This was a present off my wishlist one Christmas or birthday and for some unknown reason it has sat, unread, on my bedside table for a number of years, which is shame as I really enjoyed it.
It’s essentially a book about psychology that focuses on trends and traits that affect is in our everyday lives.
The book is loosely grouped by subject into six sections, covering topics such as why some people fib about their date of birth, how we identify lies, why we believe in superstitions, what leads us to believe in ghosts, our decision-making, humour and generosity.
While the author discusses a number of his own studies in detail he also references a great many works of other psychologists to support or highlight various ideas.
Maybe I’ve been infected by Bad Science, but I struggled to believe you could ‘control’ adequately to prove many of these claims and there seemed to be very little discussion of how the data, usually collected via a survey, took into consideration people lie on them.
I’d question some of the other methodologies too, such as the study (not conducted by the author) on the ‘pace’ of a city, and therefore the likely stress and strain levels, based on people’s walking speed. The author did re-conduct the experiment to show how the ‘pace’ has changed, but failed to point out that there may be a simple answer for the fastest walkers not improving: the physical limits of the human body. Nor did it mention that the ‘Type A’ people who typically live in these cities may not be affected by stress or strain but any of a number of other factors (diet, for example).
Having said that, it does make you think and certainly contains plenty of noteworthy topics, even if you take issue with the conclusions. Well worth a read.
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Paperback copy of the book
Reviewed: 23rd March 2013