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Summary

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 rationalising 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 we should train ourselves to think more like a scout. 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.

©2021 Julia Galef (P)2021 Hachette Audio UK

Critic reviews

"Original, thought-provoking and a joy to read." (Tim Harford)

"With insights that are both sharp and actionable, The Scout Mindset picks up where Predictably Irrational left off. Reading it will teach you to think more clearly, see yourself more accurately, and be wrong a little less often." (Adam Grant) 

"This is a book that will make a real difference in how you think." (Sean Carroll) 

"Highly recommended. It's not easy to become (more of) a scout, but it's hard not to be inspired by this book." (Rutger Bregman)

What listeners say about The Scout Mindset

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

for rationalists

This book is not about "be rational, biased human!" so much as "the first step is to actually desire to seek truth". There isn't too much new *substance* here if you have heard of things like the Intellectual Turing Test and Keep Your Identity Small and are familiar with Julia's work. If so, the new stuff will be the inspirational anecdotes about cases where people embodied the scout mindset. These stories, which include both famous people and friends of Julia, can be good inspiration and motivation to be a scout. One made me sob.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A brilliant and incisive book

So many people hold their beliefs with unjustified certainty, even when they are objectively wrong. This book explains why this is and how to avoid doing so ourselves. It makes a solid case for pursuing accuracy motivated reasoning, and cintains many useful techniques and illustrative case studies, all delivered with a delightful clarity.

2 people found this helpful

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Self-help for critical thinkers

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."

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invaluable - scout's honour

Julia has long been one of my favourite advocates for the way of thinking she calls here the scout mindset. This is a very cogent and accessible case for the utility of this approach. Essential reading for anyone struggling to have productive conversations on fraught topics, just generally improve the quality of their decision making

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Brilliant

Full of useful tips to improve rational thinking and decision making I had never considered before.

The world would be a better place, and far less divisive, if everyone read this book and followed its advice.

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Everyone should read this book

This is a true must read for anyone. Aside from the very important topic this book is entertaining, wellwritten, thoroughly researched and concise.

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A book needed in today's polarised world

This is one of my favourite books of the last 5 years. Great audio too. I have been following Julia's work for some time now and have been eagerly awaiting this book. it didn't disappoint.

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Helped me to understand about my thinking

loved it. the story was well structured and engaging and triggered me to think about my own behaviour. Clear ways how I can improve my scout mindset

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Fantastic book from a brilliant rationalist

The really good thing about this book is it teaches you techniques on how to think about things. It doesn't just point out unconscious biases. Therefore I think it goes further than excellent work done in the past by Munger, Kahneman and Tetlock. I listened to it twice to try and make sure I had taken in the main lessons. It took me a little while to get used to the narrator's accent. It's very well narrated and a lovely accent, just not one I'm used to hearing in Dunfermline, Scotland.

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    4 out of 5 stars

A must-listen for everyone

I've read "Thinking Fast & Slow" and a few of Robert Greene's books, but none compare so favourably to Julia's book. At time of review I'm about half way through, but already it's an extremely eye-opening and somewhat inspirational work. Where Kahneman simply points to human irrationality in a mocking fashion, and Greene gives long-winded historical anecdotes, Julia's approach is quite subtle, very relatable and ultimately more helpful in practice. Chapters are well-structured and less than half an hour in length. Furthermore, Julia's articulation is very clear and pleasant to listen to. There's just something about her delivery that makes you really empathise and intuitively understand what she's talking about. The generalisability of the "lessons" in this book is what makes it stand out, and a worthy recommendation for absolutely everyone. If you truly want to understand reality and become more rational, this is the book. Rather than pointing and laughing at how people are stupid or make bad decisions, Julia's book offers hope. It is a wonderful thing that we can have such an optimistic and positive outlook that is also grounded in reality.