[ View menu ]

Archive for 'psychology'

for Thanksgiving – ‘Gratitude’ by Oliver Sacks

November 26, 2015


Gratitude by Oliver Sacks (Knopf, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)


Book description from the publisher:

“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
—Oliver Sacks

No writer has succeeded in capturing the medical and human drama of illness as honestly and as eloquently as Oliver Sacks.

During the last few months of his life, he wrote a set of essays in which he movingly explored his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death.

“It is the fate of every human being,” Sacks writes, “to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

Together, these four essays form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life.

“Oliver Sacks was like no other clinician, or writer. He was drawn to the homes of the sick, the institutions of the most frail and disabled, the company of the unusual and the ‘abnormal.’ He wanted to see humanity in its many variants and to do so in his own, almost anachronistic way—face to face, over time, away from our burgeoning apparatus of computers and algorithms. And, through his writing, he showed us what he saw.”
—Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

Comments (0) - new books,psychology

new book – ‘Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories’ by Rob Brotherton

November 18, 2015

Suspicious Minds

Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories by Rob Brotherton (Bloomsbury USA, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

We’re all conspiracy theorists. Some of us just hide it better than others.

Conspiracy theorists do not wear tin-foil hats (for the most part). They are not just a few kooks lurking on the paranoid fringes of society with bizarre ideas about shape-shifting reptilian aliens running society in secret. They walk among us. They are us.

Everyone loves a good conspiracy. Yet conspiracy theories are not a recent invention. And they are not always a harmless curiosity. In Suspicious Minds, Rob Brotherton explores the history and consequences of conspiracism, and delves into the research that offers insights into why so many of us are drawn to implausible, unproven and unproveable conspiracy theories. They resonate with some of our brain’s built-in quirks and foibles, and tap into some of our deepest desires, fears, and assumptions about the world.

The fascinating and often surprising psychology of conspiracy theories tells us a lot – not just why we are drawn to theories about sinister schemes, but about how our minds are wired and, indeed, why we believe anything at all. Conspiracy theories are not some psychological aberration – they’re a predictable product of how brains work. This book will tell you why, and what it means.

Of course, just because your brain’s biased doesn’t always mean you’re wrong. Sometimes conspiracies are real. Sometimes, paranoia is prudent.

See also: Book website

Comments (0) - new books,psychology

new book – ‘Rethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists’ by Laura Otis

November 11, 2015

Rethinking Thought

Rethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists (Explorations in Narrative Psychology) by Laura Otis (Oxford University Press, 2015)


Book description from the publisher:

Rethinking Thought takes readers into the minds of 30 creative thinkers to show how greatly the experience of thought can vary. It is dedicated to anyone who has ever been told, “You’re not thinking!”, because his or her way of thinking differs so much from a spouse’s, employer’s, or teacher’s. The book focuses on individual experiences with visual mental images and verbal language that are used in planning, problem-solving, reflecting, remembering, and forging new ideas. It approaches the question of what thinking is by analyzing variations in the way thinking feels.

Written by neuroscientist-turned-literary scholar Laura Otis, Rethinking Thought juxtaposes creative thinkers’ insights with recent neuroscientific discoveries about visual mental imagery, verbal language, and thought. Presenting the results of new, interview-based research, it offers verbal portraits of novelist Salman Rushdie, engineer Temple Grandin, American Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, and Nobel prize-winning biologist Elizabeth Blackburn. It also depicts the unique mental worlds of two award-winning painters, a flamenco dancer, a game designer, a cartoonist, a lawyer-novelist, a theoretical physicist, and a creator of multi-agent software. Treating scientists and artists with equal respect, it creates a dialogue in which neuroscientific findings and the introspections of creative thinkers engage each other as equal partners.

The interviews presented in this book indicate that many creative people enter fields requiring skills that don’t come naturally. Instead, they choose professions that demand the hardest work and the greatest mental growth. Instead of classifying people as “visual” or “verbal,” educators and managers need to consider how thinkers combine visual and verbal skills and how those abilities can be further developed. By showing how greatly individual experiences of thought can vary, this book aims to help readers in all professions better understand and respect the diverse people with whom they work.

Google Books preview:

Comments (0) - cognitive science,mind,new books,psychology

new book – ‘Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing’ by Jamie Holmes

October 17, 2015


Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes (Crown, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

An illuminating look at the surprising upside of ambiguity—and how, properly harnessed, it can inspire learning, creativity, even empathy
Life today feels more overwhelming and chaotic than ever. Whether it’s a confounding work problem or a faltering relationship or an unclear medical diagnosis, we face constant uncertainty. And we’re continually bombarded with information, much of it contradictory.

Managing ambiguity—in our jobs, our relationships, and daily lives—is quickly becoming an essential skill. Yet most of us don’t know where to begin.

As Jamie Holmes shows in Nonsense, being confused is unpleasant, so we tend to shutter our minds as we grasp for meaning and stability, especially in stressful circumstances. We’re hard-wired to resolve contradictions quickly and extinguish anomalies. This can be useful, of course. When a tiger is chasing you, you can’t be indecisive. But as Nonsense reveals, our need for closure has its own dangers. It makes us stick to our first answer, which is not always the best, and it makes us search for meaning in the wrong places. When we latch onto fast and easy truths, we lose a vital opportunity to learn something new, solve a hard problem, or see the world from another perspective.

In other words, confusion—that uncomfortable mental place—has a hidden upside. We just need to know how to use it. This lively and original book points the way.

Over the last few years, new insights from social psychology and cognitive science have deepened our understanding of the role of ambiguity in our lives and Holmes brings this research together for the first time, showing how we can use uncertainty to our advantage. Filled with illuminating stories—from spy games and doomsday cults to Absolut Vodka’s ad campaign and the creation of Mad Libs—Nonsense promises to transform the way we conduct business, educate our children, and make decisions.

In an increasingly unpredictable, complex world, it turns out that what matters most isn’t IQ, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It’s how we deal with what we don’t understand.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website


Comments (0) - new books,psychology

new book – ‘Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age’ by Sven Birkerts

October 6, 2015

Changing the Subject

Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts (Graywolf Press, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Trenchant, expansive essays on the cultural consequences of ongoing, all-permeating technological innovation

In 1994, Sven Birkerts published The Gutenberg Elegies, his celebrated rallying cry to resist the oncoming digital advances, especially those that might affect the way we read literature and experience art–the very cultural activities that make us human.
After two decades of rampant change, Birkerts has allowed a degree of everyday digital technology into his life. He refuses to use a smartphone, but communicates via e-mail and spends some time reading online. In Changing the Subject, he examines the changes that he observes in himself and others–the distraction when reading on the screen; the loss of personal agency through reliance on GPS and one-stop information resources; an increasing acceptance of “hive” behaviors. “An unprecedented shift is underway,” he argues, and “this transformation is dramatically accelerated and more psychologically formative than any previous technological innovation.” He finds solace in engagement with art, particularly literature, and he brilliantly describes the countering energy available to us through acts of sustained attention, even as he worries that our increasingly mediated existences are not conducive to creativity.
It is impossible to read Changing the Subject without coming away with a renewed sense of what is lost by our wholesale acceptance of digital innovation and what is regained when we immerse ourselves in a good book.

Google Books preview:

Comments (0) - culture,new books,psychology,reading