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Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us
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Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  193 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Fear can't help you in a dangerous situation. A former FBI profiler shows you what can.

As one of the world's top experts on psychopathy and criminal behavior, Mary Ellen O'Toole has seen repeatedly how relying on the sense of fear alone often fails to protect us from danger. Whether you are opening the door to a stranger or meeting a date you connected with online, you nee
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 13th 2011 by Not Avail
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This book has useful information about personal safety and the red flags of pyschopaths. However, it needs drastic editing. Drastic scalpel-like editing. It is overstuffed with overbearing preambles, condescending repetition, and a silly, superfluous acronym system. Add in the jumpy disorganization and it is a tedious read.

To save you time, dear reader, here are the main points: (in 1 page, not 200!)

1. Psychopaths can be up to 1% of the population and you can't tell by looking at them. They are
Kendra Parker
The author of this book has something important to share with the world but unfortunately she doesn't seem to be able to use the medium she chose to get her message out effectively.

The beginning of this book has A LOT of points where she tells you what you are going to learn. It reads like she's preparing for a speech (where it is important to tell the group of people you are speaking to what they have to look forward to.) However, I could have overlooked this because as a book continues it bec
O'Toole describes some of the cases she's worked on, which is interesting, but the main focus of the book is helping readers make decisions based on logic instead of emotion. She explains that many of us base decisions about whom we allow close to us based on superficial cues that are not meaningful in terms of real risk, and offers step-by-step instructions on making better decisions by thinking through all aspects of a situation. Many of the situations she explores are those that normal people ...more
Midnight Blue
I've read a ton of true-crime serial killer books and most of my reasoning is that I want to be sure never to become a victim. This book is for all of the folks out there (like me) who are too nice and have a hard time saying no and worry about hurting peoples' feelings AND forget to guard their own safety. It teaches about not only evaluating the danger from people we don't know that well but,more importantly, evaluating the danger from people we deal with every day and that we trust our homes ...more
Liliana Bachelder
ex FBI profiler challenges our typical assumptions to go by our gut reactions to people, as deviant minds have figured out the behavior that disarms most people (be an active church member, be a scout troop leader, be a friendly neighbor that cuts the grass. VERY thought provoking and useful. This book could save your life, especially women and children, to make us question WHO are the people we allow into our homes, cars, etc on a regular basis knowing almost nothing about them or their backgro ...more
This is a difficult review. With all due respect to this author, she has some very good things to say, but there is a big problem with her book. I took away some good things from it, (for example, how to tell if someone is lying) but also have some strong objections for one premise she makes. Early in the book, there is a weak argument with some ridiculous questions that "prove" your intuition is not to be trusted...However, later on in the book, interviews have questions like, "How did the pers ...more
This book is an excellent primer on how to sharpen your awareness of what may be perilous situations for anyone wending their way through modern, 21st-century problems. Ms. O’Toole calls upon her considerable expertise in deciphering the misleading cues given to us by people who are trying to take advantage of our goodwill, ignorance or supposed “instincts” of what constitutes a decent human being. Do you want to let your child have his or her own computer in his or her room? Answer: no. Should ...more
Chris Fow Cohen
In the words of Indigo Montoya, "I don't think that words means what you think it means."

"Gut feelings" are not the sane as impressions or cultural conditioning. Her very first example is her own mistake of overriding her gut instinct to not trust someone she has not vetted.

The book itself felt like a lecture rather than a read: she referred her coauthor as "my coauthor" and seemed to stand apart from every investigation she conducted. She talked about how her painstaking research supported a
Molly Octopus
I don't know why I keep reading these types of books. They never teach you anything other than that you're constantly in danger, and you can never correctly judge people. Not a fun read. Not a useful read. Also, I'm not a married middle-aged white suburban lady with small children, which is who this book is written for, for some reason.
I was excited to read this book about personal safety by an FBI profiler. During the author’s career, she interrogated psychopaths, gained their trust, and obtained info from them about their crimes. The purpose of the book is to help us identify dangerous people and situations. The author believes we are too trusting and we go by our gut feelings about whether a person seems “nice.” She teaches the reader more objective ways of assessing people.

The chapters run through everyday situations (for
Heh, goodreads asks "What did you think?"

This could have been much shorter. There's an awful lot of setup before you get to the meat of the book.

I, however, put it down halfway through when the author recommended calling 911 for your 20-something daughter that has a flat tire. Are you kidding me?
This book could have been half the length; repetative and mildly annoying in writing style. The author tends to talk down to her readers. Interesting subject, poorly executed.
Informative & interesting. Thank you to my delightful cousin for being the reason why i read this. :)
Pros: Great premise: here are all the ways and reasons your gut feeling and/or intuition can fail you, here's why you've come to rely on them as decision-making mechanisms, and here's what you should do instead.

Awesome insight into human behavior, a great explanation of the difference between a psychopath and sociopath, personality disorders vs. mental health issues, and why our social conditioning is not very helpful in keeping us safe.

Also, it's great to hear stories and insight from someone
Irene B.
Something nebulous about this book. Very basic level and I think does not quite follow through. Some discussion of sociopathy vs. psychopathy vs. mental illness--good topics to clarify. Timely mention of Andrew Kehoe, who in 1927 blew up his home and a school via dynamite, killing 45 children.

The writing could be more compact, less repetitive, and more scientifically precise. Contains lists of questions to ask and places to look for information about people you consider allowing into your life.
Laura Liening
I loved this book for its psychological insight. People so often think that "gut instinct" is reliable when in fact it is not. Psychopaths, for example, are experts at making a great first impression. They often have families, good jobs, and all the appearances of normalcy. There is nothing about them that would trigger a instinctual "gut reaction" of fear. This book is about using behavioral analysis to examine how people act to determine whether or not they should be trusted, and how to rely l ...more
This book was different from what I expected. I wanted to hear about the cases she worked on and the things that helped solve cases. Instead this book was about learning how to evaluate situations and people in your life. It read more like a text book and even had bullet points of what you just read at the end of each chapter. She did share some of her experiences working for the FBI, but they were very brief descriptions.

In the end I gave this book 3 stars, even though I found it boring sometim
This book provides very basic information on cognitive processes that mislead us in reading people and on how to interview people paying attention to deceptive responses.

The book could have been greatly improved if it's structure were more streamlined, less repetitive, and a little more sophisticated in content. Also, I thought that a national picture of crime and a discussion of the likelihood that we will encounter various kinds of danger would have put the book into much better context. Somet
Kristen Snellings
Way too wordy, and very boring, considering the subject matter. I would suggest skimming this book for main points instead of reading it thoroughly. Much better option: The Gift of Fear.
This was a very interesting and informative book. As I am interested in joining the FBI BAU team it was nice to read a book written by a retired member of one of the teams. Although some of topics in this don't apply to me, I feel I've learned a lot and recommend it to anyone who wants to step up on there own and others safety.
All the good stuff is in the introduction. The authors never successfully explore their idea to the full. There is a long sidetrack into exact techniques for interviewing suspects, which seems misplaced in a book that is supposed to be for the layman.

This would have worked just as well as a single article rather than an entire book.
This book could've been 20 pages long and gotten the main points across. It isn't well written, but does contain some interesting points.
This book was a bit disappointing; it was a very basic primer about not falling into typical "safety myths" that most people take for granted (which amounted to superficial stereotypes for the most part). O'Toole's interviewing techniques are nothing new to people who have learned about active listening, but very useful to those who haven't done so before.

I would have liked to seen more specifics on behaviors to identify dangerous individuals, but maybe that's a more advanced book.
Much of O'Toole's instructions are common sense, I know, common sense isn't too common these days. :) So, kudos to her for compiling this book. She gives many valuable examples to back up her instructions and "how-to" information as well. Some of the statistics she gives are chilling, and hopefully give some people pause for thought. It is a fairly quick read and worth it.

I'd really give it a 3.5/5 rating, but no half stars, so it is as shown.
blah, I don't know. It was okay, but I don't think it lived up to the hype, or what it said it would do?
Book #37 of the year.

Psychopaths do not come in neat and tidy little packages that make them easy to spot. We all THINK we can spot one but we are only fooling ourselves. They prey on this type of behavior and Mary Ellen O'Toole will teach you exactly how to reframe your thinking and save yourself from all of the rationalizing we do when it pertains to people and their personalities.
I'd a review of this book in our local paper--and some parts of it really were fascinating. However, it's designed as a self-help book so the emphasis is really on all these exercises to help you interview or assess other people for dangerous behaviors. I would've been much happier with a book that just contained the anecdotes of the people she's encountered.
Strategies for deciding how close to let new people get: ways to interview employees, contractors, love interests, etc. Written at a low level. Kind of a lot of unimportant details in the anecdotes, which I found off-putting. I did get some good information about how to be a better listener in general.
Danielle Perna
After you get passed the first few chapters she eventually stops talking down to you and you actually learn some pretty valuble information. Some of the senarios may seem incredibly silly at first. "yeah right, like THAT is gonna happen" but im pretty sure that's her point.
Jack Goodstein
Even the most ordinary situations can by fraught with dangers, even the people clostest to us can pose significant threat--retired FBI profiler gives advice on how to evaluate those dangers and deal with them effectively.
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