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A Mind of Its Own

Perhaps your brains seems to stumble when faced with the 13 times table, or persistently fails to master parallel parking. But you're in control of it, right? Sorry. Think again. Dotted with popular explanations of the latest research and fascinating real-life examples, psychologist Cordelia Fine tours the less salubrious side of human psychology. She shows that the human brain is in fact stubborn, emotional and deceitful, and teaches you everything you always wanted to know about the brain - and plenty you probably didn't.
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About the Author

Cordelia Fine received a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from University College London. She is now a Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Melbourne University and the author of the highly acclaimed Delusions of Gender.


Many of the findings of social psychology are self-evident (e.g., that we prefer people similar to ourselves), but occasionally an experiment turns up a stunningly counterintuitive result. Fine (research assoc., Ctr. for Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics, Australian National Univ.) has collected many such results under headings that include "The Vain Brain" (i.e., how we distort reality to preserve our self-esteem), "The Immoral Brain" (i.e., we're a lot more self-serving than we realize), "The Weak-Willed Brain," and "The Bigoted Brain." She also presents suggestions for how to circumvent these brain weaknesses. As a result, we get a coherent view of typical mental distortion and what to do about it, and we get it all in a package that's fun to read (Fine is that rare academic who's also an excellent writer). Highly recommended for all public and undergraduate libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/06.] Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

'Consistently well-written and meticulously researched' -- Alain de Botton * The Sunday Times * 'In breezy demotic, Fine offers an entertaining tour of current thinking' * Telegraph * 'Fine sets out to demonstrate that the human brain is vainglorious and stubborn. She succeeds brilliantly.' * Mail on Sunday * 'This is one of the most interesting and amusing accounts of how we think we think - I think.' * Alexander McCall Smith * 'A fascinating, funny, disconcerting and lucid book ... by the end you'll realise that your brain can (and does) run rings around you.' * Helen Dunmore * 'Fine, a cognitive neuroscientist with a sharp sense of humour and an intelligent sense of reality, slaps an Asbo on the hundred billion grey cells that - literally - have shifty, ruthless, self-serving minds of their own.' * The Times * 'Clear, accessible writing makes her a science writer to watch' * Metro * 'Fine wears her learning lightly, blending facts with humorous observations. The result is a fascinating insight into how our minds work.' * Psychologies * 'A witty survey of psychology experiments demonstrating the depths of our suggestibility, the irrationality of our reasoning and the limits of free will.' * Focus *

Vain, immoral, bigoted: this is your brain in action, according to Fine, a research associate at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Australian National University. Fine documents a wealth of surprising information about the brain in this readable account that adopts a good-humored tone about the brain's failings without underestimating the damage they do. The brain, she shows, distorts reality in order to save us from the ego-destroying effects of failure and pessimism. For example, an optimist who fails at something edits the truth by blaming others for the failure and then takes complete credit for any successes. The brain also routinely disapproves of other people's behavior (how could he do that?), while at the same time interpreting one's own actions in the best possible light (I would never do that!). The brain also projects stereotypes onto others that reflect prejudicial beliefs rather than objective reality. Despite the firm hold these distortions have on our brains, Fine is not a pessimist. The path to overcoming stereotypes and other distortions of the brain, she says, may be gained through self-awareness and knowledge provided by experimental psychology, a field that explores and exposes unconscious mental influences. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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