Although the chapter headings often have a free-and-easy tone (“Any Cook Could Run the Country”; “Tired of Living and Scared...

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THE AGING BRAIN

An optimistic look at what current research is revealing about the brain in the final decades of life.

Whalley (Mental Health/Univ. of Aberdeen), a brain researcher working on the molecular biology of aging, holds out hope of “fitter old brains for fitter old people.” After a brief examination of theories of aging, he discusses the healthy brain and how it works. The good news: it is now clear that the brain retains some developmental capacity throughout life and that, while there is selective loss of neurons with aging, surviving brain cells make new connections, preserving the brain’s essential circuitry. The possibility that the brain may be able to compensate for its aging and that damage to brain cells may be preventable and even reversible could transform our expectations of old age, he notes. Whalley also examines the social and psychological aspects of aging, focusing on the mental abilities that change consistently with age. He addresses three questions: Is brain aging general or selective? Do brain-aging changes occur at random? Does aging drain the brain’s overall capacity? Whalley then discusses studies relevant to answering these questions. He surveys research into dementia, especially in Alzheimer’s disease, and reports on the progress being made in understanding the causes of this disorder and possible therapeutic approaches. In his final chapter, he looks at environmental influences on brain aging and considers how computer technology might enhance the psychological lives of the very old at the same time that advances in molecular biology are improving their physical lives.

Although the chapter headings often have a free-and-easy tone (“Any Cook Could Run the Country”; “Tired of Living and Scared of Dying”), the demanding text is clearly aimed at serious readers. (13 illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-231-12024-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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