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MINDREADING

AN INVESTIGATION INTO HOW WE LEARN TO LOVE AND LIE

A researcher into primate behavior has turned her Ph.D. thesis on Theory of Mind in chimpanzees into an engaging look at how we humans understand what is going on in each others’ minds. “Theory of Mind is the hallmark of humanity,” explains O’Connell, for it is the ability to understand that other people have thoughts, desires, and beliefs about the world, thus enabling us to handle complex social relationships and ultimately to develop a moral code. O’Connell, who writes for both academic journals and the popular press in England (the Guardian, the Observer, etc.) examines the nature of this ability and how its foundations are present in very young children and some animals. Her reports on studies with infants and children, which reveal the intermediate steps in the development of Theory of Mind, are fascinating, as are her descriptions of her own and other primatologists— work on the mental abilities of chimpanzees, baboons, gorillas, and other apes. We are shown how the ability to lie develops and how the power of the imagination leads to the evolution of empathy and compassion. What happens when Theory of Mind is missing or deficient is demonstrated in her discussions of research on autistic individuals and those with Asperger’s syndrome (often called high-functioning autistics, for they may be very intelligent, yet they are unable to show empathy and have poor social and communication skills). Moving on from living creatures to machines, O’Connell is willing to speculate on the possibility of building robots with minds. Her conclusion, supported by accounts of some robots under development, is that we may soon have robots with a simple version of Theory of Mind or perhaps robots that, in a limited context, act as if they have it. Both highly readable and enlightening’science made simple, not simplistic.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48402-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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THE CULTURE MAP

BREAKING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES OF GLOBAL BUSINESS

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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