Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody

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9780316228060: Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody

A practical guide to outguessing everything from multiple-choice tests to the office football pool to the stock market.

People are predictable even when they try not to be. William Poundstone demonstrates how to turn this fact to personal advantage in scores of everyday situations, from playing the lottery to buying a home. ROCK BREAKS SCISSORS is mind-reading for real life.

Will the next tennis serve go right or left? Will the market go up or down? Most people are poor at that kind of predicting. We are hard-wired to make bum bets on "trends" and "winning streaks" that are illusions. Yet ultimately we're all in the business of anticipating the actions of others. Poundstone reveals how to overcome the errors and improve the accuracy of your own outguessing. ROCK BREAKS SCISSORS is a hands-on guide to turning life's odds in your favor.

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About the Author:

William Poundstone is the author of twelve books, including Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?, How Would You Move Mount Fuji?, and Fortune's Formula. Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, he has written for the New York Times, Harper's, Harvard Business Review, and the Village Voice, among other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.

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The title makes it sound kind of like one of those shady get-rich-quick books, but this is, in fact, a smart, engagingly written account of how to capitalize on other peoples’ predictability (while at the same time, if we’re paying attention, minimize our own predictability). With the smooth readability of John Allen Paulos, whose Innumeracy (1988) has some thematic similarities, Poundstone explores how our tendencies toward uniformity and simplicity, even when we think we’re being random and complex, leave us open to exploitation by people who know more than we do, like the fact that, when asked to pick one object out of five lined up in a row, most people will pick the second or fourth, or that, in the game rock/paper/scissors, most men choose rock, and scissors is the least popular choice by both genders. There’s some mathematics here—the author explains what he’s talking about in detail—but it’s clearly explained and easily accessible to the general reader. An enlightening book, though, sadly, much of the enlightenment comes from realizing that we’re not as clever as we thought we were. --David Pitt

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