Book Review: “Think Again” by Adam Grant

If you’re into the social sciences, you’re probably familiar with Adam Grant’s other books, Give and Take and Originals are two.  Both of these books are great reads, but his latest, Think Again, might be his best yet.

The premise behind Think Again is that we as humans are pretty set in our ways, our opinions, and beliefs.  Often this is to our own detriment.  For example, how many times as students did we hear not to go back and change an answer on a multiple-choice exam because our first guess is usually correct?  Wrong! 

 “A comprehensive review of 33 studies found that in everyone the majority of answer revisions were from wrong to right.” 

This first instinct fallacy is one example of how we are hesitant to rethink what we believe.  Another example involves this whole concept of being a flip-flopper, as if not being open to new information should be a desired quality.

“Most of us take pride in our knowledge and expertise, and in staying true to our beliefs and opinions.  That makes sense in a stable world, where we get rewarded for having conviction in our ideas.  The problem is that we live in a rapidly changing world, where we need to spend as much time rethinking as we do thinking.”

Grant breaks down into four categories how we process new information or an opinion that flies in the face of our own.

“We go into preacher mode when our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy: we deliver sermons to protect and promote our ideals.  We enter prosecutor mode when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning: we marshal arguments to prove them wrong and win our case.  We shift into politician mode when we’re seeking to win over an audience: we campaign and lobby for the approval of our constituents.”

“If you’re a scientist by trade, rethinking is fundamental to your profession.  You’re paid to be constantly aware of the limits of your understanding.  You’re expected to doubt what you know, be curious about what you don’t know, and update your views based on new data.”

This next passage is one of my favorites in the book.

“Great thinkers don’t boast about how much they know; they marvel at how little they understand.  Each answer raises new questions, and the quest for knowledge is never finished.  A mark of lifelong learners is recognizing that they can learn something from everyone they meet.”

As our country goes down the dangerous path of being more divisive and hostile toward those who think differently than us, maybe it’s time we all think again. 

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