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The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

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...an engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making. 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 triba ...an engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making. 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 rationalizing 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, argues Galef, we should train ourselves to have a scout mindset. 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.


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...an engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making. 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 triba ...an engaging and enlightening account from which we all can benefit.--The Wall Street Journal A better way to combat knee-jerk biases and make smarter decisions, from Julia Galef, the acclaimed expert on rational decision-making. 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 rationalizing 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, argues Galef, we should train ourselves to have a scout mindset. 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.

30 review for The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    Here's a way to tell scientific intelligence from legal intelligence. Both may start from the idea that something cannot be done and think up arguments to explain why. However, the scientist may discover a flaw in the argument that leads him change his mind and to discover a way to do it... The legal thinker will merely try to patch the flaw in the argument, because, once he has chosen a side, all his intelligence is devoted to finding arguments for that side. ― John McCarthy I was a bit of a Here's a way to tell scientific intelligence from legal intelligence. Both may start from the idea that something cannot be done and think up arguments to explain why. However, the scientist may discover a flaw in the argument that leads him change his mind and to discover a way to do it... The legal thinker will merely try to patch the flaw in the argument, because, once he has chosen a side, all his intelligence is devoted to finding arguments for that side. ― John McCarthy I was a bit of a legalist as a young man: completely gripped by what Galef calls the "soldier mindset", the urge to win arguments and cling to your positions, rather than find the truth. I was a philosophy student. Philosophy is supposed to be dispassionate and open-minded, but in fact the sheer number of degrees of freedom in it, and the absence of conclusive evidence lead to the usual bias and inertia. (We can name positions after philosophers because so few change their minds.) A certain level of intelligence and knowledge of say logical fallacies can end up trapping you, since you can usually improvise a fix for the deadly new fact, or anyway say "you too!". Or not. This is an uplifting and useful set of stories about moving from the (pretty diseased) default mode of thinking to be, on average, less deluded and unfair. If you spend much time looking at internet arguments, or TV news debates, or other kinds of stupid war then you'll be cheered, and - who knows - healed, by Galef's examples of people changing their minds and running the numbers, against their current narrowly construed interests. Galef is a master of this, as you can see from basically any of her radio episodes. This would have helped the young legalist realise what he was doing, and might have sped him on the road. Much more like a normal business book than I expected, with three-sentence stories of [random CEO]'s [triumph | desolation], and with more references to other self-help books. I'll accept this as airport bookshop camouflage. It is a friendly first step into honest reason. The principles are not new, but the illustrating anecdotes are, and the writing is utterly, crashingly accessible in the Bestseller Nonfiction style, and it's short and sunny, and anyway it is a vital public service to redo Plato / Laplace / Schopenhauer / Peirce / Russell / Kahneman / Hanson / Yudkowsky / Galef, every say two years til the end of time. News to me: * The London Homeopathic Hospital had the best results during the Victorian cholera epidemic, for reasons unrelated to homeopathy (clean sheets and proto-rehydration therapy). Still dismal 18% mortality. * Spock has a Brier score above 0.5: way worse than the average forecaster on low-stakes internet platforms (0.25), and somewhat worse than a flipping coin. * An author of the Christian abstinence craze was persuaded that his book (advising that teens not even date other teens) was harmful, and stopped selling it. --- Galef type: Data #2: surprising case studies Theory #2: models of what makes something succeed or fail Theory #5: a general lens you can use to analyze many different things Values #1: an explicit argument about values Thinking #1: teach principles of thinking directly

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ozzie Gooen

    TDLR: A good book with mass appeal to help people care more about being accurate. Fairly easy to read, which makes it easy to recommend to many people. I've met Julia a few times and am friendly with her. I'd be happy if this book does well, and expect that to lead to a (slightly) more reasonable world. That said, in the interest of having a Scout Mindset, I want to be honest about my impression. The Scout Mindset is the sort of book I'm both happy with and frustrated by. I'm frustrated because thi TDLR: A good book with mass appeal to help people care more about being accurate. Fairly easy to read, which makes it easy to recommend to many people. I've met Julia a few times and am friendly with her. I'd be happy if this book does well, and expect that to lead to a (slightly) more reasonable world. That said, in the interest of having a Scout Mindset, I want to be honest about my impression. The Scout Mindset is the sort of book I'm both happy with and frustrated by. I'm frustrated because this is a relatively casual overview of what I wish were a thorough Academic specialty. I felt similarly with The Life You Can Save when that was released. Another way of putting this is that I was sort of hoping for an academic work, but instead, think of this more as a journalistic work. It reminds me of Vice Documentaries and Malcolm Gladwell (in a nice way), instead of Superforecasting or The Elephant in the Brain. That said, journalistic works have their unique contributions in the literature, it's just a very different sort of work. I just read through the book on Audible and don't have notes. To write a really solid review would take more time than I have now, so instead, I'll leave scattered thoughts. 1. The main theme of the book is the dichotomy of "The Scout Mindset" vs. "The Soldier Mindset", and more specifically, why the Scout Mindset is (almost always?) better than the Solider Mindset. Put differently, we have a bunch of books about "how to think accurately", but surprisingly few on "you should even try thinking accurately." Sadly, this latter part has to be stated, but that's how things are. 2. I was expecting a lot of references to scientific studies, but there seemed to be a lot more text on stories and a few specific anecdotes. The main studies I recall were a very few seemingly small psychological studies, which at this point I'm fairly suspect of. One small note: I found it odd that Elon Musk was described multiple times as something like an exemplar of honesty. I agree with the particular examples pointed to, but I believe Elon Musk is notorious for making explicit overconfident statements. 3. Motivated reasoning is a substantial and profound topic. I believe it already has many books detailing not only that it exists, but why it's beneficial and harmful in different settings. The Scout Mindset didn't seem to engage with much of this literature. It argued that "The Scout Mindset is better than the Soldier Mindset", but that seems like an intense simplification of the landscape. Lies are a much more integral part of society than I think they are given credit for here, and removing them would be a very radical action. If you could go back in time and strongly convince particular people to be atheistic, that could be fatal. 4. The most novel part to me was the last few chapters, on "Rethinking Identity". This section seems particularly inspired by the blog post Keep Your Identity Small by Paul Graham, but of course, goes into more detail. I found the mentioned stories to be a solid illustration of the key points and will dwell on these more. 5. People close to Julia's work have heard much of this before, but maybe half or so seemed rather new to me. 6. As a small point, if the theme of the book is about the benefits of always being honest, the marketing seemed fairly traditionally deceiving. I wasn't sure what to expect from the cover and quotes. I could easily see potential readers getting the wrong impression looking at the marketing materials, and there seems to be little work to directly make the actual value of the book more clear. There's nothing up front that reads, "This book is aiming to achieve X, but doesn't do Y and Z, which you might have been expecting." I guess that Julia didn't have control over the marketing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Jordan

    I was surprised by how much I loved The Scout Mindset. I've been following Julia Galef's work for many years, and spent a long time immersed in the literature on rationality, decision-making, and belief formation, so I expected the book to be kind of boring. Instead, I found it extremely persuasive and even quite moving. Every page was jam-packed with important ideas, and the examples masterfully supported the main arguments. It also was never polemical. Julia Galef does not want you to be on he I was surprised by how much I loved The Scout Mindset. I've been following Julia Galef's work for many years, and spent a long time immersed in the literature on rationality, decision-making, and belief formation, so I expected the book to be kind of boring. Instead, I found it extremely persuasive and even quite moving. Every page was jam-packed with important ideas, and the examples masterfully supported the main arguments. It also was never polemical. Julia Galef does not want you to be on her team; she truly just wants you to be intellectually honest and think clearly. There were a few things I particularly enjoyed about The Scout Mindset. First was its length. Books that argue a simple thesis or introduce a concept really don't need to be long. Second was the lack of jargon. Most books on rationality talk about "steelmanning" and "Bayesian priors" and "the availability heuristic"—none of that here. Just solid reasoning and fun examples. Third was the focus on immediate, practical solutions. While reading the book, I felt a palpable shift in the way I thought about my own reasoning, and a greater willingness to question why I held certain beliefs. (In particular, I've found it very helpful while navigating my complex feelings about the current iteration of Israeli/Palestinian tensions.) Fourth, it did not rely on psychology studies to make its central points. Books like Thinking: Fast and Slow, The Righteous Mind, and Predictably Irrational are great, but rely on studies that often don't replicate. None of that here. This is a work of philosophy, and almost self-help, that makes a compelling case on its own merits. Finally, I loved that it addressed the relationship between clear thinking and mental health. Galef acknowledges that the biggest barrier to seeking out feedback is low self-esteem, that overestimating the size of your problems is a central cause of anxiety, and that the research linking accurate self-knowledge with depression is hella spurious. A couple other memorable ideas: - Our language around belief-formation is very war-like: "Knockdown argument", "conceded the point", "staunch supporter", "defending your position". This is bad!! Our view of the world isn't a military stronghold; it's an ever-changing estimate. - No one has ever changed their mind because of antagonism. If you're being snarky about a viewpoint you don't share, you're declaring "I care about flaunting for my tribe, but don't care about the dumbos who disagree." - There is a big difference between epistemic confidence (being certain that you're correct) and social confidence (being self-assured and charismatic). The most trustworthy people are very socially confident, but often very skeptical of their own ideas. We should all aim for that!! The book does have its flaws, of course. Here's one that stood out to me: Julia Galef is deeply immersed in the tech industry, and the examples of careers and contentious topics sometimes feel overly tech-y (Bezos, Musk, entrepreneurs, polyamory, boards of directors, Effective Altruism, etc.). I do worry that this might be a turn-off for some listeners/readers. All in all, this is the single best introductory resource I've come across for starting the never-ending journey of seeking out the truth. The Scout Mindset is a terrific book, and a model for popular nonfiction. Concise, persuasive, and intellectually honest. Highly recommended!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zainab

    Julia picks interesting cases to support her claim, so in a way, she satisfied my selfish want to find stories in the non-fiction. Thanks, Julia. However (there's always that however), what I did not like was the same-old-same-old tradition among modern-day non-fiction writers who think it's the best strategy to make it to that 200+ pages by adding as many evidences as they can to validate their precious insights. It's annoying. I don't want to get used to this stupid tradition just because Julia Julia picks interesting cases to support her claim, so in a way, she satisfied my selfish want to find stories in the non-fiction. Thanks, Julia. However (there's always that however), what I did not like was the same-old-same-old tradition among modern-day non-fiction writers who think it's the best strategy to make it to that 200+ pages by adding as many evidences as they can to validate their precious insights. It's annoying. I don't want to get used to this stupid tradition just because Julia is good with choosing her page adders. Anyway. I'm sharing one of the cases to show you what Julia's precious insights are all about. So, back in the 70s, when Susan Blackmore was a freshman at Oxford University studying psychology, just like her other college mates, she decided to use drugs to experience her newly-gotten freedom. She eventually found her spirit being lifted up towards the ceiling (reminds me of Jessie from Breaking Bad). But the thing was, she could see her body lying on the bed. That first experience with drugs changed her mindset about the paranormal. After that experience, she would wear stupid costumes, perform cute rituals, and read tarot cards to listen to her spirit guides and all. She also changed her academic focus to parapsychology. Did her Ph.D., and eventually found that all the evidence she had that proved the existence of the paranormal was only chance-based. She couldn't easily go back to being that annoying skeptic in the family especially when she had been ghost-hunting for a living to save people from their supposed demons (I still have to look it up). She became that annoying skeptic anyway, because truth, you know. Seeking truth, by all means, that's the thesis. Julia uses billions of cases and case studies to make her point that you should always reach conclusions based on accuracy-motivated reasoning (the Scout mindset) and not directionally-motivated reasoning (the Soldier mindset aka half-truth, biases-based rationalizing). She made her point well. But the thing is how do you objectively separate the truth from the crap when there is so much crap we feed on on the daily basis? Reminds me of that Netflix documentary called Surviving Death. In the first episode, people narrate their near-death/full-death experiences. Most of them witnessed their spirits being lifted from their bodies (mostly during an operation), saw the doctors struggling to keep the body alive, then suddenly, felt like dissolving into all colorful things like the intermediary phase where the spirits go, and still made back to this world because "it just wasn't their time." For me, consistency of evidence doesn't always mean truth. But, but, but another parapsychologist as shown in the same episode showed that in most of these cases, the survived lot mentioned the specific details like the position of a particular doctor standing in whatever direction, performing whatever specific thing that the patient could not have possibly mentioned had he/she not seen it from a distance with eyes fully open and in a state of consciousness. And yet again, see, all the patients were drugged as per the regular operating procedures. So, yeah. The book left me with this final thought: What the hell is clarity? Note: I have updated my review system as I get to read more these days. Now, the books I feel conflicted about (most of them) get 3 stars. It's just easy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Schubert

    The Scout Mindset is a spirited defence of truth-seeking and intellectual honesty. Julia Galef argues that we by default are in the "soldier mindset", where we're trying to defend our views come what may. We're making our beliefs part of our identity, so feel personally threatened if someone challenges them. Instead, she argues, we should adopt the scout mindset - we should be genuinely curious; genuinely open to changing our mind. Galef argues that adopting this mindset or attitude is key to bec The Scout Mindset is a spirited defence of truth-seeking and intellectual honesty. Julia Galef argues that we by default are in the "soldier mindset", where we're trying to defend our views come what may. We're making our beliefs part of our identity, so feel personally threatened if someone challenges them. Instead, she argues, we should adopt the scout mindset - we should be genuinely curious; genuinely open to changing our mind. Galef argues that adopting this mindset or attitude is key to becoming a better reasoner. She also describes a number of helpful techniques, such as the superforecasters' habit of constantly making small revisions to their beliefs, and how to choose interlocutors that are more likely to change your mind. These techniques serve to show how to live the scout mindset on a daily basis. I think that Galef is right that we intuitively underestimate the value of figuring out the truth. It's not just valuable for individuals, but is also supremely important for humanity as a whole. Civilisation is ever becoming more complex. So to address the great problems of tomorrow, we need a spirit of impartial truth-seeking. This is the best book on that spirit to date.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Matthews

    Julia’s a friend so I’ll avoid being too effusive. But this is a rare book that actually makes you want to be a better, or at least a better-reasoning, person.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Milan

    The 'scout mindset' seeks to discover what is correct through fact-checking, and rationalizes toward conclusions that lead to “the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were.” The 'soldier mindset' leads us to defend our beliefs against outside threats. “We change our minds less often than we should but more often than we could.” "There’s no such thing as a 'threat' to your beliefs. If you find out you were wrong about something, great—you’ve improved your map, and that can The 'scout mindset' seeks to discover what is correct through fact-checking, and rationalizes toward conclusions that lead to “the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were.” The 'soldier mindset' leads us to defend our beliefs against outside threats. “We change our minds less often than we should but more often than we could.” "There’s no such thing as a 'threat' to your beliefs. If you find out you were wrong about something, great—you’ve improved your map, and that can only help you.” I did not find anything new in Julia Galef's book, just old wine in new bottle.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Victor Porras

    Some of the ideas were very interesting, but I was hoping for something a little more scientific. This came off a bit like a TED talk or long Atlantic thinkpiece, filled with anecdotes rather than data. Separately (or perhaps contradictorily), I thought it was overly earnest and could have used a little more humor. I enjoyed the self calibration test and the section on identity at the end.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Murilo Queiroz

    An excellent, but short and very readable, introduction to why knowing about our biases, the scientific method and critical thinking isn't enough for those who wants to take better, more rational decisions. After reading many great books such as Thinking, Fast and Slow, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (one of my favorite non-fiction books), I'm already convinced that it's necessary a conscious effort An excellent, but short and very readable, introduction to why knowing about our biases, the scientific method and critical thinking isn't enough for those who wants to take better, more rational decisions. After reading many great books such as Thinking, Fast and Slow, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (one of my favorite non-fiction books), I'm already convinced that it's necessary a conscious effort to avoid motivated reasoning - if you are already convinced you (or the members of your tribe/party/"side") are right, it's very easy to collect very reasonable and apparently correct arguments to support your position. What is tremendously difficult, and it's the central point of this book, is to give up the "soldier mindset", which implies in defending your position with all possible effort, and to adopt a "scout mindset", which favors not necessarily being in the victorious side of a discussion, but in getting as close as possible to the actual unbiased "truth" (measured in objective terms, e.g. according to the number of correct predictions).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hamid

    Most people think you have to choose between being happy and being realistic. And so they shrug, throw up their hands, and say, “Ah well, so much the worse for realism,” or sometimes, “Ah well, so much the worse for happiness.” A central theme of this book is that we don’t have to choose. With a bit of extra effort and cleverness, we can have both. We can find ways to cope with fear and insecurity. We can take bold risks and persevere in the face of setbacks. We can influence, persuade, and inspi Most people think you have to choose between being happy and being realistic. And so they shrug, throw up their hands, and say, “Ah well, so much the worse for realism,” or sometimes, “Ah well, so much the worse for happiness.” A central theme of this book is that we don’t have to choose. With a bit of extra effort and cleverness, we can have both. We can find ways to cope with fear and insecurity. We can take bold risks and persevere in the face of setbacks. We can influence, persuade, and inspire. We can fight effectively for social change. And we can do all of this by understanding and working with what’s real, not shutting our eyes to it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Yigitalp Ertem

    I listened to The Scout Mindset after watching some Big Think and Bayesian Thinking related videos from Julia Galef but I didn't find the book very helpful. Rarely interesting, mostly garnishing a simple thesis. The parts about tech-billionaire-appraisals and inductive examples starting with Facebook/Reddit posts and ending with overarching generalizations about 'how we'd better think' made me even more disinterested. Bored towards the end, I still tried to preserve my scout mindset and finished I listened to The Scout Mindset after watching some Big Think and Bayesian Thinking related videos from Julia Galef but I didn't find the book very helpful. Rarely interesting, mostly garnishing a simple thesis. The parts about tech-billionaire-appraisals and inductive examples starting with Facebook/Reddit posts and ending with overarching generalizations about 'how we'd better think' made me even more disinterested. Bored towards the end, I still tried to preserve my scout mindset and finished. The author smiled at me at the end: "Find an author, media outlet, or other opinion source who holds different views from you, but who has a better-than-average shot at changing your mind—someone you find reasonable or with whom you share some common ground." One good moment was a confessional memoir from the author where she was asking to the participants about a lecture/workshop about their feedback. She mentions that she noticed that while she was asking "was it good for you", she was nodding her head and smiling, pushing the people to say positive things even though her actual aim was to get some critical responses. I like and remember the mistakes, revelations and detailed authentic moments more than "that's how some random successful entrepreneur think" kind of orations.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I have followed the "rationality" community online which includes organizations & blogs such as LessWrong, StarSlateCodex, Machine Intelligence Research Institute for some time now since they are all in the same orbit of my interests in transhumanism & futurism, but I could not really get into worshiping Bayes' Theorem as part of my identity. This book is way different from the rationality blogs, it's a much less tedious introduction to the why & how of "Scout Mindset" and much more recommendabl I have followed the "rationality" community online which includes organizations & blogs such as LessWrong, StarSlateCodex, Machine Intelligence Research Institute for some time now since they are all in the same orbit of my interests in transhumanism & futurism, but I could not really get into worshiping Bayes' Theorem as part of my identity. This book is way different from the rationality blogs, it's a much less tedious introduction to the why & how of "Scout Mindset" and much more recommendable as an introduction to the same set of ideas. The book spends most of its time giving examples of Scout Mindset and why it is preferable to "Soldier Mindset." One problem I have with the book is that I feel an equivalent book on Soldier Mindset could be written with similarly cherry-picked examples. For a book that is based on rationality, it is a tad ironic that there isn't much hard science behind why you should pick one over the other. And to be fair, it may just be tautologically impossible to make a strong case for Scout Mindset without sounding like a soldier and undermining the whole thesis of the book. Still, I am reminded of the controversy behind Angela Duckworth's theory of "Grit" where grit seemed too close to trait conscientiousness: The thesis of the book feels like a call to shift your "Big 5" personality to higher trait openness. There are many personality types in the world, and I would not prescribe "higher openness" as the best way to live. That being said, the empirical examples given of why Scout Mindset may be preferable anyway are no doubt compelling. The book also gives multiple cognitive hacks or tools one can use in different situations to think more like a scout. For example, thinking more in probabilities (like making a bet on a die roll sometime in the future) rather than unilaterally declaring the chance of some event occurring as impossible. I feel the book is worth a second read just to go back and catalog all the tips and tricks for thinking. As the saying goes, "a book not worth reading twice is not worth reading." Even if you're not convinced thoroughly by the end that Scout Mindset is the best form of thinking, your time won't be wasted by giving this book a read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Isaac

    I don't know if I consider myself a "rationalist" or part of the "rationalist" community, but the overall tenet of trying to over come bias and see the world more clearly are very appealing and I find folks from that community like Robin Hanson, Bryan Caplan and Scott Alexander to be some of the most consistently stimulating intellectuals writing today. Basically there was no way i was not going to like this book. I hadn't heard of Julia Galef prior to her appearance on the Wright Show a few mont I don't know if I consider myself a "rationalist" or part of the "rationalist" community, but the overall tenet of trying to over come bias and see the world more clearly are very appealing and I find folks from that community like Robin Hanson, Bryan Caplan and Scott Alexander to be some of the most consistently stimulating intellectuals writing today. Basically there was no way i was not going to like this book. I hadn't heard of Julia Galef prior to her appearance on the Wright Show a few months back and she was clearly a part of that rationalist tribe, and I really liked her framing of the scout vs. soldier mindsets so her book went right on the audible wish list. She briefly outlines her diagnosis; we should not defend our ideas/opinions like soldiers, we should be curious about why people disagree like scouts. Then spends some time explaining why that scout mindset will help us make better decisions, then most of the book is dedicated to tools to help us move towards a more scout-like mindset like thought experiments, holding your identity lightly, finding people you like/trust who disagree. Some of those tools are more interesting then others, but where this book really shines is in it's use of true stories, little narratives to show them in action. This book is real short, but it's jam packed with little vignettes of individuals or groups who overcame or pushed back against a soldier mindset with remarkable outcomes. The narratives work especially well given that one of her final tools is to have role models who embody the scout mindset and encourage you to do better. Overall I'm not sure if this book would have been more or less interesting to someone less steeped in the rationalist culture, but if nothing else it struck me as a fresh and considerably better than average self-help book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Ray

    The world needs more of this. Galef has been talking for a while about adopting a "Scout Mindset" vs a "Soldier Mindset" -- that is, seeking out the truth to get as accurate a map of the territory as possible, instead of feeling like you have to stand your ground, defend your views. An an idea, it's a decent introduction to the rationality/skeptics/truthseeking or whatever-you-want-to-call-it community. It starts with a breakdown of the language we use around arguments and debates, much of which The world needs more of this. Galef has been talking for a while about adopting a "Scout Mindset" vs a "Soldier Mindset" -- that is, seeking out the truth to get as accurate a map of the territory as possible, instead of feeling like you have to stand your ground, defend your views. An an idea, it's a decent introduction to the rationality/skeptics/truthseeking or whatever-you-want-to-call-it community. It starts with a breakdown of the language we use around arguments and debates, much of which uses combative terms like "attack" and "defend," before going into why we naturally gravitate towards the Soldier Mindset without proactive correction. There are some interesting stories about historical Scouts and Soldiers, and then Galef lists some potential traps to avoid, as well as little nuances about how one talks to oneself that can reveal one's true position. Galef doesn't just run through known biases and fallacies, she offers questions and thought experiments the reader can use to make sure they don't fall into these traps. I appreciated her going the extra step here. It'll still be hard to confront one's most ingrained biases and prejudices, but these tools will make them easier to detect, if the effort is put in. In terms of thinking rationally, any one book is "tip of the iceberg," but I think Galef has done a great job of both providing an introduction and some useful tools for those who wish to do better than what our brains - and the brains of those around us - are capable of achieving on autopilot.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This is a synthesis of a lot of concepts that I was aware of and have read about, indeed the well-read won't find much new here. Calling her concept "scout mindset" vs. "soldier mindset" is a cheesy way to refer to these ideas, and seems to be tailor-made ideas to build a book around, but I guess that's what people do. Among others, Kahneman and Tetlock are well covered in this book. I don't really mind this as I enjoy being reminded of these concepts periodically. One of the last concepts she co This is a synthesis of a lot of concepts that I was aware of and have read about, indeed the well-read won't find much new here. Calling her concept "scout mindset" vs. "soldier mindset" is a cheesy way to refer to these ideas, and seems to be tailor-made ideas to build a book around, but I guess that's what people do. Among others, Kahneman and Tetlock are well covered in this book. I don't really mind this as I enjoy being reminded of these concepts periodically. One of the last concepts she covered was one of the best, and that was how common it is for people to wrap their identities up in certain ideologies. For example, if I self-identify as a Republican or a Democrat, it can lead to discounting any ideas that don't jive with the ideology without really looking for the truth. This is certainly very common and none of us are immune. We should perhaps avoid identifying with ideology, rather striving to choose an independent ideology and assessing ideas on their merit, rather than on what someone tells you the merit is.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nick de Vera

    meta, soldier mindset: i want to five-star and promote this book, see My Tribe become popular and influential. some welcome pushback against the increasingly annoying "use cognitive biases to trick yourself into becoming smarter/happier/successful" trend in pop psych. i think soldier mindset is still too valuable to give up. maybe the synthesis would be something like sociometer theory: scout mindset at all times in your own head, take off or put on the soldier mask as needed. meta, soldier mindset: i want to five-star and promote this book, see My Tribe become popular and influential. some welcome pushback against the increasingly annoying "use cognitive biases to trick yourself into becoming smarter/happier/successful" trend in pop psych. i think soldier mindset is still too valuable to give up. maybe the synthesis would be something like sociometer theory: scout mindset at all times in your own head, take off or put on the soldier mask as needed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Travis Rebello

    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 cri 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Luke Gompertz

    Unlike other books on this topic, this book doesn't just tell us how humans are bad at reasoning, it also offers genuine practical steps to help us reason better, and they are compelling enough that I will genuinely try them. Its central thesis – that we undermine our long-term well-being by not seeking accuracy – is clearly argued. In fact all the prose is in what Steven Pinker calls 'classic style': plain English that doesn't talk down to you. Unlike other books on this topic, this book doesn't just tell us how humans are bad at reasoning, it also offers genuine practical steps to help us reason better, and they are compelling enough that I will genuinely try them. Its central thesis – that we undermine our long-term well-being by not seeking accuracy – is clearly argued. In fact all the prose is in what Steven Pinker calls 'classic style': plain English that doesn't talk down to you.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joni

    This tedious little book is basically a primer on how to be open-minded and self actualized. I suppose it would be useful if you couldn't grasp these concepts, but most people don't grasp these things because they don't want to. Thus, those who really need to read this book, won't. This tedious little book is basically a primer on how to be open-minded and self actualized. I suppose it would be useful if you couldn't grasp these concepts, but most people don't grasp these things because they don't want to. Thus, those who really need to read this book, won't.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erwin Rossen

    The title is perfect. I had expected a book how to be a better scout, but it is a book about how to get in the mindset of being a better scout. Julia Galef illustrates her points with tonnes of anecdotes and snippets from the internet, which wouldn't hold up to make proper rational arguments, but are perfect to illustrate her point and paint the picture. The title is perfect. I had expected a book how to be a better scout, but it is a book about how to get in the mindset of being a better scout. Julia Galef illustrates her points with tonnes of anecdotes and snippets from the internet, which wouldn't hold up to make proper rational arguments, but are perfect to illustrate her point and paint the picture.

  21. 4 out of 5

    fusiontomo

    Fairly standard rationalist boilerplate peppered with some mildly interesting anecdotes and historical/cultural references. If you're the type of person to be interested in this book, chances are you've heard it all before. The author, Julia Galef, co-hosts a podcast "Rationally Speaking" and, judging by the praise being heaped on the book here by fans of said podcast, is mostly preaching to the converted. On a sidenote: having listened to some episodes of Rationally Speaking, I must say it would Fairly standard rationalist boilerplate peppered with some mildly interesting anecdotes and historical/cultural references. If you're the type of person to be interested in this book, chances are you've heard it all before. The author, Julia Galef, co-hosts a podcast "Rationally Speaking" and, judging by the praise being heaped on the book here by fans of said podcast, is mostly preaching to the converted. On a sidenote: having listened to some episodes of Rationally Speaking, I must say it wouldn't hurt Ms Galef to adopt more of a "Scout mindset" herself.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike Cheng

    Cognitive Dissonance and Confirmation Bias are among the most pervasive impediments to the search for truth, and here podcaster / author Julia Galef suggests that readers adopt a “Scout Mindset” that emphasizes seeing things as they are, not as we wish them to be by: (i) seeking out our own blindspots; (ii) constantly testing our assumptions; and (iii) admitting when we are wrong and changing course. The idea of the book is solid, but most of the support consists of cherry picked examples, perso Cognitive Dissonance and Confirmation Bias are among the most pervasive impediments to the search for truth, and here podcaster / author Julia Galef suggests that readers adopt a “Scout Mindset” that emphasizes seeing things as they are, not as we wish them to be by: (i) seeking out our own blindspots; (ii) constantly testing our assumptions; and (iii) admitting when we are wrong and changing course. The idea of the book is solid, but most of the support consists of cherry picked examples, personal anecdotes, and Star Trek (?) references.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

    This was an interesting read about how humans generally engage in "motivated reasoning", where we come up with arguments that fit our worldview rather than accurately assessing the world around us. I appreciated that the author came up with several specific techniques to use to try to remove some of your biases when making decisions. One weird thing about this book was that a lot of her examples of people either engaging in motivated reasoning or overcoming it and having productive arguments wer This was an interesting read about how humans generally engage in "motivated reasoning", where we come up with arguments that fit our worldview rather than accurately assessing the world around us. I appreciated that the author came up with several specific techniques to use to try to remove some of your biases when making decisions. One weird thing about this book was that a lot of her examples of people either engaging in motivated reasoning or overcoming it and having productive arguments were from Reddit/Twitter/Facebook/blog posts/random people she knows. I am personally much more interested in using the techniques she described in higher-stakes situations, such as jobs or personal relationships, rather than winning more internet points. I think she could have spent more time researching "meatspace" examples of these techniques being used in business, politics, etc.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sawyer X

    Let me start off by saying it's an excellent book and I strongly recommend reading it. I hope within the context of the book, my small notes would still be appreciated. They do not take away from the excellence of the book and I wholeheartedly recommend reading it (and correcting my misunderstanding, if you're willing). I think there are some false equivalencies presented to make a point. An example was given for reading a comment ("all men need to die in a fire") by an "extreme feminist" and exp Let me start off by saying it's an excellent book and I strongly recommend reading it. I hope within the context of the book, my small notes would still be appreciated. They do not take away from the excellence of the book and I wholeheartedly recommend reading it (and correcting my misunderstanding, if you're willing). I think there are some false equivalencies presented to make a point. An example was given for reading a comment ("all men need to die in a fire") by an "extreme feminist" and explaining it as extremes in every group. Then we're asked if we could understand someone giving the same explanation if the statement was of another group. I fear there are two misunderstandings here: 1. There is a difference between a comment and its context. "Not all men" does not truly mean not all men. In other words, as Hari Kondabolu says in his stand up "If when I say 'white people,' you think I'm talking about you, then I'm talking about you." 2. There is important context on the power balance between groups. When a woman makes a point about a group that is responsible (in the majority, let's not fall into "not all men" here) is responsible and at the helm of its oppression, it is not the same as when someone from the opposite power balance makes a statement. Chris rock put this as "Short people can make fun of tall people, but tall people shouldn't make fun of short people. That's just mean." The power balance matters and people lower on it have more latitude in what they can say or do than people who gain from power over them. Again, Chris Rock talking about white people wanting to use the N-word while black people actually have fewer opportunities in topics that genuinely matter: "Let's make a deal. You use the N-word. I'll raise interest rates." I think the point Jalia Galef was making stood in its own right (and with additional, appropriate examples) so I don't wish to take away from the point, only from this particular example. Another example that irked me a bit was the UK leaving and joining the EU. Someone explained she made a logical decision by asking herself if she were to join if the UK hadn't been in the EU beforehand. The author made it clear that there is a transactional cost here, but I think it was not stressed enough. In my opinion, the contextual costs of leaving have more relevance than not. There is another minor issue here on what is the real question (should the UK have joined or should the UK leave) and that they are not truly the same. But I can't articulate my thoughts well on this so I'll leave it at that, excuse the pun. Yet another example is a research about people and how much they value tests as their tests decline, explaining that people change their views based on how they're doing. While possibly correct, I think this is itself a biased view. Correlation does not equal causation. It is also possible (and reasonable to believe) that the more people don't value tests, the more they allow their grades to slip. One example that also bothered me - and falls under the false equivalency for me - was the expectancy of life: Ask people who object to life extension to 170 years old whether they would have agreed to shorten life from 170 if 170 years old was the norm. Both of these questions raise "interference" but as one creates an abundance that was previously unavailable, the other deprives life (or years of life). These are not equivalent and strikes me as wrong to consider them the same. One strong message the book expressed was the fact that you think you are reasonable because you are calm, does not mean you are objective. I do wish there was more attention to the exaggerated skepticism and how it can be excused to avoid addressing supportive facts. "We need more studies." I also wish there was more discussion on values and how to manage that better. Instead of ignoring them (which we do, not the book), I think it is better to be aware of them. Asking yourself *why* you are determined about a topic, understanding your values (or as the book calls it, your identity) helps you understand why you are not being objective. Overall, strong recommendation. Do not see my comments as anything other than "good point, but I don't think this example expresses it well."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Paul Sand

    [Imported automatically from my blog. Some formatting there may not have translated here.] Another good book in the "How to Think" genre. I didn't like it quite as much as (guess what) How to Think by Alan Jacobs. But this is a noble effort. When you are considering a contentious issue, Ms. Galef suggests you can approach it with either the "scout mindset" or the "soldier" mindset. The soldier approaches reasoning as defensive combat; evidence is accepted or discounted not on its inherent value [Imported automatically from my blog. Some formatting there may not have translated here.] Another good book in the "How to Think" genre. I didn't like it quite as much as (guess what) How to Think by Alan Jacobs. But this is a noble effort. When you are considering a contentious issue, Ms. Galef suggests you can approach it with either the "scout mindset" or the "soldier" mindset. The soldier approaches reasoning as defensive combat; evidence is accepted or discounted not on its inherent value, but whether or not it reinforces the belief one is defending; if you're wrong, you've been "defeated". Obviously, you're much more prone to the biases and fallacies of motivated reasoning. The scout, on the other hand, is more of a "mapmaker". When scouts are wrong, they're not "defeated"; they just need to update their set of Bayesian probabilities. Usually incremental adjustments are fine. Scouts are also motivated reasoners, but their goal is achieving an accurate picture of reality, not defending their pre-existing beliefs. This hit home for me. Back in my youth, I was a dedicated "soldier"; I wasn't that interested in finding "truth"; I was looking for rhetorical ammunition. If some dedicated sleuth digs out my contribution to BIX (BYTE Information Exchange) and Usenet groups, they'll see what I mean. I was pretty unpleasant. In my defense, everyone else was, too. It's been a slow evolution, but I've been inspired by folks who are obviously of the scout mindset. And I've been turned of by people on "my side" who resort more to name-calling than coherent discussion; they're interested in the points the "other side" is making solely to disparage them. Don't get me wrong, I still do a lot of that. But not as much, and I'm trying to improve. Ms. Galef's book provided me with a framework for (I hope) further incremental progress. The book is a fun and easy read, full of anecdotes. It appears the author, Julia Galef, is kind of a Trekkie, so a lot of those anecdotes involve Mr. Spock. (Indeed, Appendix A is devoted to 23 predictions Spock made over the course of the series, and evaluates his accuracy. It's a mixed bag.) Near the end of the book there's a handy set of "incremental steps" Ms. Galef suggests for moving yourself closer to the scout mindset. I've snipped them: 1. The next time you’re making a decision, ask yourself what kind of bias could be affecting your judgment in that situation, and then do the relevant thought experiment (e.g., outsider test, conformity test, status quo bias test). 2. When you notice yourself making a claim with certainty (“There’s no way . . .”), ask yourself how sure you really are. 3. The next time a worry pops into your head and you’re tempted to rationalize it away, instead make a concrete plan for how you would deal with it if it came true. 4. Find an author, media outlet, or other opinion source who holds different views from you, but who has a better-than-average shot at changing your mind—someone you find reasonable or with whom you share some common ground. 5. The next time you notice someone else being “irrational,” “crazy,” or “rude,” get curious about why their behavior might make sense to them. 6. Look for opportunities to update at least a little bit. Can you find a caveat or exception to one of your beliefs, or a bit of empirical evidence that should make you slightly less confident in your position? 7. Think back to a disagreement you had with someone in the past on which your perspective has since shifted and reach out to that person to let them know how you’ve updated. 8. Pick a belief you hold strongly and attempt an ideological Turing test of the other side. (Bonus points if you can actually find someone from the other side to judge your attempt.) I hope everyone reads Ms. Galef's book, becomes more like a scout, and improves the quality of our public discourse by a couple orders of magnitude. ("Isn't it pretty to think so?")

  26. 4 out of 5

    Harry Taussig

    8.7/10 ### The Book in 3 Sentences It's in your best interest to see the world as it is instead of as you want it to be. Knowing how to think clearly is very different than actually doing it. Just knowing about our biases isn't enough, but there are good strategies to improving your thinking. ### My Top 3 Quotes: Our judgment isn’t limited by knowledge nearly as much as it’s limited by attitude. The test of scout mindset isn’t whether you see yourself as the kind of person who does these things. It’ 8.7/10 ### The Book in 3 Sentences It's in your best interest to see the world as it is instead of as you want it to be. Knowing how to think clearly is very different than actually doing it. Just knowing about our biases isn't enough, but there are good strategies to improving your thinking. ### My Top 3 Quotes: Our judgment isn’t limited by knowledge nearly as much as it’s limited by attitude. The test of scout mindset isn’t whether you see yourself as the kind of person who does these things. It’s whether you can point to concrete cases in which you did, in fact, do these things. 1. Do you tell other people when you realize they were right? 2. How do you react to personal criticism? When we want something to be true, he said, we ask ourselves, “Can I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to accept it. When we don’t want something to be true, we instead ask ourselves, “Must I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to reject it. ### Impressions: Julia Galef has the right focus here. I've read many books about people's systematic biases, and all the way we deceive ourselves, but these don't actually help you think better. *Scout Mindset* gives a simpler and more useful overview of how to think and decide more clearly. It's written for a very general audience, and you can feel that in the writing. The science isn't mind-blowing, and the writing isn't amazing, but *Scout Mindset* gets it's point across clearly and effectively, and summarizes the vast majority of the important lessons you could get from reading the much longer and more boring books about our biases. ### Who Should Read it? If you want to think more clearly. If you are interested in the ways people are systematically biased, and how to set yourself up not to be. If you've already read lots on this subject there's not too much new info here, but the book does have a better, easier to understand and easier to apply framing and explanation of these things. ### How the Book Changed me When I want to make a good decision, I ask myself harder questions. - "Do I think this is going to happen?" becomes "what bet would I take that this would happen?" or "Would I be genuinely surprised if this plan didn't work out?" A healthy reminder that I'm similarly biased and attached to my views as others, even though I don't feel that way. I have a more encapsulated and holistic understanding of this kind of knowledge about how to think more clearly, in a way that's also much easier to explain to others. ### Other Good Quotes: You can say that you want your partner to tell you about any problems in your relationship, or that you want your employees to tell you about any problems in the company, but if you get defensive or combative when you hear the truth, you’re not likely to hear it very often. Now that we have access to epidural anesthesia, we no longer insist on the sweetness of that particular lemon. But we still say similar things about aging and death—that they’re beautiful, and they give meaning to life. When considering a claim, we implicitly ask ourselves, “What kind of person would believe a claim like this, and is that how I want other people to see me?” In scout mindset, there’s no such thing as a “threat” to your beliefs. If you find out you were wrong about something, great—you’ve improved your map, and that can only help you. Can you name people who are critical of your beliefs, profession, or life choices who you consider thoughtful, even if you believe they’re wrong? Or can you at least name reasons why someone might disagree with you that you would consider reasonable (even if you don’t happen to know of specific people who hold those views)? It’s striking how much the urge to conclude “That’s not true” diminishes once you feel like you have a concrete plan for what you would do if the thing were true. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even a simple plan, like “Here’s how I would explain the failure to my team . . .” or “Here’s how I would begin my search for a new job . . .” goes a long way toward making you feel like you don’t need to rely on denial to cope with reality. But scouts aren’t motivated by the thought, “This is going to succeed.” They’re motivated by the thought, “This is a bet worth taking.” People simply aren’t paying that much attention to how much epistemic confidence you express. They’re paying attention to how you act, to your body language, tone, and other aspects of your social confidence, all of which are things you can cultivate without sacrificing your calibration. It might seem like every issue must have a dominant majority and an embattled minority. But both sides of an issue can genuinely view their side as the embattled one.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alex Herder

    Here's a quick definition of the scout mindset from the beginning of the book: the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were. Scout mindset is what allows you to recognize when you are wrong, to seek out your blind spots, to test your assumptions and change course. It’s what prompts you to honestly ask yourself questions like “Was I at fault in that argument?” or “Is this risk worth it?” or “How would I react if someone from the other political party did the same thing?” As Here's a quick definition of the scout mindset from the beginning of the book: the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were. Scout mindset is what allows you to recognize when you are wrong, to seek out your blind spots, to test your assumptions and change course. It’s what prompts you to honestly ask yourself questions like “Was I at fault in that argument?” or “Is this risk worth it?” or “How would I react if someone from the other political party did the same thing?” As the late physicist Richard Feynman once said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” For people who don't know, Julia Galef is one of the most visible members of the "rationality community," an intellectual movement dedicated to the idea of asking questions and being less wrong. To that end, the scout mindset is really just a rephrasing of the "rationality" discourse. As someone who follows a lot of the conversation in this corner of the internet and someone who always trying to be less wrong, this book is very much preaching to the choir. Here are some key takeaways: * A soldier mindset, in which we defend a position or idea with which we identify, is common and something all of spend some time in. It's a good idea to check in with ourselves to make sure we're not in solider mindset as often as we can. * Expressing self doubt or skepticism is good and it needn't reduce the confidence of the people around you if you do it consistently and with an air of social confidence. This means: Are you at ease in social situations? Do you act like you deserve to be there, like you’re secure in yourself and your role in the group? Do you speak as if you’re worth listening to? * Scouts are always looking to improve their map (mental model) and self-deception is a great way to have a crappy map. You can't make good decisions with a bad map. * A couple of useful ideas for how to practice the scout mindset: Do you try to avoid biasing the information you get? For example, when you ask your friend to weigh in on a fight you had with your partner, do you describe the disagreement without revealing which side you were on, so as to avoid influencing your friend’s answer? Try to actually imagine the counterfactual scenario. Imagine someone else stepped into your shoes—what do you expect they would do in your situation? If I find myself agreeing with someone else’s viewpoint, I do a conformity test: Imagine this person told me that they no longer held this view. Would I still hold it? Would I feel comfortable defending it to them? * Reminder that our status quo bias is super strong. We value the pain of loss WAY higher than we value the potential of gain, so if you're really considering a big change you should probably do it. * A good quote from Elon Musk about failure: “Something that can be helpful is fatalism, to some degree. If you just accept the probabilities, then that diminishes fear. So in starting SpaceX, I thought the odds of success were less than 10 percent, and I just accepted that probably I would lose everything.” * Another quote I liked: “You want to get into a mental state where if the bad outcome comes to pass, you will only nod your head and say ‘I knew this card was in the deck, and I knew the odds, and I would make the same bets again, given the same opportunities.’” * Whenever you hear "I believe" from yourself or others, note that whatever follows it will be a statement tied to identity. Identity is a powerful driver of behavior and a regular trigger of a soldier mindset in conversation. Remember, motivated reasoning is universal; if you never notice it, that’s probably not because you’re immune.

  28. 4 out of 5

    David Montgomery

    This book deserves five stars, but unfairly I can't give them. That's because my standard for a five-star nonfiction book is usually* that it transforms how I think about the world — and while I think this book's argument is transformative, it's a transformation I underwent years ago. I already heartily endorse everything this book argues. Which means you should definitely read it. But my prior endorsement of this book's arguments are a deeper problem for giving it a five-star review, because "Th This book deserves five stars, but unfairly I can't give them. That's because my standard for a five-star nonfiction book is usually* that it transforms how I think about the world — and while I think this book's argument is transformative, it's a transformation I underwent years ago. I already heartily endorse everything this book argues. Which means you should definitely read it. But my prior endorsement of this book's arguments are a deeper problem for giving it a five-star review, because "The Scout Mindset" is a book arguing that we should be less focused on defending what we already believe, and more open to seeking out new beliefs, in pursuit of ever-greater understanding. We naturally defend what we like and attack what we don't, and Galef offers practical tips for how to get out of the "soldier mindset," as well as a range of arguments for why it's desirable to be less defensive and more open-minded. She's also up-front about her own failings in trying to live up to her own ideal, and how the best we can do is try to be as scout-y as possible. Because I already believed what Galef is arguing, I have had to force myself to step back, to interrogate its arguments closely instead of simply shouting hosannah. For example, while I heartily endorse what she dubs the "scout mindset," I think perhaps she goes too far in her polemic — I think everyone should be more scout-y, but that the world might be a worse place if everyone were as scout-y as Galef or myself. (She considers this argument and offers counters as to how the scout mindset can make someone a better activist, which are only partially convincing.) Interestingly, the one name that never comes up in this book is "Pyrrho," the classical Greek skeptical philosopher whose movement argued that we could find both knowledge and happiness by resisting dogma, and who offered a range of heuristic tips to avoid slipping in to dogma — a clear predecessor of the "Scout Mindset," if possibly unknowingly. I'd also be interested to see Galef engage with John Kay and Mervyn King's recent book Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers, which starts from a similar embrace of the idea of uncertainty but comes to very different (and much less Bayesian) conclusions. But that's not a knock on this book, which was well-focused on being a practical, popular how-to; such a follow-up discussion might make a good blog post (and indeed I hope to write one myself). So don't let my rating deceive you: this is a book that everyone interested in clearer thinking should read. * I can also sometimes give five stars to a flawlessly executed work of narrative nonfiction, even if it isn't transformative

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Crabb

    I am not entirely sure where I got this book from but it is an incredible book on several different levels. The core concept of the book is that there are two predominant mindsets in how people deal with new information particularly information that challenges their preconceptions or ideologies. Solider mindset is naturally more defensive and holds positions even to painful lengths. On the other hand, scout mindset is radically different in that rather than defending positions, scouts are intere I am not entirely sure where I got this book from but it is an incredible book on several different levels. The core concept of the book is that there are two predominant mindsets in how people deal with new information particularly information that challenges their preconceptions or ideologies. Solider mindset is naturally more defensive and holds positions even to painful lengths. On the other hand, scout mindset is radically different in that rather than defending positions, scouts are interested in continuing to build out a better overall map of reality. The author's intent is to show how scout mindset can be better in some instances and how we would all benefit from embracing it more often. I think it meets that goal and succeeds on several other levels as well. - The book breaks down the concepts very well and progresses from one large concept to the next in a stairstep fashion. While I read through this in audio the first time, I am looking forward to going back through this book more in depth, not only for the finer points that I may have missed but also to learn from Galef on how to better write a book which recommends a different mindset or framework. - The book has a really nice set of quotes, examples, and even personal stories. The author tells them with an easy grace, and with one of the best stories, she tells the initial portion at the beginning and finishes it at the end of the book. The author seems confident enough that you will remember this story, and the payoff is really nice. This makes this book pleasurable while being informative. - Lastly, this book was additionally special to me as Galef was putting words to how I have aimed to live my life more and more over the past decade. The scout mindset mirrors some of the aspects of my best work, and it was very helpful to name it and articulate what made some of that work good. With this additional [[framing]], I can more easily focus on executing "scout best practices" which will only continue to improve my output. In this way, I doubt many readers will have the same experience that I did, but this book has a special place on my mantle now, and I will be referencing it often and deeply. This book is well worth the read in the highly ideological times that we live in. If everyone incorporated a bit more of the scout mindset into their daily interactions, society would be feel the impact.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben Hughes

    I spent today reading @JuliaGalef's excellent book "The Scout Mindset" cover to cover. This is one of the most important books I've read recently, and it provides a unique and under-appreciated lens with which to approach belief, disagreement, social relations, and identity. The ways in which cognitive biases lead us to self-deceive at the expense of truth is well documented and covered in several other works. Learning about them, and avoiding barriers to clear thinking, is worthwhile and importa I spent today reading @JuliaGalef's excellent book "The Scout Mindset" cover to cover. This is one of the most important books I've read recently, and it provides a unique and under-appreciated lens with which to approach belief, disagreement, social relations, and identity. The ways in which cognitive biases lead us to self-deceive at the expense of truth is well documented and covered in several other works. Learning about them, and avoiding barriers to clear thinking, is worthwhile and important. But the "Scout Mindset" takes a different tact: it instead focuses on the *motivation* for thinking, contrasting the "soldier mindset" (defensive directionally motivated reasoning) with the "scout mindset": the motivation to curiously see things as they are, not as you wish they were (accuracy motivated reasoning). Julia puts these in stark contrast, and argues persuasively that, however appealing soldier mindset may be in terms of emotional & social benefits, scout mindset is a better foundation for longer-term happiness and judgment / decision making. She covers many habits of the scout mindset: admitting uncertainty, incremental revision, double standard/outsider/conformity testing, admitting when wrong, ideological Turing tests, Bayesian reasoning & confidence calibration, leaning in to confusion, holding identities lightly. I do think many are quite unaware of how powerful & ingrained soldier mindset is in their own thinking, how much non-accuracy-motivated reasoning leads to a poor "mental map of the reality territory", and how consequential that really is to many domains in one's life. I see this thinking style frequently in many people. But while it's easy to direct this at other people, it really should be directed inwards: reflecting on *my own* thinking, how it runs afoul of soldier mindset, and how *I* can improve the accuracy & clarity of thought. I really do think there are quite high returns to investing in the quality of one's thinking, since that has compounding effects throughout your life, and the ideas in "the Scout Mindset" are a welcome addition to that end. "Self-recommending", as @TylerCowen would say.

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