A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives
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A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  759 ratings  ·  68 reviews
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 ever...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published July 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton (first published January 12th 2005)
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Lena
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...more
Ash Moran
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 t...more
Richard
Nov 06, 2009 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Light reading in "Popular Cognition"
Recommended to Richard by: Lena Phoenix
Shelves: cognition, nonfiction
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?)...more
Brian
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 prepar...more
Mark
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 sto...more
Sara
Jul 17, 2011 Sara rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sara by: Psychology Graduate School
Shelves: psychology
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...more
Linmao
I really wanted to give it a 4 stars, if not higher: the topic is interesting, the proof is rigorous. But I was put off by the writing. It could be just me. But I found myself struggling to understand the author's points. In each chapter, the high level ideas are clear: they are in the titles. But two things make it hard to understand the lower level paragraphs or sentences. One is the unnecessarily long, complicated sentence structures. This is fine in an academic paper, but isn't the best for...more
Marcin
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.
James Elder
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...more
Rob
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 goin...more
Peter Namtvedt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steven Peterson
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...more
John
This should have been a self-help book. Basic premise: There's a lot going on in your brain that influences what you consider to be your mind - decisions, perceptions, etc. Your mental processes are a whole lot more flawed, distorted, and biased than you had imagined, or maybe even can imagine.

So what to do about it? The book is not organized to give you systematic answers to that; it is more of a "Gee Whiz" tour. But it has snippets of helpful suggestions sprinkled about.

THE VAIN BRAIN
--------...more
Deb
*Why we can't believe everything we think*


In _A Mind of Its Own_, Cordelia Fine does a fine (sorry, it's hard to resist the obvious descriptor there) job in warning us why we can't believe everything we think. Although our minds are incredible, they are also at times incredulous. Each chapter provides convincing evidence (and amusing self disclosures) exposing how--in the service of protecting our egos, core beliefs, and illusion that life really makes sense--our minds can be vain, emotional, im...more
Megatherium
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...more
Mutlu Cankay
Yazar metnini samimi bir anekdotla açtıktan sonra, kibirli beynin pozitif ilüzyonlarını açıklamış. herhangi bir insanın kendisini bir totem direği veya kümenin en altında konumlandırmasının istatistiki olarak imkansız olduğunu belirtip zayıflıklarımızı sıradan ve insani olarak görürken güçlü yanlarımızı eşsiz ve olağanüstü olarak algılama eğiliminde olduğumuzu ifade etmiş. Potansiyel tehlike büyüdükçe beynin kendisini ve egoyu korumak adına çok daha fazla çaba harcadığını, kişinin kendi çirkin y...more
Grace
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 vari...more
Rich
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...more
Benjamin
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 th...more
Mary
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...more
dejah_thoris
Another lovely little book that is good for what it is but not exactly what I wanted. Fine writes in an accessible chatty style like you're having tea with your best friend and she just happens to know several behavioral science experiments that explain why you can't lose that weight or feel a little down when it's rainy. Fortunately, each chapter features notes that link to weighty citations for those interested in her background material. But for those who'd rather just read about how their br...more
Lachlan
I am a sucker for this kind of book that presents the results of countless scientific experiments in a light-hearted, humorous style. This particular one offers an inventory of the many ways in which we all fall victim to vanity, weakness of will, emotionality and biased stereotypes of races or genders (at one point my own ethnic group, the Scots, come in for some negative stereotyping). Chapter after chapter, I could not repress a grimace of recognition as yet another of my failings was exposed...more
John
The subtitle of this book really does my job of summarizing for me. This is a smoothly-written collection and sorting-out of the psychological research of decades to create a picture of what we know about how our brains work. It turns out that a lot of things that we think we know about ourselves, we really don't have good reason for believing.

I can't really do justice to the book in this short review except to say that the work that Fine writes about here is absolutely fascinating. Anyone who...more
Vicky
So far "A mind of its own" is an amazing book that shows how irrationally we behave in our everyday life. The question is how far we can trust our brain or understand our thoughts. Cordelia Fine talks about the Emotional Brain, Vain Brain, Deluded Brain, Secretive Brain, Weak-willed brain and the Bigoted Brain and all of them are the same one that you have to cope with. With a lot of experiments to support her ideas the author proves that often we are not aware of what had influenced our behavio...more
Marc Johnson
I really enjoyed this book, before reading it I had gained fragments of knowledge about how our brain works and some of the ideas talked about.

The structure of the book makes it very easy to read, her style of telling lots of small stories backed up by references to research or events helps with the understanding of each idea. At times the book feels contradictory, particular when talking about how we form opinions, however I feel this demonstrates the complexity of our brains behaviour in diff...more
Kei
This book is a great introduction to what the title suggests - how the brain distorts and deceives. It was the first time I had actually been exposed to this sort of topic, and the description of the various experiments that demonstrated just how not in control we really are was confronting.

The book itself is very easy to read and written is written in a humorous, colloquial manner. Fine quotes both well-known studies and draws from personal experience.

The book goes beyond just telling us how...more
Feral
It was very insightful with regards to the arcane and partially intrisic behaviors people relish most of the time without knowing, it makes one spare time to cross examine himself and interiorly castigate himself; Not disappointingly she did elicit my own interpretations on how people love deluding themselves or blindly embracing some ways...
Perhaps paradoxically, my only worry while I was reading it was to know if she herself in spite of clearly knowing the variables in the equation of human be...more
Maggie
I like the way Cordelia Fine writes, but I'm finding the book a bit disjointed. But perhaps it's just because my brain is being over-emotional, or maybe my subconscious is telling me to put the book down and go to sleep. I'll have to finish it to find out what's really going on between my ears, though!

...Just finished. I enjoyed the case studies, but I wished there were more...umph. I don't know. I'd read it again, if there weren't eleventy-bajillion other books to read, because I feel like I mi...more
Ken
This book covers a fascinating subject: the way that our minds control our thoughts and decisions, seemingly out of our conscious. The author does an admirable job covering the breadth of ways in which our thoughts and decisions are swayed by factors that we are often unaware of or even deny. I was disappointed at how shallow the coverage was. It was more of a summary of the state of research in all these areas, introducing study after study briefly to show the sort of challenges we face in cont...more
Kevin
This is a great little manual that retells a range of social psychology findings showing just how terribly NON-objective our own brain is, and how terribly unaware we are of that fact, even when it stares us in the face. Chapter titles such as "The Immoral Brain", "The Deluded Brain", and "The Pigheaded Brain" along with a light and amusing writing style combine to make this a fresh and engaging read even with its detailed citing of varied social and experimental data. Definitely worth the read,...more
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Cordelia Fine is a Research Associate at the Center for Agency, Values and Ethics at Macquarie University, Australia, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of. Melbourne, Autsralia. Her previous book, 'A Mind of Its Own' was hugely acclaimed and she was called 'a science writer to watch' by Metro.
More about Cordelia Fine...
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference The Britannica Guide to the Brain

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