Fodder strictly for the if-you-want-to-believe-it-it’s-true crowd.

THE SENSE OF BEING STARED AT

AND OTHER ASPECTS OF THE EXTENDED MIND

Indefatigable seventh-sense investigator Sheldrake mines his earlier works on prescient and telepathic abilities to update followers on his latest data and theories.

Never had a sense of being stared at? According to Sheldrake (Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, 1999, etc.), this puts you in a minority—along with those who shrug off déjà vu experiences as coincidence, can recall many times when they thought of a long-lost friend who didn’t telephone soon after, or do not find Fido waiting patiently at the door when arriving at an odd hour. This is not to say that there aren’t seemingly paranormal events worth studying. Some animals do display disturbed behavior before earthquakes; herd/homing/flight formation and migratory behaviors of many species are impressive; social insects do seem to act as one body. However, science can explain at least some of these behaviors by detailing the exquisite sensory mechanisms of various species, including an awareness of magnetic fields, and acute olfactory, vibratory, or infrared sensibility, and probably more to be discovered. One does not have to resort, as Sheldrake does, to “morphic fields” that stretch out from one body to co-mingle with another (especially among people who are emotionally close) or invoke a new (actually old) theory of vision that recognizes the role of light entering the eye but goes on to assert that the eye then projects outward to create the visual world as we see it, a notion that affords the eye power to exert malignant influences (as in the “evil eye”). As always, there are reports galore of positive responses to questionnaires on what people believe, countless controlled experiments where the probability of the positive result occurring by chance is one in a zillion, and the favorite caveat is that if, for example, a staring experiment didn’t bear fruit it was because the starer was not very good.

Fodder strictly for the if-you-want-to-believe-it-it’s-true crowd.

Pub Date: March 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-609-60807-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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