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Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing

de Jamie Holmes

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17534119,116 (3.86)10
"An illuminating look at the surprising upside of ambiguity--and how, properly harnessed, it can inspire learning, creativity, even empathy Life today feels more overwhelming and chaotic than ever. We face constant political and economic upheaval, and we're bombarded with information, much of it contradictory. Managing uncertainty--in our jobs, our relationships, and our everyday lives--is fast becoming an essential skill. What should we do when we have no idea what to do? In Nonsense, Jamie Holmes shows how we react to ambiguous situations and how we can do it better. Being confused is unpleasant, so we tend to shutter our minds as we grasp for meaning and stability, especially in stressful circumstances. We're hard-wired to resolve contradictions quickly and extinguish anomalies. But in doing so, we lose a vital opportunity to learn something new, solve a hard problem, or see the world from another perspective. Over the last few years, new insights from social psychology and cognitive science have deepened our understanding of the role of ambiguity in our lives and Holmes brings this research together for the first time, showing how we can use uncertainty to our advantage. Whether we're dealing with an unclear medical diagnosis or launching a risky new product, Nonsense promises to transform the way we conduct business, educate our children, and make decisions. In an increasingly unpredictable, complex world, it turns out that what matters most isn't IQ, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It's how we deal with what we don't understand"--… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 33 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
This pop science book looks at how humans handle ambiguity in life. We are wired to manage the huge amount of information coming at us every day and much of that information is confusing. We don't like to be confused so our minds latch on to the familiar or the expected as the most stable way through all of this information. While this may be a good survival skill, especially in stressful situations it's not always your first instinct that is the best way to go. This book has a lot of examples, from Absolute ads to hostage situations to bilingual education, to back up the theories put forward and puts forward a good argument for using the way we utilize and react to uncertainty in our lives for positive action in business, education and decision making. I received a free ARC of this book through Goodreads First Reads Giveaway's.
( )
  SteveKey | Jan 8, 2021 |
This book wasn't what I was expecting, which was how not knowing something could be powerful; if nothing else, as a spur to further learning. So what was it about? Ambiguity, I think. It's hard to say what the author's key messages was. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading about the various tricks our mind plays on us, and how uncertainty affects us. I also found it a bit repetitious. So, a mixed bag for me overall. ( )
  LynnB | Jul 16, 2020 |
Esta resenha foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Resenhistas do LibraryThing.
This book took me a year to finish. The topic is very interesting, but the writing is pretty dry. Some things covered in the book include: dissonance reduction accounting for over half of our everyday behavior, overtesting in medicine, and jigsaw puzzles as a way of embracing ambiguity. ( )
  heike6 | Mar 19, 2018 |
In a "post-fact" society, does it matter whether we know something or not? Although Nonsense was published before even primary season took place, this was an unintentionally timely read. I personally tend to prefer knowing versus the unknown, so learning the uses of and embracing (or at least feeling comfortable with) not knowing seems relevant, too.

In general, Nonsense is a very readable book, perfect for the popular science reader but well-cited with extensive end notes (on a stylistic note, I liked that they weren't numbered in the text because that can be distracting, and reading linearly made them a bit of a reminder of what earlier chapters covered. While some were simple citations, others were longer descriptions of context around quotations or events).

In the first part, Mr. Holmes prompts us to notice how we respond to ambiguity, and how the need for closure catches our attention, makes us assume, and potentially distresses us when the situation is particularly unexpected. The middle section highlights examples of reactions to unexpected or ambiguous situations from natural disasters and hostage crises to the unpredictable world of fashion trends and whether or not more medical tests will really clear up an unclear diagnosis (spoiler alert: it may be more costly for the patient, but for that see [b:The Empowered Patient: How to Get the Right Diagnosis, Buy the Cheapest Drugs, Beat Your Insurance Company, and Get the Best Medical Care Every Time|8270161|The Empowered Patient How to Get the Right Diagnosis, Buy the Cheapest Drugs, Beat Your Insurance Company, and Get the Best Medical Care Every Time|Elizabeth Cohen|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1320388967s/8270161.jpg|13118291]). The final part covers how embracing the unknown is useful: where failure is often the stepping stone to scientific progress and taking away constraints of preconceived notions on your perspective may lead to new insights.

I've seen the phrased tossed around re: graduate school "The more you learn, you realize how little you actually know." This is a lesson I need to be reminded of, and Nonsense reminded me that it's okay if I don't know the answers.

Obtained via Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review- took me longer to get around this than intended, but better late than never. ( )
  Daumari | Dec 30, 2017 |
I had this on my List because I requested it for an advanced read a couple of years ago - wasn't selected - and decided to jump off a couple of other parallel tracks now to check it out.

It's been my experience that lot of books like this could be reduced to a three page tract. Not so this one, but it could have been cut at least in half. I found the connection of too many of the stories - and there are a lot of stories - to the purported points rather tenuous. State a conclusion, stretch something to seemingly fit, conclude that it fits!

The short of it is that I don't buy his premise and he didn't convince me. People need closure (right now) to resolve ambiguity because...humans can't handle ambiguity, so they cope? The Branch Davidian debacle happened because the FBI agents in charge couldn't resolve David Koresh's change in mind? Please.

From my notes, one part apparently irritated more than the rest. In recounting a study done in the 1980s and 1990s, Holmes said researchers asked people to simulate how juries work, half without explicit direction on a case study, and half with detailed legal analysis. The players were asked after expressing their views to reach a shared verdict with a study stooge who was to disagree with them. The kicker was for some people there was a distracting noisy printer in the background...: For participants who received no expert advice, the irritating printer made them more likely to change their relatively uncertain minds and agree with the confederate. It also significantly sped up that process. When the participants who didn't read the legal analysis were arguing in a quiet room, the average time it took for the pairs to agree was 5 minutes and 40 seconds. With the printer going, the time fell to about 3 minutes 50 seconds. Subjects resolved ambiguity faster.
As Mona Lisa Vito would say, "That's a bull **** question." Any irritation is going to induce people to hurry up a decision, ambiguous or not, to get out of there.

As to the need for closure (right now) bit, by my self scoring on a set of 15 questions devised by psychologists Arne Roets and Alain Van Hiel, I am way below average. That means I don't smooth over anomalies or get all worked up over discrepancies. Depends, but more true than not.

By the way, comparisons to Malcolm Gladwell are not a good thing. In my opinion, of course. ( )
  Razinha | May 22, 2017 |
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To my loving parents, Nancy Maull and Stephen Holmes
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"An illuminating look at the surprising upside of ambiguity--and how, properly harnessed, it can inspire learning, creativity, even empathy Life today feels more overwhelming and chaotic than ever. We face constant political and economic upheaval, and we're bombarded with information, much of it contradictory. Managing uncertainty--in our jobs, our relationships, and our everyday lives--is fast becoming an essential skill. What should we do when we have no idea what to do? In Nonsense, Jamie Holmes shows how we react to ambiguous situations and how we can do it better. Being confused is unpleasant, so we tend to shutter our minds as we grasp for meaning and stability, especially in stressful circumstances. We're hard-wired to resolve contradictions quickly and extinguish anomalies. But in doing so, we lose a vital opportunity to learn something new, solve a hard problem, or see the world from another perspective. Over the last few years, new insights from social psychology and cognitive science have deepened our understanding of the role of ambiguity in our lives and Holmes brings this research together for the first time, showing how we can use uncertainty to our advantage. Whether we're dealing with an unclear medical diagnosis or launching a risky new product, Nonsense promises to transform the way we conduct business, educate our children, and make decisions. In an increasingly unpredictable, complex world, it turns out that what matters most isn't IQ, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It's how we deal with what we don't understand"--

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