Back again for Must Love Sunshine book club! This time Nonsense by Jamie Holmes will get the spotlight. Another social psychology book, woo!
What It’s about
Nonsense is all about how the human mind strives for stability, meaning, and equality because that’s the way we’re wired. So, on occasions when placed in situations of confusion or unpleasantness, we humans have a hard time. Nonsense is all about how to thrive in those moments of confusion and learning to use these moments to our advantage.
Why I Read It
I’m a huge fan of social psychology/cognitive science reads. Ever since discovering Malcom Gladwell, my eyes were opened to a world of books that combine what I love about business, human interaction and reactions, and the scientific research and studies that explain more about them. Nonsense is filled with stories relating real life happenings and research to better understand the role of ambiguity in our lives. I know, it probably still sounds a bit ambiguous right? Just think of it as a way to learn more about your brain, why you do what you do, and how to do things better!
My Favorite Parts
The book is broken down into three parts. How to make sense of ambiguity, how to handle ambiguity and embracing uncertainty. Holmes uses a different story for each chapter to exemplify his points. Here are a few of my favorites below…
We all know the Absolut Vodka ads but did you know just how successful the campaign was? Since their debut of the “Absolute Perfection” print ad in 1980, the Swedish vodka went from holding 1% of the market share to 60% by 1989. Agency TBWA attributes the success to that the fact that the ads offer no explanation and often take a few moments to digest. This shows that our minds automatically respond best to little puzzles of ads rather than ones that clearly lay out what they want the consumer to take away.
A Swedish psychologist did research to prove that the inclination to laugh is a function of a perceived expectation diverging from the actual outcome. His theory explains why MadLibs ranks along side A Tale of Two Cities and Lord of The Rings as one of the best selling books in history.
This ones not so laughable – Misdiagnoses of diseases affect 10-20% of cases in the US. Every year there are between 40,000-80,000 preventable deaths due to misdiagnosis. A 2014 study found that one in five breast cancer cases discovered and treated weren’t actually a health threat. Another study showed that radiologists reviewing a chest X-ray disagreed 20% of the time. And 10% of the time end up contradicting themselves. We are constantly overtested/overtreated here in America yet some how diagnostic accuracy has not improved due to ambiguity in medicine and judgement. There are initiatives to raise awareness to what is/isn’t necessarily as good for you as you thought. For example, did you know there’s little evidence that over-the-counter cough medicine does anything to shorten cold duration. Yet, one in ten children take the medication weekly. Sometimes, the dangers of certain drugs can outweigh the benefits and society is starting, although slowly, catch on. (This entire chapter, Overtested USA, was mind blowing to me!)
Okay- two things here. In the 1970s Women’s Wear Daily was nicknamed “terror tabloid” and fashion’s “bitchy bible” but was well respected by designers thanks to John Fairchild. When WWD deemed that the mini skirt would be the fall fashion staple rather than the current star, the midi, the ambiguity in the trend caused quite a feud in the fashion world for buyers and planners. Zara was created out of avoiding forecasting conflicts like this. They only order 15-25% of their merchandise 6 months in advance compared to the typical 40-60% in most retailers. Also, did you know that in 1916 you ordered everything you needed at grocery markets at the counter and clerks grabbed everything form the back of the store? Piggly Wiggly and the modern grocery store with aisles was born out of taking notice of this inefficiency!
Okay, that’s all I’m sharing. You’ll have to read for yourself to find out more awesome stories 😉