Forthright criticism that promoters of tests as well as those who rely on them will find impossible to ignore.

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CULT OF PERSONALITY

HOW PERSONALITY TESTS ARE LEADING US TO MISEDUCATE OUR CHILDREN, MISMANAGE OUR COMPANIES, AND MISUNDERSTAND OURSELVES

A well-documented and highly readable critique of personality tests, examining their development, flaws, and applications.

Paul, Mind/Body columnist for Shape and a former senior editor of Psychology Today, maintains that personality tests “cannot begin to capture the complex human beings we are.” She looks at how and why various personality test were created and by whom, beginning with the Rorschach inkblot test and including such widely used instruments as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI, the Thematic Apperception Test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the NEO-Personality Inventory. These tests, she asserts, cannot predict human behavior, tend to focus on dysfunction (as opposed to health), and often fail to meet scientific standards of validity and reliability. For example, the author cites one study of the Myers-Briggs that found that more than half of those answering the questionnaire were given a different personality type when they took the same test a short while later. Paul warns that the newest approaches to personality assessment involve biological markers, genetic analysis, and computer technology—tools of science that may be so impressive that we accept their pronouncements without question, forgetting that in another century phrenology was thought to offer a scientific approach to the mind. Originally developed to detect mental illness, personality tests are today a favorite instrument of personnel departments of corporations and government agencies needing to hire, sort, and manage people, and they are widely used by school systems to evaluate children and in courts as evidence in both criminal and civil cases. Consequently, says Paul, crucial decisions about people’s lives are being made on the basis of seriously flawed information. She cites other assessment techniques—structured interviews, behavioral observations, a life-story approach—as alternatives, and recommends the institution of various safeguards and limitations on the use of such testing.

Forthright criticism that promoters of tests as well as those who rely on them will find impossible to ignore.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4356-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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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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