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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)

"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.

4 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."

1 person found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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Mindset Made Flexibly Robust

This book is a well-researched, well-performed toolkit for avoiding the many trappings of group think in our time.

Highly recommended for those who value free thinking…and also for those who think they don’t need such a book!

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One of the best bins I’ve ever read

She’s super clear and concise. Given me a practical way to cope with uncertainties and difficulties in life. Love it!

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Great book, all that I had hoped for

I look out for books like this and it was all that I had hoped for. It gave me a lot of food for thought and some real challenges. It is not a “thinking fast and slow” spinoff but has a lot of original ideas and entertaining anecdotes to help remember them.

The reading by the author is excellent.

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How to think better

“Man is so intelligent that he feels impelled to invent theories to account for what happens in the world. Unfortunately, he is not quite intelligent enough, in most cases, to find correct explanations. So that when he acts on his theories, he behaves very often like a lunatic.” Aldous Huxley, Texts and Pretexts, 1932

This is an interesting book that looks at how we sometimes see the world and how we can become more aware of what is so and what isn’t. Some people are very certain of the stories they’ve told themselves and the certainties of their narratives that they will either defend or attack others who question their beliefs - this is a person with a soldier mindset. Very good if you're fighting a battle. However, it can be hard for these folk to always see or know the truth, stories are stronger than facts and rational reasoning and their truths can be built on flimsy, unreliable evidence. The Scout mindset is one that purveys the landscape and rationalises and reasons what the truth might be, has a broader outlook and tries to see both sides of an argument or set of beliefs. The author looks at whether we have a scout mindset or a soldier mindset. The soldier mindset is one that is always on the attack or being defensive, at the point of all else, certain of its viewpoint - but none of us can be right or correct all the time. However, the scout mindset is one who surveys the world with curiosity and open-mindedness. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong and in fact your thinking and thoughts should always be open to constant reevaluation. This book looks at ways that we can see the world more clearly. As another recent book I read recently concluded with the quote“the problem with the world it’s not that people think wrong things but there certain of those wrong things“. By the end of this book I realised that I do do a lot of things similar to a scout mindset but it was still a very worthwhile read. Question your thinking, try to see new points or argue with your own opinions, be humble, instead of being certain of something give it a percentage of how current you think an opinion, belief or statement you think is correct actually is. It might not be. If you don’t agree with someone, try to be curious as to why other people think things you might disagree with and why some people are more focused on their narratives rather than facts, reasons and rationale. There is nothing wrong with being wrong and this book illustrates this with lots of practical ideas. I listened to this as an audiobook, and it would probably be helpful to have a hardcopy so that I could have made a few notes.

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Thoughtful, balanced, insightful

A valuable and informative book that will help you challenge yourself to understand things and make decisions in a balanced way, keeping the truth at the centre, with lots of real world examples.

Well written and well narrated

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  • pushpendra pratap
  • 14-05-22

Insightful

It has nice list of personal biases, which are very important to keep in mind while having opinion about something.

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  • Argyris
  • 21-09-21

Intro to Rationality

This is an excellent book that reads like an intro to Rationality class at a University. Even though it's an intro to Rationality it can be very helpful to everyone

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  • Michael Sun
  • 04-07-21

Julia, thank you :)

For all those inspiring real stories and situations. For the systematization and providing with useful tools to work with. For your passion to share your knowledge and experience. And… Since our way of thinking is very very similar in many many ways… I kinda knew what it all was going to be about, but… Still I found this book to be more than I expected. I picked up some tricks from it I had never even guessed about. Thank you for that.

Mike.