The Art of Thinking Clearly summary (2023)

This is a comprehensive summary of the book The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

A book based on the realization that we systematically fail to think clearly. After meeting Nassim Taleb, a desire to understand heuristics and biases boomed in the author’s mind and lead to a transition. From a novelist, Rolf Dobelli became a student of social and cognitive psychology. This book is a compilation of 99 systematic cognitive errors (thinking errors) that aim to give you the upper hand in any given situation.

The Core Idea:

We need less irrationality. Nothing else to improve our daily lives. By understanding what you’re likely to do wrong, and by evading these corrupting behavior patterns, you’ll find yourself absurdly productive and move closer to where you want to be.


  • We prefer taking risks with something familiar rather than trying something new because of uncertainty.
  • Success is rarely due to what’s visible. There’s always something else happening in the background.
  • Experts don’t know everything. What they share is based on their field. Blindly following their advice can be harmful.
(Video) THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY by Rolf Dobelli | Core Message

5 Key Lessons from The Art of Thinking Clearly:

Lesson #1: The Cause of Something is Never One Thing

Your conclusion after a distressful event usually ends up something like this: “John, the product manager, is responsible for the slow sales this season – nothing else. We should fire him!” Or, “I have a flat tire because my husband failed to check the tires this morning.”

We tend to blame one thing, or one person when something bad happens. But usually, there’s more going on.

  • Fallacy of the single cause: We imagine that our actions are enough for something to happen – to win an award or to outwit the competitors. We think that one simple thing can cause a major positive change. But that’s rarely the case. No singular event can help you triumph and win the day. Even if we don’t immediately see them, there are always a lot of factors involved in any given situation.
  • Ambiguity aversion: With everything else being equal, the scale will tilt towards what’s familiar. Even if there is risk involved, you’ll choose to take your chances rather than trying something new, something unfamiliar. The ambiguity aversion thinking error explains that we prefer taking risks with familiar things, even if the new, foreign strategy can lead to much better results.
  • Affect heuristic: We’re not in control of our actions. Our emotions are. You might think that you’re a reasonable person. That your decisions are based on carefully calculated data that’s analyzed in your brain but in most of the cases small things like, the weather outside, can hugely influence your judgment. So, instead of asking yourself, “What do I think about this?” use, “How do I feel about this?”

Lesson #2: Outside Information Influences our Decision-Making

News, friends, commercials, street signs, the words printed on our 5 dollars t-shirt from the local store, the sticky note on your cubicle.

Everything matters.

Everything we consume affects our judgment and can rearrange the thoughts inside our heads.

Sometimes you don’t need to get a complete 360-degree view of the situation. Actually, a lot of times, when something important needs to be decided, it’s best to remain on your own. With your own thoughts to make your mind.

(Video) The Art of Thinking Clearly Summary (Animated) — 3 Practical Tips to Instantly Make Better Decisions

  • News illusion: Plane crashes. A flood is destroying a city. A volcano is about to erupt. This is what news covers – blurbs of tragic events that are only negatively influencing your mood. The news illusion concept explains that we falsely believe that media is good for us. That what we see on TV and hear on the radio is helping us live a better life. In reality, the opposite happens. We start to feel worse. We start to imagine that the world is a dangerous place. Instead of embracing short snippets of information that will be irrelevant 24 hours later, bury yourself in books.
  • Salience effect: We tend to focus on the most obvious things in a situation. If a book is successful, we might say that it’s thanks to the marvelous cover. If you hear about a car crash and recently there was also a report about drunk drivers, you’ll conclude that the new event was also caused by irresponsible drinking. We focus on the sensational news rather than digging deeper to grasp the whole picture.
  • In-group out-group bias: We think differently when we’re surrounded by others and when we are on our own. When in a group, we adopt the desires of the people forming the team. When we’re alone, we favor our own judgments based on our past experiences. Be careful when you’re surrounded by others. Don’t immediately agree with the desires of the formation. Pause and consider the options on your own.

“Prejudice and aversion are biological responses to anything foreign. Identifying with a group has been a survival strategy for hundreds of thousands of years. Not any longer. Identifying with a group distorts your view of the facts.” Rolf Dobelli

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(Video) The Art Of Thinking Clearly By Rolf Dobelli | Book Review & Summary

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(Video) The Art of Thinking Clearly - Rolf Dobelli FULL Audiobook


What is the art of thinking clearly short summary? ›

The Art Of Thinking Clearly aims to illuminate our day-to-day thinking “hiccups” so that we can better avoid them and start making improved choices. Using both psychological studies and everyday examples, the author provides us with an entertaining collection of all of our most common fallacies.

What is the main point of the art of thinking clearly? ›

1-Sentence-Summary: The Art of Thinking Clearly is a full compendium of the psychological biases that once helped us survive but now only hinder us from living our best life.

What is the sunk cost fallacy in the art of thinking clearly? ›

The sunk cost fallacy is most dangerous when we have invested a lot of time, money, energy, or love in something. This investment becomes a reason to carry on, even if we are dealing with a lost cause. The more we invest, the greater the sunk costs are, and the greater the urge to continue becomes. …

What is the confirmation bias in the art of thinking clearly? ›

The confirmation bias is the mother of all misconceptions. It is the tendency to interpret new information so that it becomes compatible with our existing theories, beliefs, and convictions. In other words, we filter out any new information that contradicts our existing views.

What is a brief summary of thinking fast and slow? ›

1-Sentence-Summary: Thinking Fast And Slow shows you how two systems in your brain are constantly fighting over control of your behavior and actions, and teaches you the many ways in which this leads to errors in memory, judgment and decisions, and what you can do about it.

What are the takeaways from the art of thinking clearly? ›

Lesson #1: The Cause of Something is Never One Thing. Lesson #2: Outside Information Influences our Decision-Making. Lesson #3: We are Blind to What Does Not Exist. Lesson #4: Experts Are Rarely That Experienced.

Why is it important to think clearly? ›

The term “clear thinking” is bandied about a lot. But what does it actually mean? Clear thinking comprises a collection of related skills. Clear thinkers can articulate ideas in an understandable fashion, work logically through problems, infer valid conclusions, and reflect on and account for small details.

What is the power of thinking clearly? ›

Clear thinking means:

You define what you're thinking and focus your attention on it. You think before you act. However, once you're thinking clearly, you can take action and then improvise as you go. You ask yourself intelligent questions.

What are the benefits of thinking clearly? ›

When you're unfocused and distracted, it's easy to start doubting yourself. Mental clarity helps you to see yourself honestly and non-judgmentally. Instead of worrying about what others think of you, a clear and focused mind won't even entertain these thoughts.

What is an example of a sunk cost in real life? ›

Let's say you buy a theater ticket for $50 but at the last minute can't attend. The $50 you spent would be a sunk cost but would not factor into whether or not you buy theater tickets in the future.

What is a sunk cost in real life? ›

A sunk cost refers to a cost that has already occurred and has no potential for recovery in the future. For example, your rent, marketing campaign expenses or money spent on new equipment can be considered sunk costs.

What is a real example of sunk cost fallacy? ›

Choosing to finish a boring movie because you already paid for the ticket is an example of the sunk cost fallacy. Another example is keeping an incompetent employee on staff rather than replacing them because the company has already invested tens of thousands of dollars training them.

What is cognitive dissonance in the art of thinking clearly? ›

Cognitive dissonance: when inconsistencies in our thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes cause us to reinterpret events to keep things consistent. Hyperbolic discounting: the introduction of “now”, causing us to make inconsistent decisions.

What is the confirmation bias why people see what they want to see? ›

Confirmation bias is a psychological term for the human tendency to only seek out information that supports one position or idea. This causes you to have a bias towards your original position because if you only seek out information that supports one idea, you will only find information that supports that idea.

What is a common example of confirmation bias? ›

For example, a neighbor who thinks dogs are inherently dangerous sees a vicious dog attack an innocent child. Another neighbor who loves dogs sees the dog defending itself against a menacing child. Neither eyewitness account is reliable due to confirmation bias.

What are the biggest lessons from Thinking, Fast and Slow? ›

The main takeaway from Thinking Fast and Slow is that situations and experiences change, but human nature is constant. Bubbles and busts have been happening since the dawn of financial markets and they will continue to happen going forward.

What is the bias of confidence over doubt? ›

Bias of Confidence over doubt

We tend to believe rather than to doubt, which is more work for us. We are also predisposed to exaggerate consistency and coherence of what we see (halo effect). This will produce a representation of reality that makes a lot of sense for us.

What does slow thinking require compared to fast thinking? ›

Fast thinking is a primal survival mechanism that uses heuristics, or cognitive shortcuts, to quickly respond to threats. It's fast but those shortcuts are ultimately unreliable. In contrast, slow thinking requires considerable attention and delivers a more accurate understanding. AUTOMATIC PILOT.

How do you think clearly and critically? ›

5 steps to thinking clearly and achieving your goals
  1. Check Your Attitude. ...
  2. Have a Clear Purpose. ...
  3. Use Your Passion to control your Emotions. ...
  4. Use your Negative Thinking to produce Positive Action. ...
  5. Use Cool Logic in Hot Situations to reach your Goal.
Sep 14, 2015

Why is it important to develop the art of thinking? ›

The art of thinking, on the other hand, is a calculated, guided mental activity that removes distractions, fears, and worries and allows you to purposely go on a journey for ideas, thoughts, and directions that will help you better your life or business.

How can I improve my clarity of thinking? ›

How to promote mental clarity
  1. Get enough quality sleep. How much sleep you get is directly proportional to how much energy you will have throughout the day. ...
  2. Manage your stress. ...
  3. Practice mindfulness. ...
  4. Find a work-life balance. ...
  5. Practice self-care. ...
  6. Move your body. ...
  7. Maintain a healthy diet. ...
  8. Ask for help.
Nov 29, 2021

Why is it so hard to think clearly? ›

This can be caused by overworking, lack of sleep, stress, and spending too much time on the computer. On a cellular level, brain fog is believed to be caused by high levels inflammation and changes to hormones that determine your mood, energy and focus.

What is the ability to think clearly and sensibly? ›

sane. adjective. someone who is sane is able to think and speak in a reasonable way and to behave normally.

What are the most common sunk costs? ›

A sunk cost is a cost that has already been spent but is not recoverable in any case, and future business decisions should not be affected by past spending. Spending on research, equipment, or machinery buying, rent, payroll, marketing, or advertising is the main example of sunk cost.

What is meant by a sun cost? ›

A sunk cost, sometimes called a retrospective cost, refers to an investment already incurred that can't be recovered. Examples of sunk costs in business include marketing, research, new software installation or equipment, salaries and benefits, or facilities expenses.

What is the fallacy of throwing good money after bad? ›

People demonstrate "a greater tendency to continue an endeavor once an investment in money, effort, or time has been made". This is the sunk cost fallacy, and such behavior may be described as "throwing good money after bad", while refusing to succumb to what may be described as "cutting one's losses".

What is the cost fallacy? ›

What is the sunk cost fallacy? The sunk cost fallacy is our tendency to continue with an endeavor we've invested money, effort, or time into—even if the current costs outweigh the benefits. And while the term sounds like technical jargon, it's a common decision-making pitfall in both life and business.

What is a cost trap? ›

What Is a Sunk Cost Trap? Sunk cost trap refers to a tendency for people to irrationally follow through on an activity that is not meeting their expectations. This is because of the time and/or money they have already invested.

Is rent a sunk cost? ›

Sunk costs are expenses incurred to date in a project that are already spent and as a result cannot be recovered. Sunk costs are fixed and do not change irrespective of the levels of productivity of a project or operation. Sunk cost examples include rent, subscription fees or hardware.

What is the fixed cost fallacy? ›

The fixed cost fallacy is when a firm considers sunk or irrelevant costs like overhead and depreciation costs in the decision-making process.

What is an example of opportunity cost? ›

A student spends three hours and $20 at the movies the night before an exam. The opportunity cost is time spent studying and that money to spend on something else. A farmer chooses to plant wheat; the opportunity cost is planting a different crop, or an alternate use of the resources (land and farm equipment).

What are 7 signs of cognitive dissonance? ›

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cognitive Dissonance?
  • Embarrassment over feeling wrong about the beliefs they previously held.
  • Shame or regret about past actions or decisions.
  • Guilt for hiding or something they believe is wrong.
  • Discomfort for doing something that contradicts what they believe.
Apr 5, 2023

What are the 3 causes of cognitive dissonance? ›

Causes of cognitive dissonance can include being forced to comply with something against their beliefs, having to decide between different choices, and having to put effort into the goal.

What are the 4 conditions for cognitive dissonance? ›

There are four theoretic paradigms of cognitive dissonance, the mental stress people experienced when exposed to information that is inconsistent with their beliefs, ideals or values: Belief Disconfirmation, Induced Compliance, Free Choice, and Effort Justification, which respectively explain what happens after a ...

What is the most common cognitive bias? ›

1. Confirmation Bias. One of the most common cognitive biases is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when a person looks for and interprets information (be it news stories, statistical data or the opinions of others) that backs up an assumption or theory they already have.

What is an example of functional Fixedness? ›

Functional fixedness is a type of cognitive bias that involves a tendency to see objects as only working in a particular way. 1 For example, you might view a thumbtack as something that can only be used to hold paper to a corkboard.

What are the 5 examples of bias? ›

5 Biases That Impact Decision-Making
  • Similarity Bias. Similarity bias means that we often prefer things that are like us over things that are different than us. ...
  • Expedience Bias. ...
  • Experience Bias. ...
  • Distance Bias. ...
  • Safety Bias.
Feb 25, 2021

Is confirmation bias good or bad? ›

In interpersonal relations, confirmation bias can be problematic because it may lead a person to form inaccurate and biased impressions of others. This may result in miscommunication and conflict in intergroup settings.

How can you become aware of and manage confirmation bias? ›

Consider these three steps to avoiding confirmation bias in business.
  • Ask Neutral Questions. Taking a page out of a statistics textbook may actually be helpful in minimizing confirmation bias. ...
  • Play Devil's Advocate. ...
  • Rethink the Hiring Process.
Aug 18, 2016

What is art of concentration summary? ›

Rooted in scientific fact and research, it includes a detailed look at how your brain works, what inhibits brain function and concentration and covers things such as lack of down-time, distraction, poor lifestyle habits and stress.

Why should I read the art of thinking clearly? ›

If you have never learned about biases or our irrationality, this book is a good one to start with. It includes many types of biases and they are all presented in a clear, simple way. Reading about all these biases will help you see the ways in which our brains are misleading us more often than we would like.

What are the 7 elements of art summary? ›

ELEMENTS OF ART: The visual components of color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value. may be two-or three-dimensional, descriptive, implied, or abstract.

What are the three rules of concentration? ›

The 3 Rules of Concentration: Focus the Eyes, Focus the Mind, Focus the Body!

What is the explanation of concentration? ›

(KON-sen-TRAY-shun) In science, the amount of a substance, such as a salt, that is in a certain amount of tissue or liquid, such as blood. A substance becomes more concentrated when less water is present. For example, the salt in urine may become more concentrated when a person doesn't drink enough water.

Why do I feel smarter when I read? ›

Reading helps you encounter more vocabulary, which will help improve your ability to express yourself as well as understanding others' points of view. Reading also promotes a more creative and imaginative way of thinking, develop problem-solving skills and boost your imagination.

Does it matter what you read to make you smarter? ›

No matter what genre you choose, reading can have a positive impact on your intelligence! So next time you're looking for a way to increase your IQ, try picking up a book. You might be surprised at the ways it can start to have a positive impact on other areas of your life.


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