This book has a lot to offer. I feel that many things will be better in the world if people were aware of what the book says. That being said, I feel that the book could have been shortened and some of the later chapters could be omitted. Also, the book started off on solid ground with all claims being backed by experiments, but later made some far-fetched claims where the authors didn't hold up to the high standards of proof they setup up in the early chapters.
The first 3 chapters were excellent. The authors clearly explain how self-justification works and lay out cognitive dissonance theory. In chapter 3, they go in-depth into how memories can be wrong and how they play into what we want to believe. This was quite a revelation to me how ordinary people could be so wrong about what they remember. I would now be more careful when recalling old memories. They use the pyramid analogy very well in explaining how opinions form and how they harden as you justify them and base more decisions on them, and why it is a good idea not to be too fixed on any opinion or ideology.
The fourth chapter was a good listen. The authors discuss how "recovered memories" proved wrong and how social workers and clinicians with good intentions ended up causing people to "remember" childhood abuse, leading to false accusations and broken families. The authors explain what constitutes proper science, and how individuals, professionals and experts can be completely wrong about something because they haven't examined it critically or scientifically. They give an example of psychotherapy and how psychology clinicians (not scientists) have often caused more harm than good to their patients. Self-justification comes in the way of making people correct themselves, therefore causing more harm. The fifth chapter is about wrongful convictions, and how prosecutors deal with the dissonance of being wrong and sending innocent people to jail. Self-justification comes into play here too. "I sent someone to jail. Therefore, he must be guilty"
In my opinion, chapter 6 made too strong a claim - Relationships and marriages are ruined by self-justification - without proper backup. The authors don't examine whether self-justification is a cause or merely a symptom of a troubled marriage. It did bother me that for all the talk about doing proper science, the authors throw all of that to the wind and expound on their opinions in this chapter. Chapter 7 talks about larger issues such as conflicts between nations and groups. Although it was interesting information, I am not sure whether it should have been included in this book. Again, this chapter was far from scientific, and only offers the example of post-apartheid reconciliation in South Africa as to how things can be done differently.
Finally, chapter 8 was meant to give practical advice. They do talk about how, in America, people don't own up to mistakes because they are afraid to look stupid. To me, apart from that, it was a lot of preaching, exhorting the reader/listener to own up to his/her mistakes. Personally, as someone who has a tendency to justify my actions, I felt this was a black-white approach, without looking at the grey area. For instance, there are two negative consequences of self-justification - 1) you make a bad situation worse by not being amenable to change (continuing to pour money into a bad investment, continuing to hurt somebody). 2) You don't mend relationships or come clean to yourself and others. If you admit your mistake to yourself (without saying it to others or in public), you at least fix problem 1, which is the more important problem in my opinion.
If you are considering this book, you will likely enjoy it. Nevertheless, be prepared to be taken out of your comfort zone, and exposed to common failings you are likely making. I haven't read any similar books and can't comment on what is new or different in this book
I liked that Dan Levitin is a musician as well as a neuroscientist. The latter keeps him grounded and pushes him hard to test his theories and hypotheses.
As a musician and scientist, I was really looking forward towards this book. There were some good parts, but at the end, the book didn't feel fully satisfying. To be fair, I had listened to a lecture by Dan (partly why I bought the book), and perhaps, I was already familiar with a lot of the book.
The good - Dan addresses a lot of basic questions and comes up with testable ideas, which are sometimes proved or disproved by science. He convincingly makes the point that the non-musician is an expert, and illustrates by showing how people can effortlessly recognize a popular tune, or tell when a note is off. Dan also makes clear the ways in which music is connected to language, and how some of the same parts of the brain are used for both. Dan is also excellent with separating testable facts from opinion, something that very few authors or opinion writers for media do.
For the non-musician, the production also has some audio clips to illustrate pitch and timbre.
The missing - Dan's theory of music feels incomplete. He talks about simplicity for music to be understood and complexity for it to be enjoyable. As a musician, this did not resonate with me. In my opinion, other sources such as Ayn Rand's "The Romantic Manifesto" do a better job on this front.
Dan could have done better with showing the musician's perspective. The book would have been greatly enhanced if there were inputs from a variety of musicians.
I also feel that Dan could have discussed the full spectrum of music, including Indian Classical, Arabian, Rap and other genres. The book is largely centered on Western mid-late 20th century music.
Explains the various financial tools such as loans, bonds, insurance and how they came about. One gets a good appreciation of why we have money and the various financial institutions.
Something about the narrators voice and style didn't feel good. I have read 3-4 other books and have never felt like this.
The connections of financial history to popular culture of well known literature - Lending of money for interest by jews in "The Merchant of Venice"; The part in Mary Poppins where Mr. Banks' son says "give me back my money!" leading to the bank having to close because of loss of liquidity - are very interesting.
If you are interested or curious about money and don't know where to start, this book is a great place. Also, if you are interested in history, this book is quite thorough in its research and tells a good story.
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