Books by Roy F. Baumeister

Released: Dec. 31, 2019

"A solid primer on how to put the power of bad to good use."
Coping strategies for the negativity bias that pervades our daily lives. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Sept. 5, 2011

"Baumeister and Tierney afford readers numerous paths to put their feet on the higher ground of self-control, for 'inner discipline leads to outer kindness.'"
Baumeister (Social Psychology/Florida State Univ.; Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men, 2010, etc.) and New York Times science journalist Tierney extol the practical wisdom, as buttressed by the findings of modern social science, of willpower. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: April 28, 1993

A thoughtful examination of the puzzling behavior of those who persist in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Psychologists Berglas (Clinical Psychology/Harvard Medical School; The Success Syndrome, 1986) and Baumeister (Psychology/Case Western Reserve University; Escaping the Self, 1991) draw on both clinical examples and research findings to explore self-destructive behavior. Locating no single cause of the phenomenon, they view it along a continuum. At one end, there's well-intentioned self-defeating behavior, which involves poor judgment—such as trying too long or too hard. More inimical to happiness is the self-serving kind, which provides immediate- or short-term benefits but potentially greater long-term risks- -such as abusing dangerous drugs. At the far end of the scale lies maliciously intended behavior, in which harm is inflicted on oneself in order to hurt another person—what the authors call ``Pyrrhic revenge.'' Berglas and Baumeister use the actions of prominent figures (Magic Johnson, Jim Bakker, and Leona Helmsley among them) to illustrate typical behavior patterns, and the authors' discussion of choking under pressure will be of special interest to sports fans: Research indicates that the home field can actually be a disadvantage when a team is on the brink of a championship. A few final words touch on minimizing or preventing self-defeating behavior, but no easy solutions are offered. A smooth blend of theory, research, clinical observation, and anecdote. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Sept. 13, 1991

A perceptive study of modern culture's overriding fascination with the self and identity. Baumeister (Psychology/Case Western Reserve Univ.) states that the history of the self in Western culture began by equating it simply with the physical body; the self has now grown to be regarded as vast, unique, important—containing personality traits, the wellsprings of creativity, the keys to personal fulfillment, and the solution to life's dilemmas (all of which is absurd to cultures that don't share our zealous faith in the inner self). The more inflated this self, Baumeister argues, the more burdensome it becomes: In the wake of calamity, or to escape its demands, people flee from it. For example, says Baumeister, bulimics, painfully preoccupied with themselves and the way they look to others, go on binges to escape their tyrannical self- images. During a binge, meaningful thought is abandoned for a narrow focus on immediate sensations; the troubled self disappears from awareness by becoming preoccupied with one cookie after another. In masochism—most common among successful, individualistic people at the top of the socioeconomic hierarchy- -the competent, virtuous, energetic, and decisive selves these people maintain are gratefully relinquished by submission to the master. And, through pain, the self is reduced to the body, and the world is shrunk to one's immediate surroundings. Baumeister notes that the cult of self-esteem—which has so raised people's expectations and obligations (looking better, making love better, success at work, play, dieting and saying clever things)—will be dangerous in the long run as they try, through aberrant behaviors, to escape this self-imposed despotism. And perhaps self-esteem in itself is not always desirable. ``Weren't self- importance and overconfidence two of the factors that embroiled the US in Vietnam?'' Baumeister asks. Well written in nontechnical language; unique and persuasive. Read full book review >