Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want - by Nicholas Epley

Many new brilliant insights, especially about over-estimating the differences between you and others, thereby separating into us-vs-them tribalism. Scan to the end of my notes, to see. If you know more books like this, please recommend them to me. I adore this subject.

Derek Sivers' notes

“The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another.” - MARCEL PROUST

Your brain’s greatest skill is its ability to think about the minds of others in order to understand them better.

More time together did not make the couples any more accurate; it just gave them the illusion that they were more accurate.

Compared to the mental abilities of other species on this planet, our sixth sense is what truly makes our brains superpowered. The problem is that the confidence we have in this sense far outstrips our actual ability, and the confidence we have in our judgment rarely gives us a good sense of how accurate we actually are. The main goal of this book is to reduce your illusion of insight into the minds of others, both by trying to improve your understanding and by inducing a greater sense of humility about what you know - and what you do not know - about others.

You are consciously aware of your brain’s finished products - conscious attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and feelings - but are unaware of the processes your brain went through to construct those final products, and you are therefore unable to recognize its mistakes.

In each of us there is another whom we do not know.

People tended to select attractively enhanced images of themselves, thinking they were more attractive than they actually were. This is why most of the pictures taken of you seem to look so bad.
When you don’t know the actual facts about yourself, your consciousness pieces together a compelling story, much in the same way it does when you’re trying to read the minds of other people to make sense of why they act as they do.

Shoppers were first shown four pairs of stockings and asked to pick the best. In fact, the stockings were identical. The researchers found that the ordering mattered: shoppers preferred whichever stocking was on the far right (thereby evaluated last) four times more often than whichever stocking was on the far left (thereby evaluated first).

No psychologist asks people to explain the causes of their own thoughts or behavior anymore unless they’re interested in understanding storytelling.

If you see someone hunched over, you will assume that they are not feeling very proud. Find yourself hunching over in the same way, even if only because you’re filling out a survey on a table with very short legs, and you may report being less proud of yourself and your accomplishments, too.

An illusion that we know our own minds more deeply than we actually do has one disturbing consequence: it can make your mind appear superior to the minds of others.

Naïve realism: the intuitive sense that we see the world out there as it actually is, rather than as it appears from our own perspective.

If the illusions you hold about your own brain lead you to believe that you see the world as it actually is and you find that others see the world differently, then they must be the ones who are biased, distorted, uninformed, ignorant, unreasonable, or evil.

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them.
Europeans since the time of the ancient Greeks viewed those living in relatively primitive cultures as lacking a mind in one of two ways: either lacking self-control and emotions, like an animal, or lacking reason and intellect, like a child.
Distance keeps your sixth sense disengaged.
Your ability to understand the minds of others can be triggered by your physical senses.

Sit up straight and you’ll feel more proud of your accomplishments.
Furrowing your brow, as if you are thinking harder, can lead you to actually think harder.

Botox dulls your social senses right along with your wrinkles.

Medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) is involved in making inferences about the minds of others. MPFC is engaged more when you’re thinking about yourself, your close friends and family, and others who have beliefs similar to your own. It is activated when you care enough about others to care what they are thinking, and not when you are indifferent to others.

Ubuntu: “a person is a person through other persons.” Your humanity comes from the way you treat others, the idea goes, not the way you behave in isolation.

You can recognize intrinsic motivations more easily in yourself than in others.

Treat workers with respect, encourage them to think independently, allow them to make decisions, and make them feel connected to an important effort.

Engage the minds of others more routinely instead of treating nearby neighbors as mindless objects.

Attributing a mind to a nonhuman agent is the inverse process of failing to attribute a mind to another person.

Too fast or too slow and the robot in these experiments was recognized as a mindless machine, but at just the right speed, closer to human speed, the robot seemed more mindful. It started to look like it might be thinking or planning or feeling something.

The concept of a mind can explain the behavior of almost anything.

Urban children are more likely to anthropomorphize animals such as cows and pigs and deer than are rural children. Why? Because rural children are likely to have considerably more knowledge about these animals, knowledge acquired through direct experience.

A man on one side of a river shouts to a man standing on the other side, “Hey, how do I get to the other side of the river?” The other man responds, “You are on the other side of the river.”

You can’t judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. You hear it so often because the advice is so routinely ignored - by the rich who judge the poor as lazy and incompetent, the sober who judge the addicted to be weak and immoral, and the happy who can’t understand why the depressed don’t just “snap out of it.”

How your brain thinks of groups of anything: Instead of remembering exact details, you extract the “gist” of the information. The “gist” of a group is not its individual members but, rather, its average.

Where our stereotypes go wrong: getting too little information, defining groups by their differences, and being unable to observe the true causes of group differences directly.

Each of us views only a small slice of the world’s people, hears only haphazard bits of highly selected evidence from news outlets or other sources, and talks to only a narrow group of generally like-minded friends.

Stereotypes about majority groups also look to be more accurate than stereotypes about minority groups, simply because larger groups provide more observational evidence than smaller groups.

When you go on a trip, much of your experience involves doing the same thing for long stretches of time - flying, driving, sleeping, standing, waiting, walking - but the story you tell your friends afterward is all about the different things you experienced.

You define yourself by the attributes that make you different.

A man who claims to be searching for himself is looking for a sense of distinction.

Consider politics: people on opposing sides of each issue consistently assume that the other side is more extreme than it actually is. Real partisanship increases partly because of imagined partisanship on the other side. Israel and Egypt were disputing ownership of the Sinai Peninsula in 1976. Instead of fighting a zero-sum battle, the two sides came together and figured out each other’s actual interests. Israel wanted security, and Egypt wanted sovereignty. The Israelis didn’t want the Sinai Peninsula; they just didn’t want to be attacked from it. The solution reached at Camp David was to give the land back to Egypt but to create a demilitarized band along the border. Israel got its safety, and Egypt got its land.

People know their feelings right now more accurately than they can project what they’ll be feeling months from now. Generally focus questions on the present rather than the future. Getting perspective fails if your direct questions turn speculative.

If you have to reiterate someone else’s point to their satisfaction, then you’ll find out if you’ve understood.

Understanding other people requires getting their perspective and then verifying that you’ve understood it correctly.

Technique for creating fast friends is to have two strangers disclose private thoughts or memories to each other.

The secret to understanding each other better seems to come not through an increased ability to read body language or improved perspective taking but, rather, through the hard relational work of putting people in a position where they can tell you their minds openly and honestly.