An intriguing exploration of a unique hypothesis with broad implications.

THE PRODIGY'S COUSIN

THE FAMILY LINK BETWEEN AUTISM AND EXTRAORDINARY TALENT

An exploration of the quest for a link between high-functioning autistic individuals and child prodigies, co-authored by mother-daughter team Ruthsatz (Psychology/Ohio State Univ.) and journalist Stephens.

In 1998, Ruthsatz, then a graduate student, was exploring what makes prodigies tick. Her particular interest was the nature vs. nurture debate. Her hypothesis was that three factors were involved in their success: “general intelligence, practice time and skills specific to a particular field.” While meeting a young boy with exceptional musical talent, a chance encounter with his autistic cousin prompted her to wonder what they might have in common. Over time, a picture began to emerge: “extraordinary memories, eagle eyes for detail, and voracious appetites for their chosen subjects.” Ruthsatz broadened her inquiry to include autistic children who became outstanding artists, as well as child prodigies with a wide range of talents, including a young gourmet chef. With modest grant money to pursue her research, she was able to include genetic testing in her journey. By the end of 2011, Ruthsatz “had investigated nine prodigies.” Admittedly, this is a small sample, but the results were provocative. She discovered that autism was indeed prevalent in the prodigies’ families, suggesting a genetic component. In several cases, genetic analysis showed a particular mutation carried by prodigies and their autistic relatives. Aside from the fact that her subjects were not chosen randomly—parents had to be willing for the interview to take place—the autistic children were chosen from the high end of the spectrum. Ruthsatz believes that behavioral therapy for autistic children should positively reinforce their potential talents, as well as social and language skills. The authors do not claim to have definitive answers, but they raise fascinating questions about the extent to which autism confers benefits as well as disabilities.

An intriguing exploration of a unique hypothesis with broad implications.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61723-018-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Current

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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