Valuable as encouragement for caregivers to empathize with the turbulent years, but remains uneven and not far-reaching...

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WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!

THE STRAIGHT FACTS ABOUT THE RISK-TAKING, SOCIAL-NETWORKING, STILL-DEVELOPING TEEN BRAIN

Health scientist administrator White and Swartzwelder (Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience/Duke Univ.; co-author, Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy, 1998) propose that behavioral changes in teenagers are not only hormonal, but due to significant changes in brain wiring and that risk-taking acts during the teen years are essential for achieving independence as well as mastering practical, social and emotional adult skills.

The authors consider common problems and some of their effects, organized by broad subjects (Teens and Their Brains, Mental Health, Food, Sleep, Driving, The Digital World, Sex and Sexuality, etc.) and further subdivided by issues such as eating disorders, the effects of caffeine and sugar, stress, pornography and others. The book is not intended as a comprehensive guide; some topics, such as social media and texting, presume access and a certain degree of affluence. In addition, the effects of particular cultures/religions as tempering moral agents that influence behavior do not come into play, resulting in a tendency for teens to emerge as subjects at the mercy of biology, though the authors are careful to note that multiple experiences and outcomes are possible. When explicating brain anatomy, the authors shine, presenting information with readable examples. When offering opinions or suggestions, however, the results are occasionally tepid or expected—e.g., considering violence and the harm that results from becoming desensitized toward it, the authors conclude with the easy summation: “It’s healthy to be appalled by violence. If playing violent video games makes kids less appalled by violence, this would be a bad thing for society as a whole.” On bullying: "Bullies and those they bully also experience other problems, not only in the present, but in the future as well.”

Valuable as encouragement for caregivers to empathize with the turbulent years, but remains uneven and not far-reaching enough as an amalgam of science and parenting advice.

Pub Date: April 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0393065800

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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