Targets dozens of important questions but will frustrate even patient readers.


How mothers with postnatal depression create narcissism and psychopaths

In his first book, Arnold develops an esoteric explanation for why some people grow up to do terrible things: postnatal depression in their mothers, which Arnold identifies as the cause of narcissistic and psychopathic behavior in children on into adulthood.

Arnold’s hypothesis relies heavily on the belief that most negative behavior—from homicidal rage, to greed, to simple bullying—is a result of narcissistic inclinations within the aggressor. This hypothesis is shared to varying degrees by a large subset of the psychiatric community, but there is little consensus about what causes a person to become a narcissist—a gap Arnold attempts to fill with his book. He believes that children born to mothers suffering from postnatal depression are deprived of the attention they desperately crave in their first years of life. According to Arnold, their depressed mothers ignore them until they act out; in turn, the baby associates negative behavior with motherly attention. As they grow up, their behavior becomes increasingly malignant because their brains have been hardwired from an early age to associate destruction with affection. In order to prove his theory, Arnold looks at various dictators, murderers and psychopaths from throughout history and attempts to explore the relationships they had with their mothers. This work takes up an intriguing, urgent subject but does it without much appreciation for scholarly principles. Ideas are illustrated and purportedly proven with anecdotes, assumptions, conjecture and wild leaps of logic, but rarely with facts, figures or expert opinions. In some cases, the work doesn’t even go into the test cases’ upbringings, thereby ignoring the central hypothesis. Also, a strain of misogyny runs throughout. The theory essentially identifies mothers as the root of all evil and displays a maddeningly shallow understanding of postnatal depression, calling out feminists, career women and prostitutes in unnecessary and curiously vitriolic asides: “Apparently [Anders Behring] Breivik’s mother was a feminist and this could have contributed towards her feelings—or lack of them—towards her son.” Arnold has clearly thought about his ideas plenty, but the way they’re presented here will not convince anyone, especially the experts.

Targets dozens of important questions but will frustrate even patient readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492292548

Page Count: 128

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

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


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 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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