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from one of the chapters was The Rationality Project where he tries to become a more rational thinker.

Part of the chapter is dedicated to cognitive biases and one section was called The Mirror Effect.

I knew about grocery stores adding the smell of baking bread to make people hungry so that they'd buy more food and other tricks one can play on the human brain to try to influence it. I switched to smaller plates to fool my mind into thinking I was eating bigger more impressive meals.

From this chapter I learned that putting up mirrors will make people behave more ethically because unconsciously you feel like someone is watching you. He put mirrors by his desk to trick himself into being more on task while working. An even better trick - putting up eyes. He cut out pictures of eyes from magazines and taped them around the house. He put stern eyes (Lynne Cheney's) on the cabinet where the snacks are kept. He put a dozen pairs of eyes in the kids' room.

That brings me to my favorite quote from this book - "Is it working? Hard to tell. My son Lucas hasn't thrown a tantrum about sharing his Hot Wheels jeep in a week. But I'd need a more rigorous study to be sure. I do know this: Zane enjoys engaging in staring contests with the eyes. He'll get his face up real close and stare for several minutes, trying, I suppose, to make John Malkovich blink. So that keeps him out of trouble."

Taken from pages 93-95



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 10th, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Sounds like an interesting book, that thing with the eyes has been shown to work.
Jan. 11th, 2011 04:00 am (UTC)
That's right, you have a biomedical/neurology type degree, don't you? I bet you've read about a lot of interesting studies along those lines.

I really enjoyed the book - it was a fun and quick read!
In fact, I've read three of his books and enjoyed all of them.
A J Jacobs website may have excerpts. He's listed as a humorist, but I think there's more to his writing than just humor.

My favorite is probably The Year of Living Biblically (he tries to obey every rule in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, though not all at the same time). For The Know-It-All he reads the entire Encyclopedia from A to Z. All of his books are a mix of facts about what he is studying and the effect of the experiment and the effect of how he's changing on his personal life. (His wife is a saint.) I especially like how he researches his topic and includes outside sources. For Know-It-All to better understand 'genius" he interviewed Alex Trebek (sp) and Ken Jennings from Jeopardy, his old school teachers, someone who founded a Top 1% society, and others. He also joined Mensa and competed on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. For Biblically he spent a weekend with an Amish family and visited a Creationist Museum, a snake-lifting fundamentalist church, the Red-Letter Christian group, a gay Bible study group, a Hasidic Jewish community (Jacobs is Jewish), and others. He even goes to Israel and Samaria He really throws himself into his experiments, and he's incredibly open and honest (and sometimes funny and sometimes poignant and sometimes arrogant). I think I changed as a person after reading The Year of Living Biblically. :)

/boring book promoting babble
Jan. 11th, 2011 09:21 am (UTC)
I also read Elephants On Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments, by Alex Boese, which is a collection of all SORTS of weird experiments!

He sounds like an interesting guy.
Jan. 11th, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC)
the title alone is great - I will have to look for Boese's book!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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