Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Mind of Its Own book review

Continuing the theme of truth (not truthiness), yet another book on the subject came out last year, called A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives.

A Mind of its Own covers similar ground to the first few chapters of Why Truth Matters, only in plain English. It looks at the question: how do we know the truth?

Unlike Why Truth Matters, this book doesn't dive into deep philosophical waters, but instead looks at research that shows us just how self-deluded us humans can be. We see how our brains massage the facts that come in, so we pay more attention to stuff that agrees with our prejudices, and play down anything that doesn't fit in.

In other words, it's very hard to be truly open-minded. And those who are often have a hard time of life, as the book points out:

"There is in fact a category of people who get unusually close to the truth about themselves and the world. Their self-perceptions are more balanced, they assign responsibility for success and failure more even-handedly, and their predictions for the future is more realistic. These people are living testimony to the dangers of self-knowledge. They are the clinically depressed."

As you can see, there's a healthy dose of humour in A Mind of its Own. But interestingly, there is no self-doubt - or depression - evident from the writer, Cordelia Fine. As a research fellow in the school of Philosophy and Bioethics at Monash University, she knows her stuff, and the book is littered with real-life examples of people she has met in her psychology career.

Plus she's married to a kiwi, so she has impeccable good taste.


Post a Comment

<< Home