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The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

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...an engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making. When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a soldier mindset. From triba ...an engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making. When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a soldier mindset. From tribalism and wishful thinking, to rationalizing in our personal lives and everything in between, we are driven to defend the ideas we most want to believe--and shoot down those we don't. But if we want to get things right more often, argues Galef, we should train ourselves to have a scout mindset. Unlike the soldier, a scout's goal isn't to defend one side over the other. It's to go out, survey the territory, and come back with as accurate a map as possible. Regardless of what they hope to be the case, above all, the scout wants to know what's actually true. In The Scout Mindset, Galef shows that what makes scouts better at getting things right isn't that they're smarter or more knowledgeable than everyone else. It's a handful of emotional skills, habits, and ways of looking at the world--which anyone can learn. With fascinating examples ranging from how to survive being stranded in the middle of the ocean, to how Jeff Bezos avoids overconfidence, to how superforecasters outperform CIA operatives, to Reddit threads and modern partisan politics, Galef explores why our brains deceive us and what we can do to change the way we think.


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...an engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making. When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a soldier mindset. From triba ...an engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making. When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a soldier mindset. From tribalism and wishful thinking, to rationalizing in our personal lives and everything in between, we are driven to defend the ideas we most want to believe--and shoot down those we don't. But if we want to get things right more often, argues Galef, we should train ourselves to have a scout mindset. Unlike the soldier, a scout's goal isn't to defend one side over the other. It's to go out, survey the territory, and come back with as accurate a map as possible. Regardless of what they hope to be the case, above all, the scout wants to know what's actually true. In The Scout Mindset, Galef shows that what makes scouts better at getting things right isn't that they're smarter or more knowledgeable than everyone else. It's a handful of emotional skills, habits, and ways of looking at the world--which anyone can learn. With fascinating examples ranging from how to survive being stranded in the middle of the ocean, to how Jeff Bezos avoids overconfidence, to how superforecasters outperform CIA operatives, to Reddit threads and modern partisan politics, Galef explores why our brains deceive us and what we can do to change the way we think.

30 review for The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    Here's a way to tell scientific intelligence from legal intelligence. Both may start from the idea that something cannot be done and think up arguments to explain why. However, the scientist may discover a flaw in the argument that leads him change his mind and to discover a way to do it... The legal thinker will merely try to patch the flaw in the argument, because, once he has chosen a side, all his intelligence is devoted to finding arguments for that side. ― John McCarthy I was a bit of a Here's a way to tell scientific intelligence from legal intelligence. Both may start from the idea that something cannot be done and think up arguments to explain why. However, the scientist may discover a flaw in the argument that leads him change his mind and to discover a way to do it... The legal thinker will merely try to patch the flaw in the argument, because, once he has chosen a side, all his intelligence is devoted to finding arguments for that side. ― John McCarthy I was a bit of a legalist as a young man: completely gripped by what Galef calls the "soldier mindset", the urge to win arguments and cling to your positions, rather than find the truth. I was a philosophy student. Philosophy is supposed to be dispassionate and open-minded, but in fact the sheer number of degrees of freedom in it, and the absence of conclusive evidence lead to the usual bias and inertia. (We can name positions after philosophers because so few change their minds.) A certain level of intelligence and knowledge of say logical fallacies can end up trapping you, since you can usually improvise a fix for the deadly new fact, or anyway say "you too!". Or not. This is an uplifting and useful set of stories about moving from the (pretty diseased) default mode of thinking to be, on average, less deluded and unfair. If you spend much time looking at internet arguments, or TV news debates, or other kinds of stupid war then you'll be cheered, and - who knows - healed, by Galef's examples of people changing their minds and running the numbers, against their current narrowly construed interests. Galef is a master of this, as you can see from basically any of her radio episodes. This would have helped the young legalist realise what he was doing, and might have sped him on the road. Much more like a normal business book than I expected, with three-sentence stories of [random CEO]'s [triumph | desolation], and with more references to other self-help books. I'll accept this as airport bookshop camouflage. It is a friendly first step into honest reason. The principles are not new, but the illustrating anecdotes are, and the writing is utterly, crashingly accessible in the Bestseller Nonfiction style, and it's short and sunny, and anyway it is a vital public service to redo Plato / Laplace / Schopenhauer / Peirce / Russell / Kahneman / Hanson / Yudkowsky / Galef, every say two years til the end of time. News to me: * The London Homeopathic Hospital had the best results during the Victorian cholera epidemic, for reasons unrelated to homeopathy (clean sheets and proto-rehydration therapy). Still dismal 18% mortality. * Spock has a Brier score above 0.5: way worse than the average forecaster on low-stakes internet platforms (0.25), and somewhat worse than a flipping coin. * An author of the Christian abstinence craze was persuaded that his book (advising that teens not even date other teens) was harmful, and stopped selling it. --- Galef type: Data #2: surprising case studies Theory #2: models of what makes something succeed or fail Theory #5: a general lens you can use to analyze many different things Values #1: an explicit argument about values Thinking #1: teach principles of thinking directly

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zainab

    Julia picks interesting cases to support her claim, so in a way, she satisfied my selfish want to find stories in the non-fiction. Thanks, Julia. However (there's always that however), what I did not like was the same-old-same-old tradition among modern-day non-fiction writers who think it's the best strategy to make it to that 200+ pages by adding as many evidences as they can to validate their precious insights. It's annoying. I don't want to get used to this stupid tradition just because Julia Julia picks interesting cases to support her claim, so in a way, she satisfied my selfish want to find stories in the non-fiction. Thanks, Julia. However (there's always that however), what I did not like was the same-old-same-old tradition among modern-day non-fiction writers who think it's the best strategy to make it to that 200+ pages by adding as many evidences as they can to validate their precious insights. It's annoying. I don't want to get used to this stupid tradition just because Julia is good with choosing her page adders. Anyway. I'm sharing one of the cases to show you what Julia's precious insights are all about. So, back in the 70s, when Susan Blackmore was a freshman at Oxford University studying psychology, just like her other college mates, she decided to use drugs to experience her newly-gotten freedom. She eventually found her spirit being lifted up towards the ceiling (reminds me of Jessie from Breaking Bad). But the thing was, she could see her body lying on the bed. That first experience with drugs changed her mindset about the paranormal. After that experience, she would wear stupid costumes, perform cute rituals, and read tarot cards to listen to her spirit guides and all. She also changed her academic focus to parapsychology. Did her Ph.D., and eventually found that all the evidence she had that proved the existence of the paranormal was only chance-based. She couldn't easily go back to being that annoying skeptic in the family especially when she had been ghost-hunting for a living to save people from their supposed demons (I still have to look it up). She became that annoying skeptic anyway, because truth, you know. Seeking truth, by all means, that's the thesis. Julia uses billions of cases and case studies to make her point that you should always reach conclusions based on accuracy-motivated reasoning (the Scout mindset) and not directionally-motivated reasoning (the Soldier mindset aka half-truth, biases-based rationalizing). She made her point well. But the thing is how do you objectively separate the truth from the crap when there is so much crap we feed on on the daily basis? Reminds me of that Netflix documentary called Surviving Death. In the first episode, people narrate their near-death/full-death experiences. Most of them witnessed their spirits being lifted from their bodies (mostly during an operation), saw the doctors struggling to keep the body alive, then suddenly, felt like dissolving into all colorful things like the intermediary phase where the spirits go, and still made back to this world because "it just wasn't their time." For me, consistency of evidence doesn't always mean truth. But, but, but another parapsychologist as shown in the same episode showed that in most of these cases, the survived lot mentioned the specific details like the position of a particular doctor standing in whatever direction, performing whatever specific thing that the patient could not have possibly mentioned had he/she not seen it from a distance with eyes fully open and in a state of consciousness. And yet again, see, all the patients were drugged as per the regular operating procedures. So, yeah. The book left me with this final thought: What the hell is clarity? Note: I have updated my review system as I get to read more these days. Now, the books I feel conflicted about (most of them) get 3 stars. It's just easy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nick de Vera

    meta, soldier mindset: i want to five-star and promote this book, see My Tribe become popular and influential. some welcome pushback against the increasingly annoying "use cognitive biases to trick yourself into becoming smarter/happier/successful" trend in pop psych. i think soldier mindset is still too valuable to give up. maybe the synthesis would be something like sociometer theory: scout mindset at all times in your own head, take off or put on the soldier mask as needed. meta, soldier mindset: i want to five-star and promote this book, see My Tribe become popular and influential. some welcome pushback against the increasingly annoying "use cognitive biases to trick yourself into becoming smarter/happier/successful" trend in pop psych. i think soldier mindset is still too valuable to give up. maybe the synthesis would be something like sociometer theory: scout mindset at all times in your own head, take off or put on the soldier mask as needed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Travis Rebello

    Knowing how to reason well does not mean that you will. That's the lesson that starts The Scout Mindset. The arch enemy of your clear thinking, we might say, is an enemy within: it is your own motivations for not thinking clearly. Luckily, Julia Galef has learned this lesson before you and knows what lessons you need to learn next. The Scout Mindset is self-help for critical thinkers, but in a genuine and rarely appropriate sense of the term: it's actually helpful. Unlike many other books on cri Knowing how to reason well does not mean that you will. That's the lesson that starts The Scout Mindset. The arch enemy of your clear thinking, we might say, is an enemy within: it is your own motivations for not thinking clearly. Luckily, Julia Galef has learned this lesson before you and knows what lessons you need to learn next. The Scout Mindset is self-help for critical thinkers, but in a genuine and rarely appropriate sense of the term: it's actually helpful. Unlike many other books on critical thinking or the psychology of reasoning, this one doesn't merely describe the norms of proper reasoning and the ways we diverge from them; it gives practicable advice. We are not simply given fancy tools for critical thinking but shown how to get ourselves to use them. We are left not simply with a list of labels to diagnose our biases and errors but offered guidance in overcoming them. As such, whether you are just beginning your journey through the landscape of human rationality and irrationality, or a seasoned traveller wearied by the perilous path behind you, you are bound to get some helpful directions from The Scout Mindset.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Luke Gompertz

    Unlike other books on this topic, this book doesn't just tell us how humans are bad at reasoning, it also offers genuine practical steps to help us reason better, and they are compelling enough that I will genuinely try them. Its central thesis – that we undermine our long-term well-being by not seeking accuracy – is clearly argued. In fact all the prose is in what Steven Pinker calls 'classic style': plain English that doesn't talk down to you. Unlike other books on this topic, this book doesn't just tell us how humans are bad at reasoning, it also offers genuine practical steps to help us reason better, and they are compelling enough that I will genuinely try them. Its central thesis – that we undermine our long-term well-being by not seeking accuracy – is clearly argued. In fact all the prose is in what Steven Pinker calls 'classic style': plain English that doesn't talk down to you.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ozzie Gooen

    TDLR: A good book with mass appeal to help people care more about being accurate. Fairly easy to read, which makes it easy to recommend to many people. I've met Julia a few times and am friendly with her. I'd be happy if this book does well, and expect that to lead to a (slightly) more reasonable world. That said, in the interest of having a Scout Mindset, I want to be honest about my impression. The Scout Mindset is the sort of book I'm both happy with and frustrated by. I'm frustrated because thi TDLR: A good book with mass appeal to help people care more about being accurate. Fairly easy to read, which makes it easy to recommend to many people. I've met Julia a few times and am friendly with her. I'd be happy if this book does well, and expect that to lead to a (slightly) more reasonable world. That said, in the interest of having a Scout Mindset, I want to be honest about my impression. The Scout Mindset is the sort of book I'm both happy with and frustrated by. I'm frustrated because this is a relatively casual overview of what I wish were a thorough Academic specialty. I felt similarly with The Life You Can Save when that was released. Another way of putting this is that I was sort of hoping for an academic work, but instead, think of this more as a journalistic work. It reminds me of Vice Documentaries and Malcolm Gladwell (in a nice way), instead of Superforecasting or The Elephant in the Brain. That said, journalistic works have their unique contributions in the literature, it's just a very different sort of work. I just read through the book on Audible and don't have notes. To write a really solid review would take more time than I have now, so instead, I'll leave scattered thoughts. 1. The main theme of the book is the dichotomy of "The Scout Mindset" vs. "The Soldier Mindset", and more specifically, why the Scout Mindset is (almost always?) better than the Solider Mindset. Put differently, we have a bunch of books about "how to think accurately", but surprisingly few on "you should even try thinking accurately." Sadly, this latter part has to be stated, but that's how things are. 2. I was expecting a lot of references to scientific studies, but there seemed to be a lot more text on stories and a few specific anecdotes. The main studies I recall were a very few seemingly small psychological studies, which at this point I'm fairly suspect of. One small note: I found it odd that Elon Musk was described multiple times as something like an exemplar of honesty. I agree with the particular examples pointed to, but I believe Elon Musk is notorious for making explicit overconfident statements. 3. Motivated reasoning is a substantial and profound topic. I believe it already has many books detailing not only that it exists, but why it's beneficial and harmful in different settings. The Scout Mindset didn't seem to engage with much of this literature. It argued that "The Scout Mindset is better than the Soldier Mindset", but that seems like an intense simplification of the landscape. Lies are a much more integral part of society than I think they are given credit for here, and removing them would be a very radical action. If you could go back in time and strongly convince particular people to be atheistic, that could be fatal. 4. The most novel part to me was the last few chapters, on "Rethinking Identity". This section seems particularly inspired by the blog post Keep Your Identity Small by Paul Graham, but of course, goes into more detail. I found the mentioned stories to be a solid illustration of the key points and will dwell on these more. 5. People close to Julia's work have heard much of this before, but maybe half or so seemed rather new to me. 6. As a small point, if the theme of the book is about the benefits of always being honest, the marketing seemed fairly traditionally deceiving. I wasn't sure what to expect from the cover and quotes. I could easily see potential readers getting the wrong impression looking at the marketing materials, and there seems to be little work to directly make the actual value of the book more clear. There's nothing up front that reads, "This book is aiming to achieve X, but doesn't do Y and Z, which you might have been expecting." I guess that Julia didn't have control over the marketing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Harry Taussig

    8.7/10 ### The Book in 3 Sentences It's in your best interest to see the world as it is instead of as you want it to be. Knowing how to think clearly is very different than actually doing it. Just knowing about our biases isn't enough, but there are good strategies to improving your thinking. ### My Top 3 Quotes: Our judgment isn’t limited by knowledge nearly as much as it’s limited by attitude. The test of scout mindset isn’t whether you see yourself as the kind of person who does these things. It’ 8.7/10 ### The Book in 3 Sentences It's in your best interest to see the world as it is instead of as you want it to be. Knowing how to think clearly is very different than actually doing it. Just knowing about our biases isn't enough, but there are good strategies to improving your thinking. ### My Top 3 Quotes: Our judgment isn’t limited by knowledge nearly as much as it’s limited by attitude. The test of scout mindset isn’t whether you see yourself as the kind of person who does these things. It’s whether you can point to concrete cases in which you did, in fact, do these things. 1. Do you tell other people when you realize they were right? 2. How do you react to personal criticism? When we want something to be true, he said, we ask ourselves, “Can I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to accept it. When we don’t want something to be true, we instead ask ourselves, “Must I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to reject it. ### Impressions: Julia Galef has the right focus here. I've read many books about people's systematic biases, and all the way we deceive ourselves, but these don't actually help you think better. *Scout Mindset* gives a simpler and more useful overview of how to think and decide more clearly. It's written for a very general audience, and you can feel that in the writing. The science isn't mind-blowing, and the writing isn't amazing, but *Scout Mindset* gets it's point across clearly and effectively, and summarizes the vast majority of the important lessons you could get from reading the much longer and more boring books about our biases. ### Who Should Read it? If you want to think more clearly. If you are interested in the ways people are systematically biased, and how to set yourself up not to be. If you've already read lots on this subject there's not too much new info here, but the book does have a better, easier to understand and easier to apply framing and explanation of these things. ### How the Book Changed me When I want to make a good decision, I ask myself harder questions. - "Do I think this is going to happen?" becomes "what bet would I take that this would happen?" or "Would I be genuinely surprised if this plan didn't work out?" A healthy reminder that I'm similarly biased and attached to my views as others, even though I don't feel that way. I have a more encapsulated and holistic understanding of this kind of knowledge about how to think more clearly, in a way that's also much easier to explain to others. ### Other Good Quotes: You can say that you want your partner to tell you about any problems in your relationship, or that you want your employees to tell you about any problems in the company, but if you get defensive or combative when you hear the truth, you’re not likely to hear it very often. Now that we have access to epidural anesthesia, we no longer insist on the sweetness of that particular lemon. But we still say similar things about aging and death—that they’re beautiful, and they give meaning to life. When considering a claim, we implicitly ask ourselves, “What kind of person would believe a claim like this, and is that how I want other people to see me?” In scout mindset, there’s no such thing as a “threat” to your beliefs. If you find out you were wrong about something, great—you’ve improved your map, and that can only help you. Can you name people who are critical of your beliefs, profession, or life choices who you consider thoughtful, even if you believe they’re wrong? Or can you at least name reasons why someone might disagree with you that you would consider reasonable (even if you don’t happen to know of specific people who hold those views)? It’s striking how much the urge to conclude “That’s not true” diminishes once you feel like you have a concrete plan for what you would do if the thing were true. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even a simple plan, like “Here’s how I would explain the failure to my team . . .” or “Here’s how I would begin my search for a new job . . .” goes a long way toward making you feel like you don’t need to rely on denial to cope with reality. But scouts aren’t motivated by the thought, “This is going to succeed.” They’re motivated by the thought, “This is a bet worth taking.” People simply aren’t paying that much attention to how much epistemic confidence you express. They’re paying attention to how you act, to your body language, tone, and other aspects of your social confidence, all of which are things you can cultivate without sacrificing your calibration. It might seem like every issue must have a dominant majority and an embattled minority. But both sides of an issue can genuinely view their side as the embattled one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Crabb

    I am not entirely sure where I got this book from but it is an incredible book on several different levels. The core concept of the book is that there are two predominant mindsets in how people deal with new information particularly information that challenges their preconceptions or ideologies. Solider mindset is naturally more defensive and holds positions even to painful lengths. On the other hand, scout mindset is radically different in that rather than defending positions, scouts are intere I am not entirely sure where I got this book from but it is an incredible book on several different levels. The core concept of the book is that there are two predominant mindsets in how people deal with new information particularly information that challenges their preconceptions or ideologies. Solider mindset is naturally more defensive and holds positions even to painful lengths. On the other hand, scout mindset is radically different in that rather than defending positions, scouts are interested in continuing to build out a better overall map of reality. The author's intent is to show how scout mindset can be better in some instances and how we would all benefit from embracing it more often. I think it meets that goal and succeeds on several other levels as well. - The book breaks down the concepts very well and progresses from one large concept to the next in a stairstep fashion. While I read through this in audio the first time, I am looking forward to going back through this book more in depth, not only for the finer points that I may have missed but also to learn from Galef on how to better write a book which recommends a different mindset or framework. - The book has a really nice set of quotes, examples, and even personal stories. The author tells them with an easy grace, and with one of the best stories, she tells the initial portion at the beginning and finishes it at the end of the book. The author seems confident enough that you will remember this story, and the payoff is really nice. This makes this book pleasurable while being informative. - Lastly, this book was additionally special to me as Galef was putting words to how I have aimed to live my life more and more over the past decade. The scout mindset mirrors some of the aspects of my best work, and it was very helpful to name it and articulate what made some of that work good. With this additional [[framing]], I can more easily focus on executing "scout best practices" which will only continue to improve my output. In this way, I doubt many readers will have the same experience that I did, but this book has a special place on my mantle now, and I will be referencing it often and deeply. This book is well worth the read in the highly ideological times that we live in. If everyone incorporated a bit more of the scout mindset into their daily interactions, society would be feel the impact.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ben Hughes

    I spent today reading @JuliaGalef's excellent book "The Scout Mindset" cover to cover. This is one of the most important books I've read recently, and it provides a unique and under-appreciated lens with which to approach belief, disagreement, social relations, and identity. The ways in which cognitive biases lead us to self-deceive at the expense of truth is well documented and covered in several other works. Learning about them, and avoiding barriers to clear thinking, is worthwhile and importa I spent today reading @JuliaGalef's excellent book "The Scout Mindset" cover to cover. This is one of the most important books I've read recently, and it provides a unique and under-appreciated lens with which to approach belief, disagreement, social relations, and identity. The ways in which cognitive biases lead us to self-deceive at the expense of truth is well documented and covered in several other works. Learning about them, and avoiding barriers to clear thinking, is worthwhile and important. But the "Scout Mindset" takes a different tact: it instead focuses on the *motivation* for thinking, contrasting the "soldier mindset" (defensive directionally motivated reasoning) with the "scout mindset": the motivation to curiously see things as they are, not as you wish they were (accuracy motivated reasoning). Julia puts these in stark contrast, and argues persuasively that, however appealing soldier mindset may be in terms of emotional & social benefits, scout mindset is a better foundation for longer-term happiness and judgment / decision making. She covers many habits of the scout mindset: admitting uncertainty, incremental revision, double standard/outsider/conformity testing, admitting when wrong, ideological Turing tests, Bayesian reasoning & confidence calibration, leaning in to confusion, holding identities lightly. I do think many are quite unaware of how powerful & ingrained soldier mindset is in their own thinking, how much non-accuracy-motivated reasoning leads to a poor "mental map of the reality territory", and how consequential that really is to many domains in one's life. I see this thinking style frequently in many people. But while it's easy to direct this at other people, it really should be directed inwards: reflecting on *my own* thinking, how it runs afoul of soldier mindset, and how *I* can improve the accuracy & clarity of thought. I really do think there are quite high returns to investing in the quality of one's thinking, since that has compounding effects throughout your life, and the ideas in "the Scout Mindset" are a welcome addition to that end. "Self-recommending", as @TylerCowen would say.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Harsha Varma

    What makes Bill Gates very very dangerous? Larry Ellison has an interesting anecdote from 1993 in his book Softwar. “It was the most interesting conversation I’ve ever had with Bill, and the most revealing. It was around eleven o’clock in the morning, and we were discussing some technical issue, I don’t remember what it was. Anyways, I didn’t agree with him on some point, and I explained my reasoning. Bill says, 'I’ll have to think about that, I’ll call you back’. Then I get this call at four in What makes Bill Gates very very dangerous? Larry Ellison has an interesting anecdote from 1993 in his book Softwar. “It was the most interesting conversation I’ve ever had with Bill, and the most revealing. It was around eleven o’clock in the morning, and we were discussing some technical issue, I don’t remember what it was. Anyways, I didn’t agree with him on some point, and I explained my reasoning. Bill says, 'I’ll have to think about that, I’ll call you back’. Then I get this call at four in the afternoon and it’s Bill continuing the conversation with ‘Yeah, I think you’re right about that, but what about A and B and C?’ I said, ‘Bill, have you been thinking about this for the past five hours?’ He said, yes, it was an important issue and he wanted to get it right. Bill wanted to continue the discussion and analyze the implications. I was just stunned. He had taken the time and effort to think it all through and had decided he was wrong and I was right. Now, most people hate to admit they’re wrong, but it didn’t bother Bill one bit. All he cared about was what was right, not who was right. That’s what makes Bill very, very dangerous." This encapsulates want Julia Galef describes as the Scout mindset. It’s the idea of being intellectually honorable: wanting the truth to win out and putting that principle above your own ego. The motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were. It’s about holding your identity lightly as a favor to yourself—a way to keep your mind flexible, unconstrained by identity, and free to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Interesting read with delightful anecdotes. Quotes: 1. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. - Richard Feynman 2. The next time you notice someone else being “irrational,” “crazy,” or “rude,” get curious about why their behavior might make sense to them.

  11. 5 out of 5

    D.B. Buzzkill

    The book is alright. Starts a bit slow, gets stronger in the middle but the final chapters are a bit weak. It's nicely written in a plain conversational tone. If you like books like these, and I do, it's not a bad way to spend an afternoon. A few highlights: * a quiz where you can test if you can accurately tell if you're certain. * many references to Star Trek's Spock making very confident predictions that immediately turn out to be wrong. There's even an appendix tracking Spock's predictions. The The book is alright. Starts a bit slow, gets stronger in the middle but the final chapters are a bit weak. It's nicely written in a plain conversational tone. If you like books like these, and I do, it's not a bad way to spend an afternoon. A few highlights: * a quiz where you can test if you can accurately tell if you're certain. * many references to Star Trek's Spock making very confident predictions that immediately turn out to be wrong. There's even an appendix tracking Spock's predictions. The weird: * this book is written for very online people. There are many, many references and footnotes to random reddit comments, blog posts, xkcd comics * very few references to academic works or books * fixation with rationality as a goal by itself * a detour about Bayesianism that doesn't really fit * it describes people like "a probabilistic thinker who strives to be well calibrated". So much for "keeping your identity small". * it acts like basic things (like changing your mind) are monumental accomplishments. Just bizarre. * navel gazing about social conventions (is it awkward to say you're feeling awkward? is it??) This book has an aspie vibe to it, that I can't completely identify. It doesn't know whether it wants to be a book that describes reality or a self-help book that calls readers to action. The book is light and earnest, somewhat obsessive, and it radiates analysis paralysis. The book almost, but not quite, "leans into" the confusion that Smart People Who Care About Rationality get very little done in reality. There is a real contradiction here, and the book would have been much better if it grappled with it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Mihalyi

    I read the book as wanting to do things: a/ Educate readers on how to be more rational in making judgements / decisions and overcome various biases. b/ Convince readers that rationalist approach labelled "Scout Mindset" is superior to alternative "Soldier Mindset". Think book does awesome job at a/ and less good at b/. I am a big fan of Julia Galef's podcast and fairly well versed in the broader "rationalist community's" core themes central to this book. But despite my familiarity with her argume I read the book as wanting to do things: a/ Educate readers on how to be more rational in making judgements / decisions and overcome various biases. b/ Convince readers that rationalist approach labelled "Scout Mindset" is superior to alternative "Soldier Mindset". Think book does awesome job at a/ and less good at b/. I am a big fan of Julia Galef's podcast and fairly well versed in the broader "rationalist community's" core themes central to this book. But despite my familiarity with her arguments, I still enjoyed it much. Easy and fun to read. The issue was cleverly broken down into sub-topics. I especially liked the simple tricks and tests she present for readers to become better Scouts. In a way, I would say this was the best self-help book I read, except that I've never really read any other self-help book. My biggest criticism of the book is that it doesn't try super hard to "steel-man" the argument it opposes. Why is "Soldier mindset" so prevalent if it is that unhelpful? Why isn't the world run by Scouts if they are that much superior? Examples presented in favor of "Scout mindset" felt cherry picked for emotional resonance. (e.g. Soldier mindset is exemplified by antisemitic conspirators while scout mindset folks are often depicted as do-gooders). Plenty of great books use such argumentative tactics, but for one that claims to uphold rationalist virtues, I believe the bar should be a lot higher. It is also one of those books, which I plan to reference/steal ideas from quite a lot. I may also buy it to my favorite debating partners to signal my certitude in having superior abilities to overcome cognitive biases.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book, though it is definitely very "Rationalistic" and "Effective altruist" which may bias me somewhat. The book runs through psychological and mind fallacies that we're all prone too, and encourages us to second guess our opinions and how we came to them. I actually think one of the easiest ways to leapfrog these kinds of fallacies is to have empathy to the person you're talking to, it's easy to imagine coming to the same conclusions someone else has if you just imagine y Thoroughly enjoyed this book, though it is definitely very "Rationalistic" and "Effective altruist" which may bias me somewhat. The book runs through psychological and mind fallacies that we're all prone too, and encourages us to second guess our opinions and how we came to them. I actually think one of the easiest ways to leapfrog these kinds of fallacies is to have empathy to the person you're talking to, it's easy to imagine coming to the same conclusions someone else has if you just imagine yourself having lived their life and had their experiences. The book encourages open-mindedness and seeing changing your mind as a potential gain rather than something to be defensive about and fear. I found the part on disillusionment interesting, I think very often you have to be deluded (or rather it's advantageous) in order to achieve extreme success. See the arrogance of v successful sportspeople or certain CEO (It may just inch you a few % higher into chance of succeeding and therefore select for that trait). I think one of my favourite parts or calibration techniques was comparing the % chance of X happening with to win $10,000 or picking 1 of 4 balls for say 25%, and then getting close and closer to the actual % you believe. Also, the Elon Musk example is funny, he said 10% for both his companies succeeding, so therefore it'd be 1/100 that they'd both succeed... But maybe he is just badly calibrated!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t (2021) by Julia Galef will help you dib-dib-dib and dob-dob-dob your way to greater insight by using the ways of Baden Powell while avoiding dodgy scout masters. Well, no, not at all. Actually, the book is about how we should basically be more Bayesian. That is, we should be checking our picture of reality regularly rather than just seeking out things that confirm our world view. Galef hosts The Rationally Speaking podcast fo The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t (2021) by Julia Galef will help you dib-dib-dib and dob-dob-dob your way to greater insight by using the ways of Baden Powell while avoiding dodgy scout masters. Well, no, not at all. Actually, the book is about how we should basically be more Bayesian. That is, we should be checking our picture of reality regularly rather than just seeking out things that confirm our world view. Galef hosts The Rationally Speaking podcast for the New York Skeptics association. The Scout Mindset is a very well written popular nonfiction. It’s really easy to read and makes a good solid point in the right amount of pages. Galef describes the soldier mindset where we identify with our views strongly and anything that contradicts them is seen as an attack on ourselves. Instead we should have a Scout mindset where we ‘update’ our views when we find new facts and try and regularly change our minds. We should also think about how sure we are of the facts that we think we know. There is even a nice quiz in the book to try and calibrate various statements of fact with how strongly we think they are true. The Scout Mindset is well worth a read to think about your own cognition and biases. Hopefully it will help us all avoid coming to a strong judgement on some new fact or news story. Reading this book made me reflect on my reaction to the announcement of The European Super League this week.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Murilo Queiroz

    An excellent, but short and very readable, introduction to why knowing about our biases, the scientific method and critical thinking isn't enough for those who wants to take better, more rational decisions. After reading many great books such as Thinking, Fast and Slow, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (one of my favorite non-fiction books), I'm already convinced that it's necessary a conscious effort An excellent, but short and very readable, introduction to why knowing about our biases, the scientific method and critical thinking isn't enough for those who wants to take better, more rational decisions. After reading many great books such as Thinking, Fast and Slow, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (one of my favorite non-fiction books), I'm already convinced that it's necessary a conscious effort to avoid motivated reasoning - if you are already convinced you (or the members of your tribe/party/"side") are right, it's very easy to collect very reasonable and apparently correct arguments to support your position. What is tremendously difficult, and it's the central point of this book, is to give up the "soldier mindset", which implies in defending your position with all possible effort, and to adopt a "scout mindset", which favors not necessarily being in the victorious side of a discussion, but in getting as close as possible to the actual unbiased "truth" (measured in objective terms, e.g. according to the number of correct predictions).

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yigitalp Ertem

    I listened to The Scout Mindset after watching some Big Think and Bayesian Thinking related videos from Julia Galef but I didn't find the book very helpful. Rarely interesting, mostly garnishing a simple thesis. The parts about tech-billionaire-appraisals and inductive examples starting with Facebook/Reddit posts and ending with overarching generalizations about 'how we'd better think' made me even more disinterested. Bored towards the end, I still tried to preserve my scout mindset and finished I listened to The Scout Mindset after watching some Big Think and Bayesian Thinking related videos from Julia Galef but I didn't find the book very helpful. Rarely interesting, mostly garnishing a simple thesis. The parts about tech-billionaire-appraisals and inductive examples starting with Facebook/Reddit posts and ending with overarching generalizations about 'how we'd better think' made me even more disinterested. Bored towards the end, I still tried to preserve my scout mindset and finished. The author smiled at me at the end: "Find an author, media outlet, or other opinion source who holds different views from you, but who has a better-than-average shot at changing your mind—someone you find reasonable or with whom you share some common ground." One good moment was a confessional memoir from the author where she was asking to the participants about a lecture/workshop about their feedback. She mentions that she noticed that while she was asking "was it good for you", she was nodding her head and smiling, pushing the people to say positive things even though her actual aim was to get some critical responses. I like and remember the mistakes, revelations and detailed authentic moments more than "that's how some random successful entrepreneur think" kind of orations.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Schubert

    The Scout Mindset is a spirited defence of truth-seeking and intellectual honesty. Julia Galef argues that we by default are in the "soldier mindset", where we're trying to defend our views come what may. We're making our beliefs part of our identity, so feel personally threatened if someone challenges them. Instead, she argues, we should adopt the scout mindset - we should be genuinely curious; genuinely open to changing our mind. Galef argues that adopting this mindset or attitude is key to bec The Scout Mindset is a spirited defence of truth-seeking and intellectual honesty. Julia Galef argues that we by default are in the "soldier mindset", where we're trying to defend our views come what may. We're making our beliefs part of our identity, so feel personally threatened if someone challenges them. Instead, she argues, we should adopt the scout mindset - we should be genuinely curious; genuinely open to changing our mind. Galef argues that adopting this mindset or attitude is key to becoming a better reasoner. She also describes a number of helpful techniques, such as the superforecasters' habit of constantly making small revisions to their beliefs, and how to choose interlocutors that are more likely to change your mind. These techniques serve to show how to live the scout mindset on a daily basis. I think that Galef is right that we intuitively underestimate the value of figuring out the truth. It's not just valuable for individuals, but is also supremely important for humanity as a whole. Civilisation is ever becoming more complex. So to address the great problems of tomorrow, we need a spirit of impartial truth-seeking. This is the best book on that spirit to date.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    I personally believe learning methods for thinking and seeing clearly is one of the most important skills any of us can have, and that's why I read books like this. Months ago, I heard about this book but hadn't heard of the author, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I read a ton of books on critical thinking and decision making, so I usually run across a lot of repeat information, methods, and studies, but this one surprised me. You can tell Galef put a lot of thought and research into this book I personally believe learning methods for thinking and seeing clearly is one of the most important skills any of us can have, and that's why I read books like this. Months ago, I heard about this book but hadn't heard of the author, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I read a ton of books on critical thinking and decision making, so I usually run across a lot of repeat information, methods, and studies, but this one surprised me. You can tell Galef put a lot of thought and research into this book and was able to touch on angles that other books in this genre don't.  To start the book, Galef discusses why we get defensive when people criticize us or point out something we may not see. What I loved about her writing is throughout the book, she shares little anecdotes of personal experiences when she became defensive. It provides a very human element to the book that lets us know that the best we can do is try to recognize when we do these things and adjust along the way. From defensiveness, she covers many other topics such as how our beliefs and identities form our opinions as well as the benefits of leaning into confusion and the joy of curiosity. I could go on about this book for hours, but instead, do yourself a favor and read this book ASAP.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cristina Balan

    I started reading this book with a strange feeling: I could not understand the link between a scout and how people think. Slowly into the book, I realised that I was wrong: there is a strong connection between how people in general think and react, and the inquirer's mindset. Critical thinking is the muscle we lack training. We pay the costs, while the burden gets bigger only because we are not true to ourselves. We keep lying ourselves instead of scrutinising arguments, researching, checking if I started reading this book with a strange feeling: I could not understand the link between a scout and how people think. Slowly into the book, I realised that I was wrong: there is a strong connection between how people in general think and react, and the inquirer's mindset. Critical thinking is the muscle we lack training. We pay the costs, while the burden gets bigger only because we are not true to ourselves. We keep lying ourselves instead of scrutinising arguments, researching, checking if we are indeed right or not. I don't know who said that changing our minds is a sign of intelligence (please attribute it as appropriate), but admitting we are or might be wrong is definitely a sign of health. Instead of taking things personal and fighting others for no solid reason (and no real satisfaction), we should take a step back, chill a bit, look again into things, then admit that we can't be always, ALWAYS, right. Bonus: there's a sweet hint in the book on how the author met the love of her life. Happy marriage and good luck! It looks like both of you have the appropriate mindset.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Williams

    All of us have to interact with people who seem clearly, wildly wrong on important things. Sometimes, we blame poor education or lack of critical thinking skills. But as Galef points out, motivated reasoning does not arise from a lack of knowledge. Sometimes education merely intensifies the effects of our own bias (for example, she cites a study which found that the more science-literate a person was, the more their view on anthropogenic global warming correlated with their political affiliation All of us have to interact with people who seem clearly, wildly wrong on important things. Sometimes, we blame poor education or lack of critical thinking skills. But as Galef points out, motivated reasoning does not arise from a lack of knowledge. Sometimes education merely intensifies the effects of our own bias (for example, she cites a study which found that the more science-literate a person was, the more their view on anthropogenic global warming correlated with their political affiliation, rather than converging on a single consensus). We have natural defense mechanisms against noticing when we're wrong; overcoming them requires an attitude shift and careful effort. This book left me with a renewed desire to make that effort, and some promising ideas on how to go about it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    djcb

    There were many books espousing instrumental rationalism perhaps... a decade ago, but it seems the subject has faded a bit into obscurity.. Happily, Julia Galef has written a refresher course. The book is on the 'scout mindset', about pragmatic small-t truth-seeking, about practical ways to avoid various biases -- since just knowing about them isn't really enough (agreed). Trying to 'steelman' the positions of people you disagree with, and avoiding attaching yourself too much to a 'tribe'. And do There were many books espousing instrumental rationalism perhaps... a decade ago, but it seems the subject has faded a bit into obscurity.. Happily, Julia Galef has written a refresher course. The book is on the 'scout mindset', about pragmatic small-t truth-seeking, about practical ways to avoid various biases -- since just knowing about them isn't really enough (agreed). Trying to 'steelman' the positions of people you disagree with, and avoiding attaching yourself too much to a 'tribe'. And do the non-numerical version of bayesian updating on your beliefs. Nothing really new, but, as I said, a good refresher, and with some great new real-world examples illustrating the points.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Justin Norman

    Easily the best book I've read so far this year. The author does a fantastic job of giving guidance on how to prioritize reasoning accurately rather than reasoning in a way that prioritizes defending one's deeply held beliefs. Several of her suggestions are things I already try to practice, but the real-life examples she gives of people sacrificing their personal pride in order to search for flaws in their own reasoning will, I think, make these principles stick in my memory better. It's incredi Easily the best book I've read so far this year. The author does a fantastic job of giving guidance on how to prioritize reasoning accurately rather than reasoning in a way that prioritizes defending one's deeply held beliefs. Several of her suggestions are things I already try to practice, but the real-life examples she gives of people sacrificing their personal pride in order to search for flaws in their own reasoning will, I think, make these principles stick in my memory better. It's incredibly refreshing to read a book that articulates these principles so well, and that does so in a way that doesn't feel like it's pushing a politically or religiously partisan view. It's a book I feel like I could enthusiastically recommend to nearly everyone I know.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sajad Torkamani

    A very informative read. The book tries to teach you how to be more intellectually honest and see things as they are rather than how you wish them to be. The TLDR is that you have to approach truth-seeking the way a scout approaches map-making. Here are my key takeaways: --------------------------- Hold your beliefs lightly and avoid making beliefs part of your identity. When beliefs became part of our identity, they add a lot of friction that makes it more difficult to change our minds (nobody li A very informative read. The book tries to teach you how to be more intellectually honest and see things as they are rather than how you wish them to be. The TLDR is that you have to approach truth-seeking the way a scout approaches map-making. Here are my key takeaways: --------------------------- Hold your beliefs lightly and avoid making beliefs part of your identity. When beliefs became part of our identity, they add a lot of friction that makes it more difficult to change our minds (nobody likes an identity crisis). Be quick to acknowledge when you've been wrong and learn to see being wrong as an opportunity to revise your map of reality. Use various techniques and thought experiments to make you think more objectively and help overcome your natural tendencies for bias and wishful thinking. It was the first time I came across some of these techniques so these alone made the book worthwhile to read. That's a quick dump of my key takeaways from the book but I can never do a book justice with so few words.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Timhannifin

    This was a great introduction to the sort of superforcasting/rationalist/whatever community you want you call that. I can see myself recommending this to someone who wants a feel for what those communities are about who doesn’t have much familiarity. Somewhat ironically given the subject matter I think the book mostly just confirmed my biases but I thought it was well organized and gave lots of good anecdotes about people putting truth over ego and identity which seems like a worthy goal to aspir This was a great introduction to the sort of superforcasting/rationalist/whatever community you want you call that. I can see myself recommending this to someone who wants a feel for what those communities are about who doesn’t have much familiarity. Somewhat ironically given the subject matter I think the book mostly just confirmed my biases but I thought it was well organized and gave lots of good anecdotes about people putting truth over ego and identity which seems like a worthy goal to aspire to. I wish she would have included the arguments she felt were most compelling against her position or what something that could prove her wrong would look like but otherwise it was a fun (and wonderfully short) book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Abhijeet Borkar

    I enjoyed this book. I have followed Julia Galef's podcast for years and have found her discussions intellectually stimulating, and tackling crucial topics pertinent to the modern life. The book felt as a crystallization of her years of discussions in a nice coherent format. One of the main aspects of this book I liked the most is that there is little unnecessary fluff added to the text. She writes clearly and comes to the point quickly. Her arguments are presented effectively with appropriate n I enjoyed this book. I have followed Julia Galef's podcast for years and have found her discussions intellectually stimulating, and tackling crucial topics pertinent to the modern life. The book felt as a crystallization of her years of discussions in a nice coherent format. One of the main aspects of this book I liked the most is that there is little unnecessary fluff added to the text. She writes clearly and comes to the point quickly. Her arguments are presented effectively with appropriate nuance. The audiobook is narrated by Galef herself, and it's ably read, and the tone is conversational, thus it was quite an enjoyable listen.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maddie

    This was an interesting read about how humans generally engage in "motivated reasoning", where we come up with arguments that fit our worldview rather than accurately assessing the world around us. I appreciated that the author came up with several specific techniques to use to try to remove some of your biases when making decisions. One weird thing about this book was that a lot of her examples of people either engaging in motivated reasoning or overcoming it and having productive arguments wer This was an interesting read about how humans generally engage in "motivated reasoning", where we come up with arguments that fit our worldview rather than accurately assessing the world around us. I appreciated that the author came up with several specific techniques to use to try to remove some of your biases when making decisions. One weird thing about this book was that a lot of her examples of people either engaging in motivated reasoning or overcoming it and having productive arguments were from Reddit/Twitter/Facebook/blog posts/random people she knows. I am personally much more interested in using the techniques she described in higher-stakes situations, such as jobs or personal relationships, rather than winning more internet points. I think she could have spent more time researching "meatspace" examples of these techniques being used in business, politics, etc.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paul Healy

    Fun/v quick read. We would all probably do well to adopt some of the tools in this book, especially on our age of hyper polarization! I think for people interested in public policy, though, the idea of identifying less personally with your views is a tough one because people may become suspicious of you and not want to give you certain opportunities in the real world--and when you *need* to identify with a certain in-group for instrumental reasons, it's probably all the more difficult to think c Fun/v quick read. We would all probably do well to adopt some of the tools in this book, especially on our age of hyper polarization! I think for people interested in public policy, though, the idea of identifying less personally with your views is a tough one because people may become suspicious of you and not want to give you certain opportunities in the real world--and when you *need* to identify with a certain in-group for instrumental reasons, it's probably all the more difficult to think critically about those views. I don't know.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Milan

    The 'scout mindset' seeks to discover what is correct through fact-checking, and rationalizes toward conclusions that lead to “the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were.” The 'soldier mindset' leads us to defend our beliefs against outside threats. “We change our minds less often than we should but more often than we could.” "There’s no such thing as a 'threat' to your beliefs. If you find out you were wrong about something, great—you’ve improved your map, and that can The 'scout mindset' seeks to discover what is correct through fact-checking, and rationalizes toward conclusions that lead to “the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were.” The 'soldier mindset' leads us to defend our beliefs against outside threats. “We change our minds less often than we should but more often than we could.” "There’s no such thing as a 'threat' to your beliefs. If you find out you were wrong about something, great—you’ve improved your map, and that can only help you.” I did not find anything new in Julia Galef's book, just old wine in new bottle.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David McDonald

    This book aligned so well with my own philosophy that I can't give it any less than a perfect 5/5, it helped me realign some of the areas where I have gotten lazy. It's a book I think everyone should be required to read in school. This book feels somewhat like the spiritual successor to Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan; DHW focused on science being a 'candle in the dark' whereas The Scout Mindset is similar in approach but more personally involved. Very easy to read (or listen to on audible), th This book aligned so well with my own philosophy that I can't give it any less than a perfect 5/5, it helped me realign some of the areas where I have gotten lazy. It's a book I think everyone should be required to read in school. This book feels somewhat like the spiritual successor to Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan; DHW focused on science being a 'candle in the dark' whereas The Scout Mindset is similar in approach but more personally involved. Very easy to read (or listen to on audible), thoughtful and life-changing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    sine

    This is an excellent and well-written book about confirmation bias. It could be considered as a self-improvement book without trying to be unnecessarily optimistic or over-motivated. Instead, it is advocating rationality and explaining many alternatives on how to become less wrong. It contains many historical anecdotes, exciting research results, and many Star Trek spoilers. At the end of the day, we're a bunch of apes whose brains were optimized for defending ourselves and our tribes, not for do This is an excellent and well-written book about confirmation bias. It could be considered as a self-improvement book without trying to be unnecessarily optimistic or over-motivated. Instead, it is advocating rationality and explaining many alternatives on how to become less wrong. It contains many historical anecdotes, exciting research results, and many Star Trek spoilers. At the end of the day, we're a bunch of apes whose brains were optimized for defending ourselves and our tribes, not for doing unbiased evaluations of scientific evidence. (J. Galef)

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