A Review of
The Wisest One in the Room: How you can benefit from social psychology’s most powerful insights
Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross
Reviewed by Michelle Wilbert
Poet William Stafford wrote, “Wisdom is having things right in your life and knowing why…” and I’m sure his words could well serve as an epigraph for this fine and indeed, “wise” book by social psychologists, Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross. Between them, they have over 80 years of experience in the two fields which define the scope of this book: social psychology and judgment and discernment with both fields explored in depth and with precision in terms of both analysis and application. Their exploration of what it means to be wise and to apply it in response to both ordinary and extraordinary questions and situations is both disciplined and practical. They persuasively make the case that what they consider the very heart of human psychology and, consequently, human folly–the reflexive belief that our perceptions bear a one-to-one correspondence to reality, often going a step further in the presumption that our own personal perceptions are especially accurate and objective—is malleable and amenable to alteration. This observation—one familiar to most of us however sheepishly we might respond to its veracity—forms the foundational thematic element of the book and is, then, a recurring point of reference throughout. Gilovich and Ross make a compelling case for understanding not only why we do what we do and how we can transform knowledge, experience and insight into wisdom, it offers direction in harnessing this powerful amalgam in personal, social and political situations towards the objective of creating a more sustainable, just and equitable world for all. In this, they succeed admirably and while there are minor suggestions that can be made regarding the structure of the book, it is a compelling and worthwhile addition to the library of anyone interested in the pragmatics of applied social psychology.