Bond renders a worthwhile subject into entertaining, informative reading.

THE POWER OF OTHERS

PEER PRESSURE, GROUPTHINK, AND HOW THE PEOPLE AROUND US SHAPE EVERYTHING WE DO

London-based writer Bond wades into the murky reaches of the human psyche in this exploration of how other people’s opinions shape our behaviors and attitudes.

Combining decades of experimental research by social scientists with summaries of historical events, the author presents an analysis of how peer pressure, groupthink, heroism, evil, extreme environments and isolation all affect our actions. Bond begins by explaining why it is natural for humans to want to be part of a group. He goes on to define social mimicry and looks at how this mirroring of body language, and even moods, “helps us understand other people’s minds.” The author notes the importance of caution and protecting yourself when making decisions in today’s wired environment, with its vivid imagery and continuous “information cascade.” Bond also discusses how group dynamics and perceptions affect those individuals who are perceived as the “Other,” especially during times of stress or threat to the in-group, such as the months and years following 9/11. The author cites research exploding the theory of the madness of the mob, and he relates how this idea has been employed throughout history for political ends. Bond chronicles how authority, peer pressure and the environment can combine in dreadful ways, producing truly evil behavior such as that of Adolf Eichmann during World War II. The author recounts the shocking results obtained by Stanley Milgram during his infamous experiments conducted at Yale University during the 1960s, illustrating how important context is to how people behave. Bond devotes the concluding portion of the narrative to understanding human behaviors during and after prolonged solitary confinement or an extended solo stretch in a harsh environment such as the Arctic. “We can learn as much by looking at what happens to us when others are not there,” he writes, “when we are forced to get by on our own.”

Bond renders a worthwhile subject into entertaining, informative reading.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78074-653-1

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A riveting look inside the human brain and its quirks.

HALLUCINATIONS

Acclaimed British neurologist Sacks (Neurology and Psychiatry/Columbia Univ.; The Mind’s Eye, 2010, etc.) delves into the many different sorts of hallucinations that can be generated by the human mind.

The author assembles a wide range of case studies in hallucinations—seeing, hearing or otherwise perceiving things that aren’t there—and the varying brain quirks and disorders that cause them in patients who are otherwise mentally healthy. In each case, he presents a fascinating condition and then expounds on the neurological causes at work, drawing from his own work as a neurologist, as well as other case studies, letters from patients and even historical records and literature. For example, he tells the story of an elderly blind woman who “saw” strange people and animals in her room, caused by Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a condition in with the parts of the brain responsible for vision draw on memories instead of visual perceptions. In another chapter, Sacks recalls his own experimentation with drugs, describing his auditory hallucinations. He believed he heard his neighbors drop by for breakfast, and he cooked for them, “put their ham and eggs on a tray, walked into the living room—and found it completely empty.” He also tells of hallucinations in people who have undergone prolonged sensory deprivation and in those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, migraines, epilepsy and narcolepsy, among other conditions. Although this collection of disorders feels somewhat formulaic, it’s a formula that has served Sacks well in several previous books (especially his 1985 bestseller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), and it’s still effective—largely because Sacks never turns exploitative, instead sketching out each illness with compassion and thoughtful prose.

A riveting look inside the human brain and its quirks.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95724-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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