A revelatory report on the late Lewis Terman's extraordinary study of nearly 1,500 intellectually ``gifted'' children, a study that began in 1921 and continues today. Terman, developer of the Stanford-Binet test for intelligence, believed that geniuses were born, not made. He also believed that bright people were not maladjusted nerds but were capable of productive, happy lives. To prove his theories, he designed a study that would identify children with unusually high IQs and track them to the end of their lives. Many of the ``Termites,'' as they were dubbed, are still alive and are still being studied by Terman's academic heirs. Shurkin, a teacher of journalism at Stanford—where Terman was based—was given free access to the files, and he interviewed many of the subjects. A mix of biography, case history, and academic review, his book is also an amazing exposÇ of major flaws in this long-heralded sociological investigation. Shurkin points out, for instance, that there was no control group. Moreover, he says, over the years, Terman constantly meddled in the lives of his subjects, urging them to further education, wrangling scholarships, influencing admissions to college, and exchanging soul-searching letters with many of them. Despite these flaws, though, the sheer mass of material collected by Terman and his followers has made the study of immense value to later researchers. The study's results have in fact undermined the idea that intelligence is all in the genes—family influence has had a strong impact on Termites' achievements. The results, though, have upheld Terman's belief that intelligence contributes to a rewarding life- -rewarding, but with no creative breakthroughs. Shurkin's last sentence is telling: ``The Terman kid who may have had the greatest impact on our society was a comedy writer''—Jess Oppenheimer, the originator of I Love Lucy. Shurkin successfully humanizes the Terman study at the same time that he lifts the veil of romance from its subjects.

Pub Date: May 29, 1992

ISBN: 0-316-78890-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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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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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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