January 28, 2008
News & Opinion: Quirkology, An Annual Omission
Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things by Richard Wiseman, Basic Books
Liars are just as likely to look you in the eyes as truth-tellers: Not so much a tip for deciphering the reliability of that guy in shipping's sick claim; but an example of how the understanding of human psychology continues to change, and more so a glimpse of how the smallest of our human quirks can, sometimes, reveal the most.
Dr. Richard Wiseman has the distinct claim of being the first and only Professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. What does such a title mean? Basically that the author has devoted a scholar's lifetime to analyzing the idiosyncratics of human behavior, and, in Quirkology, Wiseman guides the reader through the backwaters of our actions--ranging through astrology, lying and deception, superstition, decision-making and humor.
Wiseman, who has authored eight books including the highly regarded The Luck Factor, concludes that, it's not the dime-store Dr. Phil insights, Freud complexes, or repressed memories, but rather our seemingly arbitrary, everyday tendencies that shape and reveal who we are.
Never erring from a playful, self-reflexive tone, and boundless enthusiasm for his subjects, Quirkology is not only an entertaining scientific read, but a smorgasbord of a meal for inquisitive minds. Each chapter reads like a bathroom reader--on steroids. Wiseman's body of work has resulted in an encyclopedic collection of dinner-party conversation nuggets (the concluding chapter is even designated as such): Women's personal ads would attract more replies if they were written by a man; words containing the 'k' sound are especially likely to make people laugh; people would rather wear a sweater that has been dropped in dog feces and not washed than one that has been dry-cleaned but used to belong to a mass murderer...
Among such inanities it is easy to miss the forest for the trees--Quirkology ceaselessly demonstrates the "complex science lurking beneath the seemingly simplest."
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.