Mindwise – Nicholas Epley Book Summary

Mindwise – Nicholas Epley | Free Book Summary

Mindwise – Nicholas Epley

This book explores why we see human motivations in inanimate objects, why we fight others and why we are strangers to ourselves. If you’re interested in human behaviour and why people separate others into groups, this is the book for you.

We Are Strangers To Ourselves

Introspection is blind to construction. This does not mean that our introspective guesses are never accurate, just as you might guess the correct answer to a multiple-choice question.

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When you don’t know the actual facts about yourself, your consciousness pieces together a compelling story, much in the same way it does when you’re trying to read the minds of other people to make sense of why they act as they do.

Introspection makes us feel like we know what’s going on in our own heads, even when we don’t. We don’t realize that we’re spinning a story rather than reporting the facts.

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Naive Realism – The Human Curse

Naive realism: the intuitive sense that we see the world out there as it actually is, rather than as it appears from our own perspective. 

When other people don’t share your views, the all-too-common sentiment that comes straight from nave realism is “I’m right and you’re biased.” 


Disengagement can happen anytime there is a distance between two minds that needs to be bridged. 

Minds are inferred rather than observed. They exist only as a theory each of us uses to explain both our own and other people’s behavior.

Our Reality Vs Reality

When others’ minds are unknown, the mind you imagine is based heavily on your own. So, it is heavily distorted by your reality. 

Neural regions that are active when actually experiencing physical pain firsthand are also active when watching other people experience pain. It quite literally hurts to watch someone else get hurt.

Fighting The Other Person

Your sixth sense functions only when you engage it. When you do not, you may fail to recognize a fully human mind that is right before your eyes. Said differently, sometimes we are triggered to engage with the mind of another, and other times we are not. 

When you can’t see a human in front of you, you fail to empathize. 


When we fail to empathize, we believe others have lesser minds. This lesser mind effect has many manifestations, including what appears to be a universal tendency to assume that others’ minds are less sophisticated and more superficial than one’s own.

People are complex

  • People are complex and have deeper motives than bosses often assume
  • By ignoring the complexity of their employees’ minds, bosses miss out on opportunities to truly motivate them
  • Disengaging from other people’s minds neglects a key source of happiness: meaningful relationships
  • We often use the concept of consciousness and intent to explain all actions, but this mentalistic language is imprecise and doesn’t provide functional explanations
  • We attribute minds to things when we can’t understand their behavior and when no other obvious explanation exists

Beyond Perceptions

  • Sometimes we give things a mind of their own in order to give them meaning and understand them better
  • In nature, there are many examples of things that appear one way but are actually something else (e.g. Lithops plants that look like rocks, praying mantises that look like plants)
  • We are especially sensitive to eyes because they offer insight into another person’s mind
  • When trying to understand someone else’s mind, we may rely on projecting from our own mind, using stereotypes, or inferring a mind from actions
  • Our perspective is unique and it’s important to consider other perspectives in order to see the world accurately
  • Childhood instincts may not be fully outgrown, but they can be overcome by more careful and reflective thinking.

Our Biases

  • We often think that others are paying more attention to us than they actually are
  • It’s important to be aware of our own biases and how they may distort our perceptions of others
  • We are prone to making judgments about others based on our own mental states and assumptions, rather than on their actual behavior
  • It’s important to be open to the possibility that others may have different goals, intentions, and motivations than we do
  • By understanding the complexity of other people’s minds, we can better understand and connect with them.

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