Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure

Prometheus. Nov. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9781633889187. $27.95. PSYCH
Journalist Jackson (Distracted: Reclaiming Our Focus in a World of Lost Attention) engagingly argues that people can open themselves to discoveries when they are willing to withhold immediate judgments in their assessments and decision-making. Drawing from examples like DNA analysis, the breaking of the Enigma code, overcoming social prejudice, and troubleshooting space missions, the book indicates in case after case how satisfying insights and wiser decisions can arise if readers hold out for substantial findings instead of coming to quick conclusions. Jackson is a good storyteller and understands the power of narrative intimacy with her subjects. For example, in her conversation with a young mother struggling with an impulsive son, Jackson homes in on the mother’s realization that her son’s behavior might be an adaptive response to the family’s uncertain circumstances; the family dynamic improves when the mother finds ways to help the son cope, instead of punishing him. Via anecdotes like these, Jackson invites readers to consider that the stress of tolerating uncertainty is the body’s way of readying a person for challenges.
VERDICT A useful book for those generally interested in psychology, sociology, management, or the philosophy of science.
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