How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America

January 22, 2020

Book Review by Andy Ghillyer

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon where the pressure for conformity within a group can actively suppress individual contributions and stifle creativity. Work teams are especially prone to its effects.

In his new book Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America, cartoonist and author Scott Adams, argues that we have moved beyond Groupthink to its darker and more insidious cousin, Loserthink. From unproductive reasoning to downright absurd thinking, the author is concerned that society has reached a level of unskilled thinking that actually prevents productive learning.

Living in Bubbles

The dry, sardonic humor of Adams’ creation, Dilbert, is prevalent here, but the message is far more serious. The polarization of political and media messaging combined with the isolationism of social media platforms is creating a global population of bubbles where scandals such as ‘Pizzagate’ gain traction, and The Flat Earth Society experiences a resurgence.

The difference between Groupthink and Loserthink is that the former is externally driven, whereas the latter originates in your own mental habits. You may consider yourself reasonably well educated with a reliable gut instinct, but as Adams points out: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

The risk of this lack of awareness combined with unskilled reasoning can be very dangerous. For many, the notion of Bill and Hillary Clinton running a pedophile ring out of a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant was easy to dismiss as nonsense. However, one twenty-eight-year-old man chose to believe the story and “brought an assault weapon to the pizza place to see if he could save these children.”

Adams’s proposed solution to Loserthink is to embrace the skill of thinking like other professions. Their life experiences and skill sets may not align directly with yours, but the valid underlying message is that your ego-driven thought process may not always be appropriate for every situation. Thinking like a Psychologist, for example, will remind you of the risk of assuming, however inadvertently, that you “have the right facts, and the other side is delusional.”

Thinking like an Artist will encourage you to use your imagination in considering someone else’s actions rather than allowing your cognitive bias towards stereotypes and assumptions to lead you. Thinking like an Entrepreneur will help you to avoid “staying in your lane.” Instead of accepting the status quo because the prospect of jumping from A to D is too daunting, just focus on taking the smallest step in that direction. Is this self-deceit? Yes, but as Adams points out, the alternative is to live your life in one lane without any exposure to or consideration of alternative viewpoints.

The Danger of Mental Prisons

Adams shares both his personal successes and medical challenges in order to underscore the danger of allowing yourself to be trapped in your own mental prison. Many of his diagnosed medical conditions were considered to be incurable and yet he found a way to overcome them by refusing to accept the status quo or embrace Loserthink.

Loserthink carries a serious message beneath its dry humor. We should all pay close attention to how we think and how we react to information that is presented to us.


Andy Ghillyer

Andy Ghillyer is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He lives in Tampa, FL where he specializes in writing for the B2B and academic markets while raising a growing menagerie of cats and dogs. His other reviews are here.


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