Part true crime, part neuroscience and a page-turner from start to finish.

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MURDEROUS MINDS

EXPLORING THE CRIMINAL PSYCHOPATHIC BRAIN: NEUROLOGICAL IMAGING AND THE MANIFESTATION OF EVIL

Can the tendency for criminally psychopathic behaviors be identified by analyzing neurological images? If so, what consequence does this have for science and society?

Psychopaths are everywhere—an estimated 1 in 100 adults qualify. Most are nonviolent but not all: One subset of this group, criminal psychopaths, have aggressive and sometimes-violent tendencies and often fail to exhibit empathy or remorse despite knowing the difference between right and wrong. Many of them commit crimes and end up in jail. In an opportunistic twist of science and justice, these jailed criminal psychopaths provide a unique chance for researchers to study their brains, and there now exists enough reproducible neurobiological data to investigate the connection between brain structure and criminal behavior. Science writer Haycock argues that it is possible to identify physical differences between the brains of psychopaths and nonpsychopaths by using sophisticated modern technologies like fMRI. The implications of this discovery are complex: How much do genetic markers and DNA play a role versus environmental factors like childhood abuse? Is it moral or legal to use this information to try to predict violent crimes or to influence a jury deciding a verdict? The author explores these tricky issues in accessible and insightful chapters that break down the science behind the data while using narratives of high-profile criminals—e.g., Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Mafia contract killer Richard “The Ice Man” Kuklinski, rapist and murderer Brian Dugan—to provide chilling real-life examples of criminally psychopathic behaviors. Importantly, Haycock asserts that the definition of psychopathy itself remains a work in progress, but examining the brain activity of people across the psychopathic spectrum is a robust line of research that promises to yield increasingly intriguing results about evil human behavior.

Part true crime, part neuroscience and a page-turner from start to finish.

Pub Date: April 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60598-498-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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