Thinking 101 Book Summary - Thinking 101 Book explained in key points
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Thinking 101 summary

Woo-kyoung Ahn

How to Reason Better to Live Better

4.4 (422 ratings)
16 mins
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    Thinking 101
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    Our minds overestimate our abilities to do things that seem easy.

    Have you ever watched a YouTube video for a recipe, makeup tutorial, or home repair that seemed simple until you tried it and had to file it away as a failure? Woo-kyoung Ahn runs a similar experiment with her students: They watch a six-second dance routine eleven times plus a slower instructional video. Then, they can volunteer to do the dance with the promise of prizes for doing it successfully. There’s no shortage of volunteer dancers, yet no one nails it.

    Why? Because fluency, meaning how easily our brains process new information, can fuel overconfidence, decision-making, and outcomes.

    While fluency informs metacognition – which is the critical process by which we judge situations to determine the next steps – we can’t rely on it entirely to ensure good outcomes.

    Thankfully, there’s a pretty simple way to overcome the fluency effect: you can practice new things, like rehearsing a speech or interview responses. Of course, there are situations when you don’t get a trial run, like tackling a home renovation project. In those cases, you can plan, but you should be aware that studies show people also tend to be overly confident and optimistic about planning. To counter that, add padding to your initial estimate of what it will take to accomplish your goal, whether that’s time, money, effort, or a combination. The author recommends adding 50 percent to your initial estimate. So for example, if you think you can meet a deadline in two days, tell your boss to expect it in three.

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    What is Thinking 101 about?

    Thinking 101 (2022) asserts that by understanding and overcoming thinking biases, we can better solve or even avoid most problems, from everyday conflicts to larger societal issues. 

    Who should read Thinking 101?

    • Problem solvers interested in thinking differently
    • People who want to understand the actions and motivations of others
    • Students or other academics interested in cognitive psychology

    About the Author

    Author Woo-kyoung Ahn is the John Hale Whitney Professor of Psychology at Yale University, where she created and teaches a course called Thinking, It’s one of the university’s most popular undergraduate classes.

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