A highly informative, readable, and wide-ranging discussion of “how psychology, neuroscience, and related disciplines are...

HOW EMOTIONS ARE MADE

THE SECRET LIFE OF THE BRAIN

A well-argued, entertaining disputation of the prevailing view that emotion and reason are at odds.

As Barrett (Psychology/Northeastern Univ.; co-editor: The Psychological Construction of Emotion, 2014, etc.) writes, the “internal battle between emotion and reason is one of the great narratives of Western civilization. It helps define [us] as human.” From this perspective, emotion is treated as “a kind of brute reflex, very often at odds with our rationality.” To the contrary, the author, who also has appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, contends that our emotions are not hard-wired in our brains and triggered by circumstances. Instead, they are flexible and vary from culture to culture. During the course of our lifetimes, our brains wire and rewire themselves in response to upbringing and individual experiences. This argument puts Barrett at odds with the prevailing review of well-regarded scientists, such as Antonio Damasio, who emphasize that not only are our emotions shaped subconsciously, but also many of our actions. The author makes a convincing case that such explanations are too simplistic. She emphasizes that our brains respond flexibly to the circumstances of our lives. The degree to which we are responsible for actions that occur in the heat of passion, or prejudices of which we are unaware, may be arguable; that we share responsibility as parents and citizens for the social norms of our culture—e.g. racial prejudice and gender stereotyping—is not. We are responsible for our individual actions, of course, but we also bear responsibility for working to eliminate racial prejudice, gender stereotyping, and the like from our society. As Barrett points out, this has important legal as well as moral implications and leads into the thorny questions surrounding free will.

A highly informative, readable, and wide-ranging discussion of “how psychology, neuroscience, and related disciplines are moving away from the search for emotion fingerprints and instead asking how emotions are constructed.”

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-13331-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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