown races go on to win the third. The oddsmakers discounted this broader statistical reality. They also ignored Big Brown's mediocre Beyer Speed Figure, a metric that measures a horse's performance. Essentially, the oddsmakers relied on an inside view of the situation.

    The inside view focuses on readily available, case-specific details – in this instance, Big Brown's previous wins and apparent good health and conditioning. The alternative is taking an outside view – considering relevant statistics, comparable scenarios, and broader context to inform decisions. Unlike the inside perspective, the outside view provides a reality check on biases and assumptions.

    Humans naturally gravitate toward an inside view. We tend to be overly optimistic in our predictions. The vast majority of people rate themselves as above average on positive traits, for example. We also overestimate our ability to control outcomes. Just watch any home renovation show – despite tight budgets and deadlines, projects invariably go over time and cost. Or consider the constant corporate appetite for mergers and acquisitions, despite research showing most fail to improve profitability. 

    Once you’re aware of inside versus outside view dynamics, you see it everywhere. Integrating more outside view thinking is imperative for good judgment, so here are some steps that’ll help you become a less biased thinker.

    First, identify an appropriate reference class based on your situation. Next, analyze the distribution of outcomes within that reference class. Then make a prediction informed by that distribution. Finally, adjust your prediction as you gather more case-specific feedback.

    The inside view feels natural, and avoiding its pitfalls takes conscious effort. But by deliberately adopting an outside view, you’ll counteract biases and provide perspective – and see your decisions steadily improve.

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    What is Think Twice about?

    Think Twice (2012) examines the hidden cognitive biases and mental shortcuts that routinely impair our judgment. It also provides concrete steps to counteract ingrained thinking and adopt a clear-eyed approach to making choices.

    Think Twice Review

    Think Twice (2009) by Michael J. Mauboussin offers a fresh perspective on decision making and the art of critical thinking. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with insightful strategies and practical examples, it equips readers with the tools needed to make better decisions in all aspects of life.
    • Through engaging case studies and thought-provoking anecdotes, the book delves into the psychology behind our decision making, making it fascinating and relevant.
    • With its emphasis on cognitive biases and the flaws in our thinking, it challenges conventional wisdom and encourages readers to think twice before making important choices.

    Who should read Think Twice?

    • Investors looking to avoid costly cognitive biases
    • Professionals who want to improve their decision-making
    • Students of psychology, economics, and human behavior

    About the Author

    Michael J. Mauboussin is an author and investment strategist. He’s known for his research on behavioral finance and expert insights into investor psychology.

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    Think Twice FAQs 

    What is the main message of Think Twice?

    Think Twice explores the power of thinking critically and making better decisions.

    How long does it take to read Think Twice?

    Reading time for Think Twice varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Think Twice a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Think Twice offers valuable insights into decision-making. It's worth a read for anyone looking to improve their critical thinking skills.

    Who is the author of Think Twice?

    Michael J. Mauboussin is the author of Think Twice.

    What to read after Think Twice?

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