Read A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives by Cordelia Fine Online


A delightfully unsparing look into what your brain is doing behind your back.In recent years, we've heard a lot about the extraordinary workings of our hundred-billion-celled brain: its amazing capacities to regulate all sensation, perception, thinking, and feeling; the power to shape all experience and define our identity. Indeed, the brain's power is being confirmed everA delightfully unsparing look into what your brain is doing behind your back.In recent years, we've heard a lot about the extraordinary workings of our hundred-billion-celled brain: its amazing capacities to regulate all sensation, perception, thinking, and feeling; the power to shape all experience and define our identity. Indeed, the brain's power is being confirmed every day in new studies and research. But there is a brain we don't generally hear about, a brain we might not want to hear about…the "prima donna within."Exposing the mind's deceptions and exploring how the mind defends and glorifies the ego, Dr. Cordelia Fine illustrates the brain's tendency to self-delusion. Whether it be hindsight bias, wishful thinking, unrealistic optimism, or moral excuse-making, each of us has a slew of inborn mind-bugs and ordinary prejudices that prevent us from seeing the truth about the world and ourselves. With fascinating studies to support her arguments, Dr. Fine takes us on an insightful, rip-roaringly funny tour through the brain you never knew you had....

Title : A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393062137
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 243 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives Reviews

  • Trevor
    2019-03-12 17:13

    If I’d read this about five years ago this would have been quite a different review. Don’t get me wrong, after reading her Delusions of Gender there is nothing, NOTHING Ms Fine could do that I wouldn’t think was potentially god-like. Delusions is an amazing book and you ought to read it first, before this one, in fact, before just about any other book. It is a necessary book in ways this one isn’t. I mean that kindly – but there are lots of other books on this topic, many at least as good, but there are no other books I’ve read on how gender is constructed in our societies from a scientific perspective that hold a candle to Delusions of Gender. Like I said, it is a must read.Now, a couple of weeks ago I found out that the Milgram experiments were involved in, well, what some people might call ‘data manipulation’ and to such an extent that it really calls into question the entire import of these experiments to social science. This is a worthwhile link to have a wee look at: seems we are not quite as likely to be Nazi prison guards as was originally assumed, and I, for one, am rather pleased this is the case. We humans are capable of the most god-awful abuses and nastinesses – and worse – but I am much happier knowing that such unthinking ‘follow the leader’ behaviours aren’t nearly as all-pervasive as Milgram seemed to show. We may not have cause for much hope about humanity, but utter despair may yet prove to be somewhat of an over-reaction too.The part of this book, then, that must be read with the above article in mind is the part that deals with Milgram. One of the things that is repeatedly said in this book is that we are pretty hopeless at knowing our own true motivations. We get fooled far too often and often by ourselves. Part of the reason for this is that we have limited ways in which our bodies can respond to inputs. She talks about her sweaty palms while being nervous, for example – but also racing hearts and shortage of breath, that sort of thing. The problem arises, not so much in ‘real’ life, but rather in psychological tests where your emotions can be manipulated in certain ways without your conscious knowledge and then, when you are asked to explain why you might be feeling a certain way, the shrink can smugly smile knowing they are right and you are wrong. My favourite example isn’t in this book, but the couple of examples given here are interesting too. My favourite is about people who are hypnotised and told that when they wake up they won’t remember anything about what has been said to them, but when someone says “chicken” they will fall to the ground. They are then woken up (or whatever one does when one brings hypnotised people back from being hypnotised) and the conversation starts. It is going along nicely until someone says that they had a chicken sandwich for lunch and the stooge – I mean, psychology assessment victim/subject/object of derision – finds themselves on the ground. So far, the script has gone pretty much as the writer intended. But now comes the interesting bit. They ask said stooge/victim why they are on the floor. Not a completely unreasonable question in normal circumstances. What very rarely happens is that said stooge says, “Frig, no idea – I must be completely nuts”. Rather, they generally come up with a ‘reason’ for what, we can only assume, must seem even to them like completely inexplicable behaviour. They’ll say something like, ‘I’ve been thinking of getting some new carpet and …” or “Oh, sorry, I felt a little faint for a second there” or “Jesus, where did you get those shoes?”. The point is, as with all such stories, there is a clear cause and there is a clear effect and only the expert can tell you which is which.And there is my problem with this stuff. One of the questions she asks a few times during the book is basically, how can you know you are in a relationship that you ought to be in when all of us are so crap at understanding our true motivations for doing anything? In another recent review I talked about something a writer said about the difference between modernism and post-modernism. Modernism is based on the idea of radical doubt – it is the Sherlock Holmes perspective. Bad shit has gone down, there’s even a body to prove it, and someone is responsible for the dead body – there is a knife in its back, someone put it there. But they aren’t letting on that they did it and so it is up to Holmes, trusting no one, doubting everything, to try to figure out what happened and why. There is one truth, he is standing outside this particular world and looking in, and he will find that one true truth using all of his powers of pure deduction. Post-modernism is more like Phillip Marlow, the Phillip Marlow in the Singing Detective that is. The story is far too complicated, the teller is drugged and incoherent, they are involved up to their eyeballs in the story so that there is no ‘outside’ from which to look in, there isn’t one truth, the truth is relational and depends on who you are in the story and who you have spoken to and what you already know and what you have guessed, and the secrets you are keeping and the secrets no one is tell you, and the stuff you aren’t sure of, and also and mostly who you like and who you can’t stand. The truth isn’t one thing, it is very much situated and depends on endless very personal accidents. It isn’t that the truth isn’t ‘objective’, it is just that it is ‘relative’. So, while I do see that there is a causal relationship between the guy being hypnotised and someone saying chicken and him ending up on the ground, I’m not nearly so sure this means the ‘truth’ of this situation is the god-like perspective of the shrink. Yep, when you get to set up the rules of the game you get to see ‘causality’ – but in life you don’t get this perspective or to set up the rules in quite that same way. So, how are we going to use this particular piece of evidence of human frailty? If it is just to tell us that we are all stuffed in the head, well, you know, that isn’t really news to most of us. The problem with such experiments is that they reinforce the idea that there is a single ‘truth’ and that somehow we must go looking for that. But that is exactly the wrong lesson here. A much better lesson is that we are self-interested pricks and spend far too much time finding ways to protect our rather delicate egos. That, actually, can mostly be a good thing, but sometimes it is a really, really bad thing. Like when we ‘don’t try’ to do something well so we can have an excuse for failure (well, I didn’t really try). But there are very few things about us that are unequivocally good or bad. The problem is that everything is situated, it only makes sense from within the situation, and as such it is really hard to offer general advice when we live in the particular.That said, the bits of this that I really liked were the bits I’ve been obsessing over for nearly a decade now. Firstly, stereotype threat. Short version – people live down to the expectations of the social stigmas they are confined within. Stereotypes matter because they do damage to people by stuffing them in boxes they struggle to get back out of. This book provides as good a summary of stereotype threat as anything else I’ve read – although, really, read Claude Steele’s book. He’s the guy who did much of the original research into this and his book is at least as easy a read as this one.This book is a bit more jokey than Delusions of Gender – I really don’t mind that, I quite like people being amusing and there were a couple of times when she even made me laugh. But, I suspect some people might find this a bit off-putting. The stereotype is that serious books need to be serious – more’s the pity, I think, but you’ve been warned, this book might amuse you.Now, I can hear you already – McCandless, you’ve whinged about the book the whole way through your review and yet you’ve given it five stars – what is going on? Well, I still think this is a really interesting book and despite my reservations about what these sorts of books can really tell us or the help they can really provide us, these are still interesting experiments and they, surely, tell us something about what it is to be human. And if reading a book like this gets you to not be a racist shit – even once – that’s got to be a good thing. Even if it only makes you pause before being racist, even that is a good thing.Like I said, if you haven’t read a book like this before, this is a pretty good place to start. Other books you might find interesting are on my ‘Behavioural Economics’ shelf.

  • Lena
    2019-03-25 18:22

    I’ve come to see this book as a handy little owner’s manual for anyone with a brain. In an entertaining and highly readable style, Cordelia Fine has synthesized a host of cognitive research to show that our minds often give us a much more distorted picture of reality than any of us would imagine. Our brains, it seems, are masters of self-deception, engaging in a whole host of hidden activities designed to protect both our fragile egos and our pre-existing beliefs. While there are benefits to be gained from these distortions, Fine also spells out in detail the price that we pay when we allow our brain to keep us comfortably insulated from information that might otherwise change our minds. In one particularly compelling example, Fine discusses how a doctor discovered that the standard pre-natal practice of giving x-rays to pregnant women doubled the risk that the fetus would go on to develop childhood cancer. Her findings, however, were completely dismissed for decades and millions of children were unnecessarily exposed to x-rays while advocates of the procedure vigorously denied her claims. The techniques these doctors used to defend x-rays in the face of mounting evidence against them shows just how dangerous these self-deceptions can be, not just to us personally, but also to humanity as a whole. While generally light in tone, Fine’s book is very comprehensive in that each chapter outlines a specific technique of distortion used in the brain, discusses the research used to discover that process, and talks about the impact of that technique in everyday life. In “The Deluded Brain,” Fine reveals research that shows how we will rewrite personal history in order to fit with our expectations. This chapter has major implications for anyone who has ever spent a lot of money on self-help. In “The Immoral Brain,” Fine reveals the part of us that is programmed to blame others for their misfortunes so that we might feel less fear that those same misfortunes could befall us. This chapter goes a long way towards explaining how die-hard believers in “The Secret” could adopt the morally reprehensible position that the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks “attracted” their misfortune through their own negative thinking. While it can be disturbing to realize just how far removed from reality we often are, Fine also provides information on how we can use our brains’ natural tendencies to overcome some of its more damaging handicaps. Her examination of how disciplined dieters transcend temptation and how those who work with the disadvantaged combat the brain’s natural inclination towards bigoted stereotypes show that we do not, in fact, have to be at the mercy of our unconscious processes. At a time when the national debate on controversial issues often seems to be more about who can shout the loudest than genuinely trying to come to an understanding of opposing positions, I think pretty much everyone could benefit from reading this book.

  • Richard
    2019-03-12 19:31

    As my friend Lena writes in her review of this book:"I’ve come to see this book as a handy little owner’s manual for anyone with a brain. In an entertaining and highly readable style, Cordelia Fine has synthesized a host of cognitive research to show that our minds often give us a much more distorted picture of reality than any of us would imagine."I'd agree. Furthermore, it is a nice introductory text to anyone curious about this exploding field of "Popular Cognition" (is there a magazine yet?). The author, despite her PhD in Psychology, writes in a casual and breezy manner. While I think the dust-cover blurb describing this as "rip-roaringly funny" is a bit hyperbolic, the prose is definitely amusing—in a way. She seemed a bit like a more restrained version of Mary Roach; some of that same silliness, and plentiful use of her husband as a long suffering foil for her wit, but not descending to Roach's often juvenile depths.Those who have already read extensively on this topic might not find much new here, though. On the other hand, the book will be easy to breeze through compared to those tomes that investigate the neurochemical or philosophical aspects of how these crazy brains of ours work. Fine provides plenty of resources via her endnotes, but focuses on the "what's strange about this picture?" and leaves the "why does it work like that?" for other authors.She splits her book into eight chapters:» The Vain Brain: For a softer, kinder reality» The Emotional Brain: Sweaty fingers in all the pies» The Immoral Brain: The terrible toddler within» The Deluded Brain: A slapdash approach to the truth» The Pigheaded Brain: Loyalty a step too far» The Secretive Brain: Exposing the guile of the mental butler» The Weak-willed Brain: The prima donna within» The Bigoted Brain: "Thug... tart... slob... nerd... airhead"And so she covers the various ways the brain mind brain refuses to do what a rationalist might expect it to be doing. There were a few surprises—my personal favorite cognitive bias, the availability heuristic, was never covered, which is a tragedy: it is such a fun and important phenomena. A few other cognitive biases were mentioned haphazardly in the "deluded" section; this makes sense, since they are way we innocently misapprehend what our senses tell us. But pathological psychiatric delusions were also covered in that chapter. That highlights their similarities, but does disservice to the kind of simply-plain-wrong thinking the brain is wired for. That our unreasoning behavior upon exposure to the word "free" (see Predictably Irrational) has roots akin to the Capgras delusion is important, but popular culture and mass media entertainment mean that the former has ramifications that deserve a lot more attention. I guess this just isn't the book for it, but it would have been nice to see more attention paid to how a lack of rationality deals very poorly with a consumer culture.A few highlights:You probably already knew this, but: first, you give a group of school children a fake test, then arbitrarily choose a few of those students as showing more "intellectual potential". Tell the teacher which ones did well, and those students will magically start doing better. You don't need to tell the students themselves: the teacher will start treating them differently, and that in combination with the student's response will be sufficient (p. 113).More on schoolkids: a group of students were provided with training on how to solve a difficult math problem. Half of 'em got a clear and helpful video presentation, the other half got one that was deliberately confusing which left them floundering. No surprise that the second half did less well; also, probably not much of a surprise that they blamed themselves. They concluded they were simply inept with numbers. Bigger surprise: the lack of confidence persisted even after the researchers showed them the difference between the two videos and explained the trick. Even three weeks later, their lack of confidence left them less interested than their counterparts in signing up for similar math classes (p. 117).Or: "a woman’s expectations for how her relationship will turn out, for example, may ‘create her own reality’": if she feels anxious about her partner's commitment and is preoccupied with the possibility of rejection, she will often behaving more cantankerously when minor conflicts do arise. According to one study, the relationships of these "rejection-sensitive women" were nearly three times more likely to fail, even in comparison to women who were of equal health and happiness (p. 114. Sound sexist? Sorry—that seems to be the way the studies Fine cited were set up).If someone were to tell you "Congressman Smith has never been accused of pedophilia", would that make you more likely to believe the opposite? Sure: if your mental capacity is being taxed, leaving you too distracted to consider the impact of the "never", your brain will happily lump together the congressman and the accusation without regard to the actual truth-value of the statement. So pre-trial publicity is often harmful to the reputation of the accused regardless of the facts (p. 122).If you want to manipulate your fellow players in a game Trivial Pursuit, trigger their "schemas" beforehand. This is the network of concepts that relate to one another in a kind of web. Say "rice" and the concept of "Asian" will be closer to consciousness; say "elderly" even if people don't think "forgetful", the idea will be more likely to be put into play by the subconscious. When a schema is about a group of people, we call it a stereotype, but from the brain's point of view it is just a way of saving time and energy. So talk to your own teammates before the game starts and off-handedly mention words like "professor"; chat separately with the other team and talk about the "Dumb and Dumber" movies, or Jim Varney, or even Alzheimer's. Don't let any of them know what you're doing: folks that know their schemas are being activated will discount them (p. 137).OK, one more issue. Fine mentions this only briefly at 144ff, but I've got a bee in my bonnet.In the past few decades neurologists have discovered the puzzling fact that they can detect the beginnings of decisions in the brain before the person themselves has made the decision.In the archetypal example: the subject is told to tap one of their fingers on the table at any time in the next minute or so, and to carefully note the position of a clock hand when they've decided what to do.We would expect: brain activity starts peaking somewhere in the "consciousness" portions of the brain a tiny but significant amount of time before the person thinks "now!", followed by some kind of trickling of brain activity towards the movement portions of the brain (motor cortex), which then tells the finger to move.But the researchers can see the decision being made in the brain up to one-third of a second before the person claims they even made it!So what we get: a kind of brain activity now called the "readiness potential" is seen which indicates what decision has been made, then a bit later the conscious mind says "Now!", and then the motor cortex starts to get involved.So is this a big deal? Well, it has been for some folks. Some psychologist/philosophers have decided that we have no free will, because the conscious mind isn't doing the choosing (see here and here). From Wikipedia: "Libet's experiments suggest that unconscious processes in the brain are the true initiator of volitional acts, and free will therefore plays no part in their initiation." Apparently the late Libet and his buddies think there is something else in our brains besides "us" making our decisions. I don't know about you, but I consider "me" to include the whole triad—id, ego and superego. The fact that my consciousness is more of a back-seat narrator than the actual driver comes as something of a surprise, but the driver is still somewhere up there in my gray matter. Libet simply got confused because he has faith in the reality of "consciousness" as an ontological primitive. Geez, its stuff like this that makes one think that scientists have no common sense.Excellent book. Read it. 

  • Nikki
    2019-03-13 01:34

    If you've read much on the subject, this doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but it's presented in a readable, well-organised format, meticulously footnoted, and adopts a pretty light tone. If you're anything like me, you'll smile in recognition of some of the things she says -- in the middle of describing the brain's unreliability, Fine points out that precisely in line with what she's saying, your brain is probably insisting you're different. It doesn't apply to you. You'd ignore the researcher in the obedience to authority experiments, you can see through your brain's attempts to make you believe you're better than you are.(And if you're honest, you'll admit at this point that you do want to think you're different. My favourite bit was putting some of this together. For example, when it talked about experiments where people were told that extroverts do better at something, they went through their memories and pulled out only ones that corresponded with an extroverted image of themselves. On the other hand, I ruefully thought about all the ways I am a hopeless introvert -- thereby illustrating one of the brain's ways of protecting itself from failure, by providing myself with an excuse, i.e. 'if I'm less successful, it's because I'm not extroverted'.)Not revelatory, but pretty fun.

  • Ash Moran
    2019-03-05 21:20

    This is a fantastic little book. It's split into six chapters, each of which covers an aspect of how the brain deceives your conscious mind about how it works. It's astonishing just how subtle and well-engineered the deception is. One set of ideas I'd never seen before was about brain "schemas", or closely related concepts that get "filed away" together. The ways these can be triggered, and the effect they have on our decision making, may have a profound impact on how our lives play out.Beyond the psychology content, this book is a great read because it's incredibly funny from start to finish. The author never fails to point out the irony or absurdity of the situations research has uncovered. But as she hints, you have to let the brain's attempts to deceive you continue, or you might well go insane. As such, a dose of humour is more than welcome.

  • Brian
    2019-02-27 01:11

    A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives is a book about how the human mind is error-riddled, slapdash, and barely adequate to its task. Unable to deal with the reality that terrible things happen for no reason and with no way to anticipate them, we assume that anyone suffering from misfortunate must have done something to deserve it. Before an unlikely disaster we are willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, but afterwards we believe that of course they should have prepared for the miniscule chance that the bridge would collapse and that they're negligent in the extreme for not doing so. Our lives are mostly influenced by chance and the actions of other people, but when asked, we confidently assert that our successes are the result of our own hard work and good sense. What's more, when things go wrong for us we believe that it's the result of external circumstances impeding our actions, but when they go wrong for other people we breezily assume that it's due to their personality flaws.Emotions poison all our attempts to think rationally or critically about anything. Indeed, people who have suffered specific damage to the emotional centers of their brains are incapable of making decisions, and will spend hours agonizing over what tie to wear in the morning or whether to eat their spaghetti with only a fork or with a fork and a spoon. We give more consideration to the decisions and opinions of people we like and less to those of people we dislike, regardless of the content of those opinions. We frequently transfer our feelings from one subject to something completely unrelated. Indeed, the physical symptoms of arousal are the same regardless of the cause, and its up to the brain to interpret it based on our emotional state, which is laughably prone to errors.Our opinions change on a dime, and we're liable to like something when it's called by one name and then turn around and dislike it when it's called another. Statements are easily believable no matter their content, and even a blatant denial of something will stick in our memory and may end up leaving us more likely to believe the inverse of the denial. We resort to stereotypes at the drop of a hat, and even seeing words related to the stereotype in a totally unrelated context can make us racist or sexist toward our fellows in subsequent interactions.Finally, you who are reading this are at least 65% likely to murder an innocent in cold blood merely because a man in a lab coat told you it was necessary. And despite everything previously mentioned, we think that we're more reasonable, less gullible, more capable, and less culpable than others.I could go on.Also, I'm naturally a pessimist, so of course the message I took from the book is one of a fundamental human incompetence and depravity. It's close enough to what I believed anyway that my brain took the easy way out of just confirming my existing prejudices instead of bothering to actually update the schema I use to look at the world.Okay, that whole section was a bit flippant, but it is a pretty good summary of the book. The thing is, though, I basically felt the whole time I was reading A Mind of Its Own that it was just a more colloquial and less unified version of Thinking, Fast and Slow. Fine has a much breezier writing style with a lot more anecdotes, but it's less referential. Sure, there are plenty of footnotes, but one thing that annoyed me the whole time I was reading was that she never used the actual name for most of the psychological concepts she talks about. She mentions how people assume their own flaws are due to external causes but others' are due to internal ones without ever saying the words fundamental attribution error, for example. The closest she comes is mentioning the belief in a just world without ever adding hypothesis to the end of it.Thinking, Fast and Slow also does a better job of explaining why all this occurs in the first place, whereas A Mind of Its Own reads more like a eulogy for the concept of the rational thinker, which I think is another reason I preferred it. The former has a hypothesis about the workings of the brain that binds the whole book together and which Kahneman keeps returning to as he writes, but the latter is mostly just a list of everything that's wrong with you that you might not even have known about. They cover a lot of the same ground, but Thinking, Fast and Slow provides a structure for it all and A Mind of Its Own is just a bullet-pointed list.A Mind of Its Own isn't a bad book, but if you have to read one book about the cognitive distortions our brain throws up every day, read Thinking, Fast and Slow instead.

  • Mark
    2019-03-08 01:12

    You may have a much more humble opinion about your free will and ability to control your thoughts, emotions and direction in life after you read this book, which shares some of the same concepts as "Blink" in its examination of how many of our cognitive and emotional processes are hidden from us or ones that we deceive ourselves about. Dr. Fine is a first-time author with a good knack for describing the many psychological experiments she cites and a good sense of humor that emerges in family stories she inserts.

  • Heather
    2019-02-23 23:14

    A very good book!

  • Patrick
    2019-02-24 22:21

    Bluntly, this one was a mixed bag. The stories and examples were amusing, though they did start to get to be a bit too much by the end of the book. I suppose what bothered me most was that there's seemingly no place for any actual thing such as objectivity according to her beliefs. We can do things to rein in the worst excesses of our "butler" (the unconscious), but as best I can tell per Fine we can never fully break free from it. I suppose I could have lived with that, if she had stopped there, perhaps concluding that all cognition should be treated as having "proceed with caution" signs, and all unconscious behaviors as at least occassionally subjected to a rigorous examination. Unfortunately, she does not confine herself in such a way. In fact, she seems to out and out disregard the above when it is inconvenient, or perhaps wishes to push a certain agenda. As in, she'll make claims like such and such was a "well-designed psychology experiment," of course when it conformed what I took to be her beliefs. Could an experiment be "well-designed" if it did NOT confirm a closely held belief? And, anyway, how can she be so glibly confident in her ability to separate wheat from chaff in the first place? We're never told, or actually, what we're told is that this is exactly what we should NOT be doing. So, what can I say? By turns this one was amusing, though-provoking, irritating, hypocritical, preachy and at times downright arrogant. I don't regret reading it, and in fact learned more than I thought I would. Some of her examples were silly, but they also put things in terms a layman could understand. But... I still can't imagine I'll pick anything up by her again. My teeth can only take so much grinding in the face of hypocrisy.

  • Sara
    2019-02-24 19:17

    Very "pop" psychology. This book was assigned in my psychology graduate class, Cognitive and Affective Behavior. As a grad school bog, it's honestly a little boring, as we know most of what Ms. Fine is talking about (how many times can you read about the same experiment?). But I doubt it was ever supposed to be used in this kind of setting. For someone interested in psychology, I'm sure this book is very informative. Ms. Fine's writing style is very refreshing from the usual psychology jargon we have to muddle though. She uses real life experiences as examples of our brain functions.

  • Kristine
    2019-03-03 00:24

    Fascinating reading for a layman--a short, easy read. I highly recommend this book to everyone with a brain (except scientists already familiar with how the brain distorts and deceives). Although the author explains the hows and whys of some fascinating cases of people with strange disorders, most of the book covers how the normal brain works, and you'll be amazed at how much your brain twists perception, memory, conscious thought. Cordelia Fine explains so much, yet you'll be left reeling with the implications. She is quite funny too. [2015 Reading Challenge: A Nonfiction Book]

  • LindaBranham Greenwell
    2019-03-10 22:19

    Interesting, although a little wordy at times. By "wordy" I mean explained the same thing several times. Made me realize that I can sometimes do that too, and I need to change that because it is distracting :)Explains how our minds work in ways that distort reality and project its prejudices and beliefs on others. The book offers a very strong reason why we should be skeptical of our own hasty insights, generalizations, and rationalizations.

  • Marcin
    2019-03-11 21:15

    Even if it's ridden with language I did find challenging Cordelia presents the quirks of our brain in a really compelling way and clearly lays out the way our minds work beyond our cognition. Simply a must read if you want to understand how our minds work.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-04 18:26

    I liked this book as it had lots of great little research projects quoted throughout. I though the first half of the book was much stronger than the second half but it was informative all the same. Crazy what our brains can do!

  • Ami Iida
    2019-03-22 01:07

    The book points out the habit of brain, biased thinking form of brain, and the disadvantage of the brain.I reference their properties but the contents of the book are thin.the book is not rewarding very much.

  • Дмитро Булах
    2019-03-21 23:28

    It's definitely worth a read. An extensive review of current state of social and cognitive psychology. It's perhaps not a milestone as Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow" but eventually gives you quite a solid understanding how and why you should be aware of your own mind. No doubt recommend it.

  • Todd Martin
    2019-02-27 23:32

    You probably think you are smarter, funnier, more clever, better looking, more talented and more moral than the average person. That could be because it’s true, but more likely it’s because your brain is a tricksy organ of deceit. It lies to you so as to protect your delicate ego every minute of the day. It’s doing it right now … admit it, at this very moment you’re thinking to yourself “It just so happens I am one of those people who is smarter, funnier, more clever, better looking, more talented and more moral than the average person”. That’s your brain. It’s a lying liar and it’s telling you what you want to hear. Or maybe it tells you what you need to hear. If you woke up every morning to the realization that you are, in fact, a mediocre schlub with middling intelligence, an unexceptional personality and pedestrian job performance you’d probably stick your head in the oven (no doubt realizing too late, with your middling intelligence, that it was electric, not gas). A deceptive brain probably serves to protect us from despair, makes life more endurable and gets us to try new things.Of course, on the downside, it allows horribly repugnant human beings to have great self-esteem and makes those with the most despicable, demonstrably wrongheaded ideas lodged in their skulls absolutely confident as to their correctness (a quick glance at the on-line comments to any political news article will relieve you of any doubts on this point). This is why science, critical thinking and an ability to impartially weigh evidence are so important. These techniques provide the means by which we can avoid the pitfalls of having deceitful brains (as well as to avoid the lying brains of others). In A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives Cordelia Fine, psychologist and Associate Professor at Melbourne Business School describes some of the ways our brains fool us into believing things that just aren’t so. The topics Fine discusses in the book include:Your brain makes you feel good about yourself by elevating your successes and making excuses for your failures. Your mood effects your behavior and judgement (as anyone who has ever hit ‘send’ on an e-mail written in a pique of anger well knows). No surprise here. On the positive side, evidence shows that emotions also play a key role in decision making.Our emotions play a role in our moral perceptions. We judge people and things we like less harshly than those we don’t. Your brain re-writes history to fit expectations.Your brain seeks out evidence that supports pre-existing beliefs and discounts evidence that contradicts those beliefs (confirmation bias).It’s willpower is depleted by difficult tasks. Fine does a decent job summarizing some of the scientific results that has come from studying human behavior, albeit at a very high level. Overall the book was interesting, but lacking in depth or details.

  • Robin
    2019-02-26 17:21

    I almost gave this 3 stars because some of the information in the book is so frustrating, but I shouldn't really hold that against the author. The "bigoted brain" chapter, for example--ugh! It's so easy to be "primed" to be sexist and racist and ageist and all the other -ists/-isms. But, we really need to be aware of the fact that every single person is unconsciously biased in many ways and change our entire conversation about race/gender/etc. We can't get anywhere unless we acknowledge that ALL of us, every single person, has some unconscious bias and we ALL need to address it within ourselves. Having unconscious bias doesn't make us bad or evil, but acting on that bias has serious consequences.A must read for anyone who wants to understand their stupid, stupid brains better.

  • Aerandir
    2019-02-24 21:16

    A fascinating look at the perils of the workings of our brain, based on multiple experiments which are both intriguing and disconcerting. The author refers to real-life examples from her marriage, mentioning her husband and children from time to time. The book is easy to read but feels a little short.

  • Jenny
    2019-03-23 23:11

    An entertaining dose of humility. Like many pop psychology books, this is basically a litany of studies summarized for lay readers, but they're well-organized, and the light tone and regular snark keep the book from getting dull.

  • Trent Langston
    2019-03-22 18:32

    Wonderful read. Personal stories paired with extensive psychological experiment results, somehow the author makes it flow.

  • Susan Katz
    2019-02-22 22:29

    Interesting, but a bit dull and somewhat redundant.

  • Steven Peterson
    2019-03-24 01:14

    This is a breezily and wittily written book on an important subject--the quirkiness of the brain and its functioning that often leads us to distort "reality" and deceive ourselves. It refers to a wide range of literature, such as that on cognitive "heuristics," shortcuts that we use to make decisions--and many of which lead us to rather strange conclusions. One of these heuristics which Cordelia Fine mentions at some length is the so-called "fundamental attribution error." Here, one explains one's defective decisions in terms of forces or circumstances outside ourselves; when others do the same thing, we attribute their behavior to motives or laziness or some other internal characteristic. In other words, we cut ourselves lots of slack. This error is mentioned over and over in the book, to good effect. She begins the book with a sly way of expressing her thesis (page 2): ". . .the truth of the matter. . .is that your unscrupulous brain is entirely undeserving of your confidence. It has some shifty habits that leave the truth distorted and disguised." This book might be considered in concert with Linden's recent book, "The Accidental Mind," in which he argues that the brain, as a result of the evolutionary process, is not any example of excellent engineering. Fine's book plays with the same thesis in a different way. Some may be skeptical because of the writing style. However, whether she is describing Milgram's experiment or other research of which I am familiar, she does so in a way that reflects pretty accurately my understanding of those pieces of research. Hence, I appreciate the fact that she has made accessible to a broader audience important scientific research. One example of how we delude ourselves that she mentioned a couple times: those who support President Bush ignore the evidence that there were no WMDs and believe that the U.S. actually found them; those who oppose the President observe that there were no WMDs and the war was based on erroneous assumptions. Whatever your political views, the findings that she mentions clearly indicate that evidence isn't very relevant when one's emotions and feelings are at stake. We'll often distort "reality" to fit with what we want to believe. And our brain is a key part of such intriguing results. For those familiar with the brain and cognitive psychology and related fields, this won't tell you a whole lot that is new, but it sure is fun to read. For those who are not so well acquainted with the literature, this is a pleasant way of becoming more familiar with important work that is ongoing.

  • Rich
    2019-03-02 20:27

    Overall, a well written tour of the many curious ways we deceive ourselves. Fine writes in a casual personable style that engagingly presents the broader implications of scientific studies for the ways we see and mis-see ourselves, others, and the world around us.Perhaps the most misleading aspect of the book is the way various studies are presented as the "mind" vs. the "us": the self is deceived by the mind; the self is served by a 'mental butler'; the self is at the mercy of the brain. Never does the mind deceive itself, it deceives 'you'. The subtitle of the book, "How your brain distorts and deceives" seems to have an implied "you" at the end, rather than an "itself". The structure of the book and it's chapter titles reinforce this; your vain brain deceives you, your emotional brain deceives you, your immoral brain deceives you, etc. The book is clearly conceived to show "what your brain is doing behind your back". I understand why Fine might have chosen this way of writing for rhetorical effect, but very unfortunately, this way of writing implicitly endorses the discredited notion of a Homonculus; a separate 'self' that oversees or is influenced by what goes on in the mind or brain. For a book trying to share the latest in brain science with a popular audience, this is a serious flaw. The book would have benefited greatly if Fine had leaned less heavily on this metaphor or included a section explaining how it IS merely metaphor.This does not mean that I did not enjoy the book or find it informative, however. There have been many popular books published in the last few years covering similar ground (Nudge, Kludge, Sway, Predictably Irrational, How We Decide, et al.). This book is a good addition to the field, even if not the best of the lot.For me, one of the best aspects of the book is the thoroughness of it's notes. While other popularizations have been better written, they have been somewhat lighter on their references to primary materials, whereas Fine carefully references her sources. That alone guarantees that I'll be pulling this one from the shelf more often than the others in the future.

  • Benjamin
    2019-02-27 20:12

    In A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, psychologist Cordelia Fine examines a wide range of empirical evidence suggesting that one's behavior is often greatly influenced by one's unconscious mind. A classic example involves showing subjects a variety of words, several of which are associated with the elderly ("wrinkled," "retired," etc.). The subjects never consciously recognize a theme, and yet they walk more slowly (re: more elderly-like) after the experiment is complete than do subjects who are not exposed to these geriatric-related terms. Presumably, priming these subjects to think subconsciously about the elderly causes them to emulate, to some degree, elderly behavior.As fascinating as this research may be, this is all material that has been covered equally well in a variety of other books, from Malcolm Gladwell's Blink to Jonah Lehrer's vastly superior How We Decide. For that reason, there is little to recommend Fine's tome in particular. Not that the book is without strengths. Foremost among them is the straightforward organization of content, with chapters like "The Deluded Brain," "The Weak-Willed Brain," and "The Bigoted Brain" clearly demarcating the kinds of research that will be discussed therein. That being said, any advantage the book’s organization may hold is offset by Fine’s writing. The author is so determined to win over her audience that the first several chapters are virtually drowning in whimsy. The relentless and cloying cutesiness of Fine’s prose is almost unbearable, though, thankfully, it tapers off quite a bit as the volume continues.

  • Grace
    2019-03-21 22:05

    Cordelia Fine's "A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives" is an easy to read account of the myriad ways the human brain functions without us, the owners of these brains, realizing what it is doing. Fine discusses various aspects of the brain's personality (so to speak): the vain brain, the emotional brain, the immoral brain, the deluded brain, the pigheaded brain, the secretive brain, the weak-willed brain, and the bigoted brain. All of her arguments are well documented with various research experiments and easy to understand definitions of psychiatric or social psychologist terminology. She goes to great lengths in order to present this material with easily understandable examples and easily accessible prose. I thought her research and explanations were lacking in one particular area - very rarely did she discuss the parts of the brain these actions were taking place in, nor did she go to any great lengths to connect the actions of the brain to the geography and physiology of the brain itself. As this is a scientific book geared to the non-scientifically inclined, it would have been helpful if she had added these pieces to the overall brain puzzle. Sure, it is a book geared to the average person, and maybe that was her reason for leaving it out. But if the person didn't have an interest in the brain, he or she wouldn't have picked up her book in the first place, which makes me feel as though she underestimated the intelligence and the desire to learn of her intended audience.

  • Schafer Bailey
    2019-03-01 20:26

    The book A Mind of It's Own was a very interesting and thoughtful book. The book was about the author displaying intricate and complex psychology philosophies, into everyday life scenarios. It really helped me understand parts of what I do, who I am, and why I act certain ways when I am influenced by certain emotions. There are many chapters that caught my eye such as, "The Vain Brain." This chapter dealt with what we think and what we do when we are influenced by self indulging thoughts and showed me patterns and experiments to prove it. This book in summary was an interesting read because it helped me understand my brain and the logic that goes through my decisions when influenced by emotions.I would recommend this book to anyone interested in how their brain works. It is also just a very interesting read and thought provoking. The author Ms. Fine is a mastermind with combining humor, wit, and hard facts. She really helps put things into perspective and simplifying things.I liked the author's charm and how it kept me wanting to read the book. The real life applications that this book offers is impeccable and made me think a lot. I did not however like the formatting, the author, although lively, kept bouncing around from examples, to real life applications, to witty jokes. Although interesting, I was confused in which context and what she was talking about. This book was a good read and an interesting one.

  • Rob
    2019-03-13 00:24

    Highly engaging, accessible sociology and cognitive science research for the lowly mortals. What's it about: Your brain is like a tireless crack supplier that constantly adjusts your perception of reality to help you cope and stay happy. For those people who believe you can always be highly objective, the idea will be hard to swallow... just like what cognitive science says.. . .Our brains maintain our personal delusions; and these delusions can be harmful when dealing with people or simply going through your day. More alarming is our brain's vulnerability to the information around us and the way it is presented to us at a given time. The book is a quick and dirty guide to mental heuristics and cognitive biases. Recommended for those who want to start taking people's brains apart (not in the Hannibal Lecter kind of way). Fine writes with humor — a great help when you're squishing a lifetime load of vanity. The squishing is not pointless. Fine offers quite a few solutions to our brain's shortcomings. If we want less of the rose-tinted spectacles for ourselves and if we want to deal with people more kindly, we should know our weaknesses in thinking and regularly check ourselves since we're equipped with a powerful brain that's more self-glorifying than reasonable. Definitely not for people who have taken sociology/cognitive science classes.

  • Mary
    2019-03-15 22:30

    With realistic expectations, this is an enjoyable book. It's definitely pop psychology. Cordelia Fine gives the layman an easy-to-read interpretation of conttemporary research, focusing on the brain's tactics at distorting perception in favor of coddling the ego. She uses a lot of personal anecdotes and some cheeky maneuvering to relate the findings to everyday life and keep people who hate reading entertained. I'm not sure (especially after having absorbed the information Fine presents) whether she backed off of this reader-pampering over the course of the book, or if I simply got used to it as I read it. Fine saved her most interesting findings for the second half of the book, and having never taken a college psychology course, I was intrigued to learn that yes, subliminal messaging does seem to effective. Other observations, such as the fact that bad weather makes people think their lives are worse than they really are, are hardly revelations. All in all, nothing profound here, but some interesting nuggets. And it's always useful to be reminded that our minds like to take shortcuts when it comes to finding truth. I try to stay on my toes when it comes to understanding the world, so this was a useful refresher.

  • James Elder
    2019-02-26 20:15

    Having read a few books on neuroscience and psychology now, I'm starting to get to the stage where I notice a lot of overlaps, and Cordelia Fine's 'A Mind of it's Own' has more than a little in common with David Eagleman's 'Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain'. However, Fine does have her own approach, and a winning style, so this is a book I have no hesitation in recommending.In fact, it's one of those which you wish everyone would read - especially 'conviction' politicians, preachers, and anyone convinced of the inherent rightness of their own opinions and view of the world. In a short and snappy (but evidenced and well-referenced) way, Fine demonstrates the ways in which we are deceived by our own brains. We protect our own egos; ignore evidence that doesn't support our opinions; invent evidence that does; take decisions for arbitrary and irrelevant reasons; and have more prejudices than we might like to think. All in all, our brains (for all their wondrous talents) are flawed and imperfect - and we'd do better to appreciate that.This book is a quick easy read which helps everyone to do that.