Book Review – The Knowledge Illusion – Why We Never Think Alone

Knowledge Illusion Paul Gibbons' review

Knowledge Illusion: Inspiring, paradigm shifting perspective on knowledge – and what humans can achieve together

The Knowledge Illusion tells us something depressing – we don’t know nearly as much INDIVIDUALLY as we think, and something liberating – COLLECTIVELY, thinking together, we can achieve magical things.

Day in and day out we use objects, such as a ballpoint pen, about whose inner workings we know nothing.  On more complex issues, such as climate change, we may have strong positions – but who among us could describe how global temperatures are measured, what the albedo effect is, what the main sources of greenhouse gasses are, and how climate models (which run on super computers) work?

Professors Sloman and Fernbach start with a tour of cognitive science, including neuroscience, psychology, decision making, and contemporary social psychological research.  They illustrate this research with compelling anecdotes making it come alive for the layperson.  By the middle of the book I was hooked, as they delve into subjects such as scientific literacy – did you know that only 73% of Americans know that the Earth moves around the Sun and not vice versa?!

In the last half of the book, they offer solutions beyond the commonplace – sure education is important, but if we are right that “we don’t think alone” – what does that imply for the way we teach and learn?  What does that mean for communities, teams, political discourse?

In a world where opinions are more polarized than before, despite rich information resources, Sloman and Fernbach invite us to be more humble about our own knowledge, but inspire us with what we can achieve if we drop dogmatic and hubristic stances, and think about knowledge as a collective enterprise.

Click on the book image to purchase on Amazon USA.

Please remember to sign up for book release information for Truth Wars  – which will cover Sloman and Fernbach’s territory – and more!


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