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A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking with Statistics and the Scientific Method

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking with Statistics and the Scientific Method

Previous price: $20.00 Current price: $18.00
Publication Date: November 19th, 2019
The MIT Press Bookstore
1 on hand, as of Nov 30 10:32am
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Winner of the National Business Book Award

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Organized Mind and This Is Your Brain on Music, a primer to the critical thinking that is more necessary now than ever 

We are bombarded with more information each day than our brains can process—especially in election season. It's raining bad data, half-truths, and even outright lies. New York Times bestselling author Daniel J. Levitin shows how to recognize misleading announcements, statistics, graphs, and written reports, revealing the ways lying weasels can use them.

It's becoming harder to separate the wheat from the digital chaff. How do we distinguish misinformation, pseudo-facts, and distortions from reliable information? Levitin groups his field guide into two categories—statistical information and faulty arguments—ultimately showing how science is the bedrock of critical thinking. Infoliteracy means understanding that there are hierarchies of source quality and bias that variously distort our information feeds via every media channel, including social media. We may expect newspapers, bloggers, the government, and Wikipedia to be factually and logically correct, but they so often aren't. We need to think critically about the words and numbers we encounter if we want to be successful at work, at play, and in making the most of our lives. This means checking the plausibility and reasoning—not passively accepting information, repeating it, and making decisions based on it. Readers learn to avoid the extremes of passive gullibility and cynical rejection. Levitin's charming, entertaining, accessible guide can help anyone wake up to a whole lot of things that aren't so. And catch some weasels in their tracks! 


About the Author

Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, is a neuroscientist, cognitive psychologist, and bestselling author. He is Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at KGI in San Francisco, and Professor Emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University. He is the author of This Is Your Brain on Music, The World in Six Songs, The Organized Mind, A Field Guide to Lies, and Successful Aging. He divides his time between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Praise for A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking with Statistics and the Scientific Method

Winner, National Business Book Award
Winner, Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction, QWF
Finalist, The Donner Prize
Winner, Axiom Business Book Silver Award
"Levitin has written an important book for our times. Everyone should read it—democracy depends on it.”—Vicente Fox, 55th President of Mexico
"Levitin is brilliant. Everyone should read A Field Guide to Lies."—Chris Matthews
"Eloquent."—The Los Angeles Review of Books
“Mr. Levitin is the perfect guide...If everyone could adopt the level of healthy statistical skepticism that Mr. Levitin would like, political debate would be in much better shape.”—The Economist
"The timing could not be better … for Daniel J. Levitin’s new book… a survival manual for the post-factual era…in the struggle against error and ignorance, lies and mistakes, he is both engaging and rewarding."—Literary Review of Canada
"Who knew that a book about statistics could be so riveting!"—Dallas Public Library
"Confirmation bias is a growing problem in the digital information age. As Daniel Levitin writes, our brain is a giant pattern detector. If we read something that coincides with what we already believe we're more likely to give it credence, while the opposite is not true…The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."—John Cleese
"Misinformation is a part of everyday life in our data-intense, internet-enhanced world. Levitin provides an entertaining and engaging guide to how we can use critical thinking to avoid being fooled. A Field Guide to Lies is a valuable survival guide to consuming information in the digital age."—Lori Holt, Professor, Department of Psychology and Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University
"Our brain is wired to make snap judgments. And those judgments can be very, very wrong. A Field Guide to Lies…teaches how to separate fact from fringe theories and 'fake news.'"—NPR's Marketplace 
"In a post-truth world, Levitin's book is an invaluable primer on how to sort the fact from the fiction."—Sunday Times of London
"A practical guide to better managing today’s constant flow of data and to improving critical thinking…A recommended book for creative leaders.”—Forbes
"As a lucid guide to critical thinking about statistics, information and assertion it is profoundly welcome"—Observer
"On the internet, nobody knows you're not an expert. Luckily, McGill University Cognitive Psychologist and A Field Guide to Lies author Daniel J. Levitin has a few tricks to pick out the professors from the phonies."—Business Insider
"A plea for sanity in a world seemingly gone mad…Levitin is an eloquent and enthusiastic exponent."—LA Review of Books
"A lucid guide to critical thinking about statistics, information and assertion, it’s profoundly welcome."—The Guardian
"A timely primer on how statistics, polls and information presented as facts can be used by “lying weasels” to obscure the truth. [A]ddresses the careless or lazy critical thinking skills many have developed in the era of internet information overload."—Forward
"A necessary book and one most appropriate to the times we find ourselves in…[an] excursion through how to think about data, how to think about statistics, and how to do so in a systematic way."—The Times Higher Education Supplement
"A cool-headed and witty guide to thinking clearly and rationally, and a deconstruction of sloppy information."—The Irish Times
"Levitin is brilliant regarding all of the ways that information can be manipulated."—Medium
"Regardless of one’s political persuasion (apolitical, third party, democratic, or republican) all individuals of this nation would benefit from making the effort to read and understand the concepts presented in this book… eminently easy to read and as a consequence, easy to understand.”—Portland Books Review
“Daniel Levitin’s field guide is a critical thinking primer for our shrill, data-drenched age. It’s an essential tool for really understanding the texts, posts, tweets, magazines, newspapers, podcasts, op-eds, interviews, and speeches that bombard us every day.  From the way averages befuddle to the logical fallacies that sneak by us, every page is enlightening.”—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and Smarter, Faster, Better
“The world is awash with data, but not always with accurate information. A Field Guide to Lies does a terrific job of illustrating the difference between the two with precision—and delightful good humor.”—Charles Wheelan, Senior Lecturer and Policy Fellow, Rockefeller Center, Dartmouth College, author of Naked Economics
A Field Guide to Lies by the neuroscientist Daniel Levitin lays out the many ways in which each of us can be fooled and misled by numbers and logic, as well as the modes of critical thinking we will need to overcome this.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Valuable tools for anyone willing to evaluate claims and get to the truth of the matter.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This useful, entertaining, and highly readable guide is ready to arm everyday citizens with the tools to combat the spread of spurious, and often ridiculous, information.”—Library Journal
“[A] book you may want to have close by at all times.”—Success Magazine
A Field Guide to Lies serves as a kind of Strunk & White for sloppy thinkers.”—New York Journal of Books
“Entertaining and filled with helpful hints, A Field Guide to Lies is a valuable tool for navigating the daily data onslaught.”—San Jose Mercury News
“[S]mart and humorous…the tools anyone needs to tell good information from bad are in this definitive guide to critical thinking.”—Shelf Awareness
“Exceptional ... practical and essential advice.”—Big Think
“An entertaining, user-friendly primer on evaluating data wisely.”—The Washington Independent Review of Books
“This is a wonderful book. It covers so many of the insights of science, logic, and statistics that the public needs to know, yet are sadly neglected in the education that most of us receive.”—Edward K. Cheng, Tarkington Chair of Teaching Excellence and professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School
“Hits on the most important issues around statistical literacy, and uses good examples to illustrate its points. I could not put this book down.  Reading it has been a pleasure, believe me.  I am so impressed with Levitin's writing style, which is clear and simple, unlike much of the murky stuff that is written by statisticians and many others.”—Morris Olitsky, former Vice President, Market Research and Analysis, Prudential Financial, Statistician, U.S.D.A.
“Insightful and entertaining—an excellent work.”—Gregg Gascon, Biomedical Informatics, Ohio State University
“Just as Strunk and White taught us how to communicate better, A Field Guide to Lies is an indispensable guide to thinking better. As Big Data becomes a dominant theme in our culture, we are all obliged to sharpen our critical thinking so as to thwart the forces of obfuscation. Levitin has done a great service here.”—Jasper Rine, Professor of Genetics, Genomics, and Development, UC Berkeley
“Not since Huff's classic How to Lie with Statistics has a book so clearly described how numbers can be used to deceive and misdirect. Levitin shows how to critically evaluate claims that charlatans, the media, and politicians would have us believe.”—Stan Lazic, Team Leader in Quantitative Biology at AstraZeneca
“A must read! Professor Levitin convinces the reader why critical thinking has become even more crucial in the Information Age. As we are consistently bombarded with information, let’s question its veracity and acquire the tools to analyze it.”—Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, Dean and Professor of Finance, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University
“Well researched, and provides a valuable guide to assist the public with a methodology for evaluating the truth behind this cacophony of information that constantly inundates.”—Patrick Martin, Magician
“No book could be more timely. An important book for everyone to read. Essential to where western democracies are going.”—Janice Stein, Founding Director, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
“[A] valuable primer on critical thinking that convincingly illustrates the prevalence of misinformation in everyday life.”—Publisher's Weekly
“Levitin belongs to a best-selling group of experts—Daniel Kahneman, Gerd Gigerenzer, David Spiegelhalter, and a few more—who want to put us right on the pitfalls of dubious statistics and the various forms of bias that skew our decisions...There can hardly be a more important message at this moment in history, and until everyone gets it, all are welcome to keep pumping it out and Levitin is perhaps primus inter pares...His message is bracing...[and] all we have to guard against a new Dark Age.”—The Arts Desk