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Summary

Expanding upon his viral TEDx Talk, psychology professor and social scientist John V. Petrocelli's The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit reveals the critical thinking habits you can develop to recognize and combat pervasive false information and delusional thinking that has become a common feature of everyday life.

"This is the perfect moment for...the psychology of detecting fake news in the world around us - and false beliefs about ourselves, too.” (Adam Grant)

Bullshit is the foundation of contaminated thinking and bad decisions that leads to health consequences, financial losses, legal consequences, broken relationships, and wasted time and resources.

No matter how smart we believe ourselves to be, we’re all susceptible to bullshit - and we all engage in it. While we may brush it off as harmless marketing sales speak or as humorous, embellished claims, it’s actually much more dangerous and insidious. It’s how Bernie Madoff successfully swindled billions of dollars from even the most experienced financial experts with his Ponzi scheme. It’s how the protocols of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward resulted in the deaths of 36 million people from starvation. Presented as truths by authority figures and credentialed experts, bullshit appears legitimate, and we accept their words as gospel. If we don’t question the information we receive from bullshit artists to prove their thoughts and theories, we allow these falsehoods to take root in our memories and beliefs. This faulty data affects our decision making capabilities, sometimes resulting in regrettable life choices.  

But with a little dose of skepticism and a commitment to truth-seeking, you can build your critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills to evaluate information, separate fact from fiction, and see through bullshitter spin. In The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit, experimental social psychologist John V. Petrocelli provides invaluable strategies not only to recognize and protect yourself from everyday bullshit but to accept your own lack of knowledge about subjects and avoid engaging in bullshit just for societal conformity.

With real-world examples from people versed in bullshit who work in the used car, real estate, wine, and diamond industries, Petrocelli exposes the red-flag warning signs found in the anecdotal stories, emotional language, and buzzwords used by bullshitters that persuade our decisions. By using his critical thinking defensive tactics against those motivated by profit, we will also learn how to stop the toxic misinformation spread from the social media influencers, fake news, and op-eds that permeate our culture and call out bullshit whenever we see it.

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press

"This bracing yet accessible work is the right book at the right time. In a world clouded by nonsense, The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit is a welcome ray of sunshine.” (Daniel H. Pink, New York Times best-selling author of When, Drive, and To Sell Is Human)

“At last, in the form of John Petrocelli’s highly engaging new book, we have straight talk about the doubletalk, flowing sewage-like around us these days. Better still, he walks his talk with scientifically-grounded, actionable information on precisely how to recognize and reject the bilge.” (Robert Cialdini, New York Times best-selling author)

©2021 John V. Petrocelli (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

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  • Joseph S.
  • 09-08-21

Just what the doctor ordered...

This is an excellent book! It's entertaining and even a bit frightening, but best of all he gives actionable steps to help determine whether or not we're dealing with BS. We're standing in piles of BS and more gets piled on each day. Petrocelli provides a strong and sturdy shovel to help us deal with it. Many thanks to the author, and yes, you absolutely should read or listen to this book. I'm still chuckling about how he describes the scientific peer review process, and then mentions that the peer review happens in established medical and scientific journals, not on You Tube! I have already posted links to this book in Facebook posts pushing questionable information, and I will continue to do so.

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  • chris boutte
  • 28-07-21

Bingeworthy book

I have no clue how I didn’t hear about this book or the work of John V. Petrocelli. This book is fantastic, and I binged it within a day of it being launched. There are a lot of books out there about being a better thinker and decision-maker, and I’ve read a ton of them. I can honestly say that this book stands out for a wide range of reasons, and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves. The author is a social psychologist and researcher, and there are a ton of studies in this book that I hadn’t heard of as well as studies that John and his team have done. In this book, you’ll learn what bullshit is, why people do it, and how to spot it. I mainly enjoy these books to remind myself of the tools needed to be skeptical of misinformation, but John covered way more than that. By the time you finish the book, you’ll know how to spot bullshit whether you’re reading or watching the news, buying a used car, or just talking to a friend.

Also, I listened to the audiobook version of this, and the narrator was perfect for the book. I usually don’t pay much attention to narrators of non-fiction, but as an audio listener, I really enjoyed this one.

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  • Ross Flynn
  • 24-10-21

Excellent principles

I liked the principles and processes of critical thinking espoused in this book. As a PhD whose research interest is personal epistemology, I might challenge some of his conclusions, like the usefulness of the MBTI in spite of its self-report unreliability, or his conclusions regarding intermittent fasting in the face of recent data. But overall I’m thinking he’s inviting us to important principles of complex epistemology that function well in differentiating truth from BS.

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  • RGO
  • 20-09-21

The BEST summary how to discipline one’s mind…

This is by far the best book that summarizes some of the most credible and well-established science over the past few decades of how to overcome the hacks that are within our thinking…

It’s a Must READ!

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  • rico402
  • 05-08-21

Fun, Entertaining and Scientific…

As much entertaining as scientific. Also fun and gives you a lot to think about.