College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
tell me how to avoid getting taken advantage of (like the moronic How To Deal With Difficult People) and the worse than useless In Sheep's Clothing), I decided to take a look at the opposite end of the problem--the manipulators themselves: a much better idea, as it turns out. Without Conscience provides a nicely developed portrait of the psychopath, people born without the ability to empathize and register normal human feelings, even though they can imitate them convincingly enough to con and abuse others. (There are an estimated 2 million psychopaths among us in the US, and they are not to be confused with their most extreme representative: the serial killer. Chances are you know or have known a psychopath.) The neurology represented in this book is a bit behind the current wisdom and for better information about the brain's role in psychopathy, one might read The Science Of Evil and The Tell-Tale Brain. Overall, Without Conscience is a very useful book for understanding the serious manipulator and how to deal with him/her.
Up front, it has to be said that this is not the most in-depth book you can read on the brain or neuroplasticity, but that is not the point. The thing that makes this book imiportant is that it furthers the growing work that shows that we have the power to modify our own brains by modifying our own thinking and behavior and that this, in fact, works better in the long run than cramming more psychotropic drugs down our gullets for every little mental complaint. (No one is suggesting that drugs be eliminated for serious cases!) It moves from the brain as machine idea of the functionalists and reintroduces free will and personal empowerment and responsibility to the picture. Read this along with the work of Jeffery Schwartz, Richard Davidson and Daniel Goldman.
This is not a throwback to the old mind/matter dualism of Descartes, though it does decidedly (and, I believe healthfully and rightly) break with some of the tenets of hardcore behaviorism and inflexible functionalism. In short, the authors do view the brain as the seat of thought and emotion and all lower and higher cognitive functions, but they view the mind as something other than "byproduct of a dynamic, like the noise that is emitted by a lawnmower," as some radicals have asserted. Rather, the mind is a Gestalt, a whole greater than the sum of its biological parts, a living dynamic with "a life of its own": and that Gestalt is something special and real--the minds, the personalities, the psychic beings that we are.
I wish i could find a wy to give more than 5 stars. One of the best books i have downloaded. The narration is outstanding, perfect for teh book, well paced.
Now for the content. i have read several sort of "popular psych" books, including Malcolm Gladwell's several books. Here is the idfference...this one is based on evidence and is written by scientists. Its all based on experiments by themselves and others which really question our understanding of how our minds process information. I found the structure excellent..if give you a framework to place all their conclusions. While I think some of the later chapters, especially the one on "self improvement" a little weaker then the first chapeters, that's partly because the first chapters are so rivetting.
I will really use this information as I teach. It's applicable to almost any field. It is incredibly inciteful. And a bonus is they rag on Gladwell several times, which, I agree with. Works like his are observations from which they extrapolate immutable laws about the way the world works. This book tries to rely on solid experimental evident. The difference is striking. In addition, as experts in the field, i find the authors' insights fresh, novel, clearly things that have been thought about and puzzled over for many years.
A remarkable read.