Skip to main content
Cover for The Intelligence Trap

The Intelligence Trap

Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes

David Robson


List Price: 27.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (8/5/2019)
Paperback (2/16/2021)


An eye-opening examination of the stupid things smart people do—and how to cultivate skills to protect ourselves from error.

Smart people are not only just as prone to making mistakes as everyone else, they may be even more susceptible to them. This is the "intelligence trap," the subject of David Robson’s fascinating and provocative book.

The Intelligence Trap explores cutting-edge ideas in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, including "strategic ignorance," "meta-forgetfulness," and "functional stupidity." Robson reveals the surprising ways that even the brightest minds and most talented organizations can go wrong—from some of Thomas Edison’s worst ideas to failures at NASA, Nokia, and the FBI. And he offers practical advice to avoid mistakes based on the timeless lessons of Benjamin Franklin, Richard Feynman, and Daniel Kahneman.

Praise For The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes

Highly readable…[The Intelligence Trap] strikes the right balance between illustrative vignettes and accessible translations of complex research, delivering a smart look at intellect and its shortcomings.

— Publishers Weekly

An engrossing standout in the thinking genre that will appeal to anyone who has ever been wrongheaded.
— Kirkus Reviews

The Intelligence Trap combines mesmerizing storytelling with groundbreaking new research about why having a high IQ can backfire. Essential reading for anyone who wants to think more clearly.

— Rolf Dobelli, author of The Art of Thinking Clearly

I loved The Intelligence Trap. As fun to read as it is fascinating, it celebrates the power of humility and curiosity. Everyone, especially intelligent people, should read this brilliant and important book.

— Anna Rosling Rönnlund, coauthor of Factfulness

The Intelligence Trap is a ceaselessly fascinating book written by one of our most consistently superb science writers. Its counter-intuitive argument, that intelligence is no inoculation against wrongness, explains so much about the fractious and baffling times in which we live.

— Will Storr, author of Selfie

A fascinating and enjoyable investigation of what intelligence is and isn’t, by one of the most exciting new voices in science writing. This thought-provoking and brilliantly researched guide to achieving true wisdom shows us how to be smarter—and how to protect ourselves from the cleverest fools.
— Gaia Vance, author of Adventures in the Anthropocene

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393651423, 336pp.

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

About the Author

David Robson has worked as an editor at New Scientist and BBC Future, and his writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the Observer, and the Washington Post. He lives in London.