Book Review: The Secret Life Of Pronouns by James W. Pennebaker

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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You’ve probably guessed from the fact that I write a blog and read books that I like words. There is something magical about finding a synonym you’ve never seen before or how emotions and feelings can be so richly and vividly brought into being through simple expression and context alone. How language, whether used poorly or perfectly, can reveal so much about both reader and writer is something I find truly fascinating.

In the last of the book recommendations taken from a fellow blog, The Secret Life Of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,  James W. Pennebaker takes a look through how the words we use, whether written or spoken, act almost as powerfully as fingerprints in being a definable marker to individual identity. Specifically how different types of word can reveal our mental health, our personality and even our location. The book is a demonstration that the power of words, and how the amount, order and structure in which we use them can reveal so much more about a person than you could ever realise. Read more

Book Review: What Makes Your Brain Happy by David DiSavlo

Posted on by 5WC in Book

It was bound to happen eventually, that I would find a psychology book that I just didn’t get on with. That my reliance on a stranger’s blog for book recommendations would turn up something that left me as bored as it did disinterested. And sadly, that book was What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite by David DiSalvo.

The title is quirky and fun, and the idea behind the book seems sound. Our brains’ long to be happy, that they will, where possible, swerve to the route leading, ultimately, to “their” increased pleasure and how, actually, that may not be what is best for “us” as a whole. The problem, though, is with DiSalvo. To quote him, he’s “not a psychologist or psychiatrist [or a] …neuroscientist and would not claim to possess a grasp of neural dynamics”. What DiSalvo is, as he goes to on state, is a “science writer”. And that is the fundamental flaw in the book he’s an interested amateur rather than an academic authority. Read more

Book Review: The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

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There is probably something ironic and researchable about choosing to read psychology book based upon a blog post by someone you’ve never met. That because they say “here are the books I like” you accept them as gospel and read them without question. You may have noticed that over the past few months, as a side effect of starting a psychology degree, I have been reading more books about the mind and, confession time, the way I have chosen those books has been exactly the scenario I just described. I’ve essentially stolen recommendations from a blog. I’ve let somebody else choose for me.

One of those entries was The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar and, as is beginning to happen more and more, it overlapped massively with many of the other psychology books I’ve read, especially: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and The Compass Of Pleasure by David J. Linden. This meant that a lot of the studies and examples it cites I’ve come across before and while great for reinforcing their ideas also meant in total the book lost a pinch of interest due to its lack of originality. Read more

Book Review: Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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The human mind is a fascinating thing. Or at least I think it is. My intrigue and interest was sparked when, many years ago, I read that the human mind can’t feel pain. And that, during brain surgery, patients are fully conscious often engaging in physical activity or conversation. I was mesmerised and it is one of the main driving forces behind my love of psychology. I want to learn more about the ball of fat, the wiring of billions of cells, and how it somehow comes together, with a power we cannot comprehend, to give us “life”.

As a result I’ve started to read more and more non-fiction and  this is another example. While the title of the book gives away little as to what it actually contains Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman is more than just a look at how the brain “thinks” and instead covers the way our brain processes the information and requests we give it. The book, essentially, is based around the fact our brain can be split into two distinct processing paths (or systems as Kahneman refers to them throughout). The first, an impulsive pathway that initially reacts to everything the brain processes and secondary, a slower reflective pathway that arrives when the first gets a bit out of its depth. Read more

Book Review: The Compass Of Pleasure by David J. Linden

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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I am certainly no expert, in fact, I expect to spend portions of this review referring back to lecture notes and text books to ensure I get my facts straight where necessary; over the last few months I have been introduced to a broad, but generalised, world of neuroscience as part of my psychology degree. ERP, MRI, the prefrontal cortex; action potentials, synaptic responses, neural pathways I been told about it all, and hopefully, understood some of it.

It’s extremely scientific and took more than a few moments to get my head around the scale of everything involved. The idea of single cells, individual neurotransmitters and resultant systems designed purely for their use seems logical when drawn to fill an A4 sheet of paper, but when you start to reduce that back to reality, and realise it’s one entity within 100,000,000,000, the epic infinitesimal scale of the structure involved in something so power is truly mind-blowing. Read more

Book Review: Children’s Minds by Margaret Donaldson

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It’s fair to say that my Psychology department like a reading list, not quite as much as I imagine the English department do, but none-the-less, they like to suggest that you keep your head in a book; or more often than not, a journal article; drowning under monotonous descriptions of research methods and monochromatic walls of statistical data. Occasionally though the list will be kind, and an actual, proper book will appear, hidden amongst the periodicals and offering a chance to read something not formally structured or academically stifled.

Psychology, obviously, covers a vast array of topics and ideas. I have mentioned Neuroscience (the study of the physical structures and workings of the brain) in my review of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, and it’s a field that I find fascinating, but vast amount of psychological research and time is spent on developmental psychology. The study of children and how we grow to become the adults that live and exist as we do in society within specific social, cognitive and behavioural boundaries. Read more

Book Review: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat By Oliver Sacks

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I am 5 weeks into a psychology degree at the University of Reading and whilst there are various reasons why I have chosen to go “back to school” as it were, and study psychology specifically, I will keep the explanations for another time, after all, this is meant to be a book review. But, it was during my first ever Neuroscience lecture that Oliver Sacks entered my life. He appeared as a throw away remark at the bottom of a slide, mentioned briefly and forgotten quickly, as the lecturer orated her topic.

I, however, was coming to the end of Once Upon A List by Robin Gold, and was looking for something new to read and being in a excitatory mood and wanting to jump fully clothed into the deep end of my new subject, this seemed perfect. After all, whether you’re fascinated by the mind or not, a book entitled “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” should never be passed by! Read more

Film Review: Good Will Hunting

Posted on by 5WC in Film

I wrote during my review of Finding Forrester about how it was a little known movie. How it had never really managed to extend into the mainstream, remaining shamefully hidden, seen but not hard. And what makes that apparent invisibility even more surprising is that, just a few years earlier, director Gus Van Sant had given the world Good Will Hunting. A film that united critics, audiences and Hollywood studios alike in their admiration and love.

Like most people I hold a real fondness for Good Will Hunting. It certainly doesn’t have the draw of Finding Forrester. It doesn’t connect deeply within me. But it find it engrossing. I just love how every relationship within the film is designed to bring to life a different human emotion. How the film knows exactly what it wants you to feel, how it wants to talk to you through the scenes and events it portrays and how, it ties those events, emotions and ideas together through a clever, real and simply down to earth script. Read more