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Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change

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What if there were a magic pill that could make you happier, turn you into a better parent, solve a number of your teenager's behavior problems, reduce racial prejudice, and close the achievement gap in education? There is no such pill, but story editing -- the scientifically based approach described in Redirect -- can accomplish all of this.

The world-renowned psychologist Timothy Wilson shows us how to redirect the stories we tell about ourselves and the world around us, with subtle prompts, in ways that lead to lasting change. Fascinating, groundbreaking, and practical, Redirect demonstrates the remarkable power small changes can have on the ways we see ourselves and our environment, and how we can use this in our everyday lives.

"There are few academics who write with as much grace and wisdom as Timothy Wilson. Redirect is a masterpiece." -- Malcolm Gladwell

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Timothy D. Wilson

12 books123 followers
Timothy D. Wilson is the Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. He has written for Science and The New York Times, among other publications and journals, and is the author of Strangers to Ourselves, which was named by New York Times Magazine as one of the Best 100 Ideas of 2002. Wilson is also the coauthor of the best-selling social psychology textbook, now in its seventh edition.

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5 stars
536 (26%)
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745 (36%)
3 stars
528 (26%)
2 stars
164 (8%)
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49 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 171 reviews
3 reviews
September 3, 2016
After thoroughly enjoying Dr. Wilson's first book "Strangers to Ourselves", I was delighted to hear he'd released another title a few months ago. Perhaps I approached the book from too skeptical a perspective since the book cover gave clear signals that Dr. Wilson had intended this title for a different audience than his first.

I wouldn't begrudge anyone trying to turn their passion and pool of knowledge into a higher standard of living, as I believe this title was intending to do. I would begrudge someone failing to write a book of higher quality simply because he wanted to make a half-ass effort at a sell out title. If you're going to sell out, do it, and do it in a way that isn't blatantly self-sabotaging.

I can entirely understand Dr. Wilson's motivation with this book. "Strangers to Ourselves" was an amazingly insightful book that focused on Dr. Wilson's research and that of his colleges in the social psychology field, but it wasn't marketed or written to sell millions of copies. That would have to wait a few years later for Wilson's close colleague Dr. Daniel Gilbert's "Stumbling on Happiness" to convey many the very same ideas, and research in a way that was marketed and written for Oprah's crowd. It was an amazing success that I could only tolerate reading about halfway through.

The first few chapters of Redirect actually led me think that perhaps Dr. Wilson had retained his amazing ability to relate complex and novel ideas with a conversational prose that succeeded in making you feel smarter than you actually are. This turned to disillusionment fairly quickly though. If you're going to market a book to Oprah's lemmings, you don't spend the better part of a chapter ridiculing the ideas that are the staple of the self-help industry.

The lost potential in this book becomes clearly evident as Dr. Wilson doesn't really spend any time on ideas, concepts, or theories. The one idea he does bring to the table regards "self-narrative", or the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously. While some of the applications and modes of delivery that Dr. Wilson proposes may be original, the ideas behind altering self-narratives have been in practice for years.

Where Dr. Wilson really does shine though, is explaining not only his own research, but the research of his colleagues in the field of social psychology. More than once while reading Redirect I was struck by the sheer cleverness of the many experiments designed to tease out causal correlations. Ferreting out the truth behind many social and psychological mechanisms seems like a fools errand, so I'm constantly impressed with the ingenuity of those who do manage to reveal such deeply buried truths. As someone who has spent time reading psychology journal articles I can appreciate even more a writer who can relate those ideas and methodologies in a way does not leave the reader's eyes glazed over. Just as important is someone who can relate those big and important ideas while tempering the results of outcomes and including the necessary caveats where they are due. It's far too easy for the disingenuous to over exaggerate or misrepresent research findings. One feels assured that Wilson is providing a sober and accurate representation of what is being found, or not found, in psychological research.

This book written by anyone else would have merited an extra star. Knowing it was written by someone capable of much more makes it all the worse.
Profile Image for Ann Douglas.
Author 52 books151 followers
October 2, 2011
The key point that Timothy D. Wilson makes in Redirect is that people have key narratives (stories) about themselves and that, when these key narratives are rewritten, people's lives can be changed. Wilson devotes about two-thirds of the book to describing scientific research which backs up his premise. The book would be fantastic -- a 5+ star book -- if the book only consisted of this type of material. Wilson weakens his book by including interesting but unrelated material (explanations of what makes for a good experimental design in scientific research) and by losing track of his audience. (Is his intended reader a layperson or a fellow scientist? It's difficult to tell.)

Still, because the core premise is so interesting (our lives can be changed for the better if we can let go of unhelpful beliefs about ourselves) and it is backed up by a lot of scientific research (different settings and different demographics), this book has a lot to offer anyone who is interested in psychological change.
Profile Image for Morgan Blackledge.
623 reviews2,038 followers
February 12, 2019
This book is very useful (particularly if you are a psychology clinician, social worker, conscientious parent, educator, curious human being etc), as it (a) covers just enough experimental and statistical method to activate the "educated sceptic" module (b) rigorously shreds non evidence based interventions such as DARE and Scared Straight (c) introduces us to a broadly applicable method for adaptive personal and social change called "story editing" and effectively presents evidence for its efficacy.


So why the 3 stars (as opposed to 4 or 5)?

Because the book (very much like the authors other book Strangers To Our Selves) suffers a bit from a stuffy and dry presentation style.

Steven Pinker, Robert Sapolsky and Jonathan Haidt can present 700 pages of complex, abstract academic subject matter and have you laughing and crying all the way.

This (for me) is the gold standard.

This book is good, but it goes down a little like broccoli after a milkshake.

I'd say this is very worthwhile reading if you're very interested in social psychology (and I am, and so should you). But if you're not, read it any way but consider yourself warned.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,872 reviews293 followers
March 12, 2016
I have my master’s degree in psychology, but this is the first I’ve heard of this new psychological treatment. It’s something that sounds like it would be perfect for me, book lover that I am. The treatment is called story editing. It involves telling oneself a new story or an edited story about events in one’s life that enhance one’s feelings of happiness and self-worth.

Very intriguing. I need to find out more about this powerful tool.
Profile Image for Shira.
Author 3 books170 followers
August 20, 2017
Thank you -journal writing, done conscientiously, with periodic look-backs after enough time has passed to gain perspective on events, does work. I will admit to being shocked that the immediate CISD trauma feedback sessions seem to be shown by research to be (overwhelmingly) ineffective, yet it makes alot of sense that waiting until enough time has passed that the initial shock has worn off, so that a bit of perspective can start to develop, before writing about the experience would be helpful.

Also changing attitudes by 'accidentally' or sort of slipping in, showing information that shows that what one thought was the case, was not actually the case, makes sense, just not so easy maybe.

Also the importance of seeing the person who is standing in front of you, not what you assume about that person, based on his or her assumed/apparent group membership: thank you. But this all means that we human beings must begin to diffferentiate our fast thoughts from our slower critical process thoughts and to use them in the right circumstances.
Profile Image for Lis Carey.
2,190 reviews100 followers
August 20, 2011
Wilson gives us a highly readable account of what we do and don't know about psychological and social psychological interventions--what works, what doesn't, why, and how we tell the difference.

A major concern of Wilson's is many popular, widely accepted approaches to solving, reducing, or preventing problems, such as Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) counseling for police and firefighters after a traumatic on-the-job incident, or popular and widely-respected anti-drug programs for the schools, have been implemented on a large scale without being scientifically tested first. In some cases, once broadly accepted, these approaches remain unchanged even after scientific testing demonstrates that they are ineffective or even counter-productive.

A recurring theme is that good intentions and common sense don't always produce the expected results, while controlled scientific experimentation can often identify more effective methods--and that often these better methods are also simpler, easier, and less expensive. One example is the CISD mentioned above. It seems quite sensible to encourage someone who's had a traumatic experience to talk about, get the feelings out, and avoid having lasting post-traumatic stress disorder effects from it. Unfortunately, experiments with survivors of traumatic incidents randomly assigned to either undergo CISD or not show that it actually increases the likelihood of PTSD symptoms. What does work? Having the trauma survivor wait a few weeks, and then spend fifteen minutes writing about the incident, for three or four days running. Why does CISD make things worse, while the writing exercise makes things better? Because CISD forces the trauma survivor to focus on the events before he or she is prepared to make sense of them, and gets them trapped in the initial emotional response to what happened. The writing exercise allows the mind time to process the event, and then write about it, in private, when ready to do so and without having to deal with another person's expectations.

Another recurring theme is "story editing." We all have narratives we tell ourselves that explain our lives and who we are. Some of those stories are not helpful to us, to say the least. A student who gets a bad grade on a test and concludes that he's not smart enough for the class is likely to keep doing badly in it. A student who gets the same bad grade and concludes that he needs to spend more time studying likely to do better on the next test, and be reinforced in his belief that working harder will bring success. It's clear which one of these reactions is more useful. What's really valuable to know is that with a fairly simple intervention of having students listen to stories of upperclassmen who did badly at first and then improved in the class work, you can change the first reaction to the second one.

Wilson gives an excellent overview of the current state of social psychology, explaining what works and what doesn't, and why. Examples range from students having academic problems to major social problems such as teen pregnancy, delinquency, and drug use, showing why some popular "common sense" programs have failed while seemingly simple interventions succeed. He also gives pointers to the effective use of these principles in our personal lives, while making clear that there are mental and emotional health problems that do require professional help and more complex intervention.

Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Heather Pagano.
456 reviews9 followers
October 5, 2011
Interesting and practical, a book that really changed the way I think about the thought patterns that motivate behavior. The focus of the book is "story editing," rewriting (redirecting) the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, what we can do, and how we feel. Wilson offers story editing as a tool for both personal and societal positive change.

Although I would have preferred that the book focus even more on how to effect change on a personal level, several techniques suggested for supporting personal growth and happiness are already a part of my everyday life. For the first time I actually look forward to keeping a journal, and am able to see writing not just as a form of expression and communication, but as a tool for well-being. On a practical, personal level, Wilson also offers useful parenting techniques.

I felt Wilson's true passion in this book was explaining how to improve the effectiveness of social programs intended to benefit disadvantaged students, children, and families with issues like drug/alcohol abuse, teenaged pregnancy, child abuse, minority marginalization, and poor school performance. Wilson had two points. First and foremost, that a "common sense" approach to helping alleviate these problems is well-intended but may not help, and may actually make the problems worse. It is important to ask the question "does this [intervention] work?" He really pounded on the idea of submitting interventions to study, emphasizing that control groups are essential to proving that a program works, as an individual's experience in an intervention is not a reliable measure of its effectiveness. Wilson also suggested that applying the story editing technique, changing the way at risk individuals perceive who they are, what they can do, and how they feel, may be a useful way to approach intervention design.

I feel that by asking "does this work?" and researching to find the answer, I can make much better choices in the future when donating to charity.
Profile Image for Kristen.
180 reviews8 followers
September 28, 2011
One of the many unwelcome bits of advice my husband had for me in the early years of our marriage was that it's not a good idea to give loved ones self-help books. Especially for Christmas.

So true.

I'm kind of a self-help book addict, though—although you don't see too many self-help books on my "read" list. That's because I don't actually read them. Or at least, I don't finish them. Of all the self-help books I've ever started, I think 7 Habits is the only one I've ever finished. I had to—I was in a workshop at work. Great book, too.

Redirect is not a self-help book. It is rather a look at what works both in the self-help industry and outside it. Like self-help books, however, I think it's for people like me—people who understand that we've sabotaged ourselves far too many times, and are tired of it, and tired too of watching our loved ones sabotage themselves. It's for people who never thought much of The Secret and are happy to read some sense about that scheme. And it's about the science of happiness.

We all want to be more effective in our many roles—as creators, mates, parents, friends, leaders, and followers. This book helps us discern between good advice and bad, and it does so in a friendly, non-academic and easy-going style (despite the fact that the author is a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.

Some of the best news in this book is that small changes help. You don't need to reinvent yourself. Instead, you need to work on what you're telling yourself and your children about the world. Redirect is especially good for parents and teachers, by the way, since so much of our self-narratives are learned when we're young. Helping our children shape functional narratives is a key component of helping them be self-fulfilled, productive adults.

I have a couple questions for the author. I think Timothy Wilson draws perhaps too fine a line between unhelpful affirmations and helpful self-narratives. Different affirmations work for different people—most people can find some positive mantra to help themselves. And Wilson gives a great explanation early on about how psychological studies (which are checking what works and what doesn't) must be carefully set up. You can't allow people to self-select, you have to have truly random groups, you have to have big enough groups, etc.

In the next chapter, however, Wilson cited a study in which people at risk for Huntington's disease either took the test and learned they had the disease; took the test and learned they didn't have the disease; or chose not to take the test. Immediately after learning they had an incurable disease, the people in that group were less happy than the people who took the test and learned they did not have the disease. After a year, however, the happiness quotients of those two groups was the same. The least happy group, after a year, was the group of people who had chosen not to find out. Wilson and the study's researchers theorized that uncertainty isn't good for happiness. WAIT! Wasn't this a self-selected group of people, who obviously didn't trust their own resilience in the face of bad news?

Still, the test's results were fascinating—as is just about everything in these pages.

In fact, I want to give this book to everyone I love. But I won't. Since I've actually read it, I can instead drop tidbits into letters and conversation—no doubt a better technique anyway. This is a good quote, for instance, that Wilson uses: "As Kurt Vonnegut said in Mother Night, 'We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.'"

Disclaimer - I received Redirect through the Goodreads Firstreads program.
Profile Image for Ben Thurley.
451 reviews24 followers
December 6, 2013
Basically this is a book with two ideas. The first, that social and psychological interventions should be rigorously evaluated for their effectiveness (and that randomised control trials are perhaps the best way to measure this). The second idea is that “story-editing”, prompts to change a person’s or group’s view of the world and underlying narrative influencing them in a given situation, can be remarkably powerful for achieving positive personal and social change.

This approach to psychological change is built on three assumptions that Wilson enumerates near the close of the book:

First, in order to change people’s behavior we have to see the world through their eyes. It’s not just about incentives, as it is to an economist; it’s about the way in which we interpret ourselves and the social world. Second, these interpretations are not always set in stone, and in fact can be redirected with just the right approach. Third, small changes in interpretations can have self-sustaining effects, leading to long-lasting changes in behavior.

Exploring things like Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, diversity training, programs to provide parenting skills and reduce child abuse, or programs to reduce teen pregnancy, he compares a lot of “common sense interventions” to the Victorian medical practices of blistering or bloodletting. Blistering are interventions that don't achieve the good they set out to, but don't do any lasting harm – like many diversity training programs – while those he compares to bloodletting – such as "Scared Straight" programs aimed at frightening at-risk youth away from a life of crime, actually contribute to the harm they seek to avoid.

It's a fascinating and thoroughly researched work.

There are also some helpful tips for parents.
Profile Image for Ties.
472 reviews24 followers
November 27, 2018
Do not read this book.
Unless you're someone with conservative US values and like to see those prejudices confirmed.

The author mixes cherry picked research examples with his own personal opinions and morals. The actual science is extremely thin and can be summarized in literally 150 words as the author does at the end of the book. Also, the core premise of the book is so obvious to anyone that has read anything on social psychology / sociology that this is also not worth reading.

Additionally, about 50% of the book talks about research technique and how to evaluate its results. That should be in a completely different book.

Don't bother with this.
Profile Image for Leilla.
161 reviews13 followers
February 16, 2020
Redirect is one of the more interesting popular science books I've read. The book discusses how our narratives both as individuals and as groups affect our behavior and our future: i.e. our narrative affects how we interact with the world and therefore what happens to us. He examines how we shape other people's narratives as well, especially our children. I found it fascinating.
A couple of conclusions:
if you can, editing your narrative is a powerful tool.
Every parent and teacher should read this book. Even if the author exaggerates the influence parents and teachers have over a child's narrative or the importance of that narrative, there's no doubt it is important.
Wilson is very concerned, as should you be, about social programs that have not been adequately tested and yet are put into practice.
Probably because it's a popular science book, Wilson does not address or even mention criticism of the narrative theory, which I'm sure there is.

All in all, highly readable and highly informative.
Profile Image for George Rodriguez.
Author 18 books9 followers
November 30, 2011
"Redirect" by Timothy D. Wilson is built around the concept of Story Editing, which he describes as
using changes, or edits, in the stories we use to understand ourselves and the social world around
us, to make lasting changes in our lives and the lives of others.

He shows why Self-Help authors, Scared Straight programs and D.A.R.E. initiatives don't work,
have never been scientifically tested and why efforts such as these deserve what he calls,
"Bloodletting" awards - solutions that seem to make sense, much like bloodletting once did to
physicians, but do more harm than good.

Wilson discusses shaping our personal narratives and expands from there to the topics of raising kids,
preventing teen pregnancy, teenage violence, alcohol and drug abuse, prejudice and the achievement
gap. His chapter on raising kids seemed the weakest, especially the minimal sufficiency
principal, which I took as too fine a line when trying to be neither too harsh or too lenient
when disciplining children. However, his other chapters provide interesting ideas on how story
editing can be used to counter what would seem to be intractable personal and social problems.

My three main take-aways were:

1. Wilson's clear-eyed examination of the problems with policy makers, self-help authors and
non-psychologists who rely on common sense to solve problems and fall into the trap of
equaling correlation with causation.

2. His chapter on prejudice was very stimulating, including the insight that when it comes to
race we overestimate our differences and underestimate what we have in common.

3. The Stereotype Threat discussed in chapter 9 was a profound discovery and his use of studies
and possible solutions (emphasizing positive aspects of the race and positive role models)
was one of the stronger chapters.

In sum, Mr. Wilson has written a book on change supported by scientifically-validated studies
that counter so much of the accepted wisdom and programs that exist today. While much of the
book is dedicated to fighting large-scale, social issues, there is enough material on personal
change to make this book a recommended choice for every reader.
144 reviews13 followers
August 30, 2011
In “Redirect,” Timothy Wilson focuses on psychological strategies of changing one’s way of viewing life and re-directing their thought processes to become more optimistic. Popular strategies that Wilson uses in his book include story-editing (which is refocusing one’s view on a particular problem: e.g. the student who attributes his failed test to being stupid, versus a student who attributes his failed test to not enough studying—as a basic example of this premise), using writing as a way of coming to terms with a problem, and much more.

Besides discussing the actual strategies, Wilson devotes many chapters to problems where they may be well utilized. Chapters cover a slew of social problems such as underage violence, teen pregnancies, racial discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, becoming better parents, and closing the achievement gap between students. While the initial portion of the book focuses on increasing one’s personal well-being, the majority of the book is focused on addressing these popular problems by implementing Wilson’s strategies.

Overall, I found Wilson’s book to be an interesting and useful guide to re-framing one’s way of viewing the world. An important thought that Wilson mentions in his book is that positive thoughts alone don’t mean anything—it is positive behavior that ultimately makes the changes. However, positive behavior are unlikely to come about without positive thoughts. And re-framing one’s way at looking at things, is the only way that positive thoughts can come about. I found the book to be both helpful and informational.
Profile Image for Joseph Adelizzi, Jr..
198 reviews14 followers
May 5, 2014
I came away from reading Redirect by Timothy D. Wilson feeling confirmed, confused, and comforted.

Confirmation came from reading evidence supportive of my beliefs that: 1) many self help books don't work and could even be harmful; 2) internal narratives are a significant determining factor in growth; 3) one's circle of friends is key in shaping an individual's internal narrative.

Confusion came because of an inclination towards what feels a bit like Lockean Empiricism. Are we blank slates at birth, shaped ultimately by friends, family, and the media? But what happens when two blank slates – or slates still not completely painted - meet? Who reads and who writes? I have no doubt I was influenced by my friends (in a most positive manner), and I have no doubts my kids were influenced by their friends (again in a most positive manner). On the surface that feels like we were blank slates painted by others. But didn't “we” choose what to paint on our slates? What made us choose what we chose? Our internal narrative? Did that internal narrative start as a blank slate as well? Weren't we making choices to shape that narrative? I think maybe I need to go read some more existentialists to quell my nausea.

Finally, comfort came from knowing there are social scientists like Mr. Wilson (geepers!) out there attempting to provide some protection against the cancerous proliferation of self-help theories, gurus, and crack-pots. My internal narrative precludes me from anything but full disclosure – I was a Psychology major in college. Could you tell?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Claudia Sorsby.
459 reviews25 followers
October 31, 2011
Most interesting. The author's emphasis on testing ("Does a given intervention actually help, or do we just think that it should? Wait, it's counterproductive!") is something I'm very familiar with, since my husband has a background in computers and user testing.

Test, test, test...people can be so full of surprises. So often, something that seems like it should work just doesn't.

I confess, I was a bit disappointed only in that the author did not address how to change patterns of behavior that I'm particularly concerned with. Learning about dealing with at-risk youth was interesting, but not particularly relevant to me. I'd really like to see how his approach would work with people who are deep in denial about something, or are not being honest with themselves in some way, but that doesn't get more than a passing mention about how people like to think of themselves as good guys, and they will go to amazing lengths to rationalize their behavior.

That's a quibble, though. Overall, I'm glad I read it.
Profile Image for Thomas Edmund.
940 reviews58 followers
January 17, 2012
Quarrels with the title aside Redirect is a great book - perhaps a little heavy on the science (I guess thats one word in the title that makes sense) but worth trucking through nonetheless

Redirect reads as a debunk of conventional 'common sense' studies with an aperteif of story editing. Story editing is effectively positive thinking (if I dare be simplistic) with some added complexity.

The real strength of the book is the debunking. Most people who have completed a reputible psychology course know that many self-help, faddish and alternative programs have no scientific basis whatsoever (and in fact some can be harmful) and Wilson presents the most succinct and convincing argument against 'common sense' social interventions and advocates for the use of evidence based interventions, rather then doing the social work equivalent of 'blood-letting'

I'm not sure if the book will be accessible to mainstream readers, but anyone keen on psychology and society will enjoy.
Profile Image for Ilana.
246 reviews1 follower
January 14, 2017
I want to like this book but the author is so totally in love with his story editing theory he refuses to acknowledge the real lived sexism and racism people experience every day. His insistence we all just need to imagine better comes across as the view of one in privilege.
Profile Image for Samantha.
613 reviews14 followers
August 12, 2019
I actually picked this up thinking it would be a self help book on changing the way you describe your own past to yourself. nope. it was about how we implement programs to remedy social problems without actually testing their efficacy. many programs - scared straight, for example - seem like they would be effective, but actually make the problem worse. (kids who participate in scared straight are 13% more likely to commit crimes than kids who don't). the author goes into potential reasons for this (basically, don't put teens together when you are trying to solve a teen issue like drugs, crime, teen pregnancy, because peer pressure is generally a stronger force than the program itself).

it is interesting that programs are often widely implemented, at great expense, with no idea if they help, waste time and money, or actually make the problem worse.

the book itself is a little repetitive. it just goes into example after example. here's the problem, here's a solution people devised, here's what happened when it was finally tested, if it was. he talks a lot about experimental design, importance of a control group and randomization.

he spends some time convincing readers that racism is an active force in society, including something I hadn't heard about before, stereotype defense. basically, if you are in a demographic that's stereotyped negatively - women aren't as good at math as men, black people don't have as high IQs as white people - when you encounter a test that involves that subject, so a math test for women, an IQ test for a black person, you are likely to do worse because you are anxious about proving the stereotype correct. they did a test with college students where they labeled it as an IQ test for one group, a test of logical thinking for another group, and a puzzle for a third group. when it was labeled as an IQ test, there was a performance gap between black and white test takers. when it was labeled as a puzzle, the performance gap disappeared - even though the test had the exact same content. another experiment had women do a math test with two other people in the room. if the other two were men, women performed worse than if the other two people were women.


the author also talks about what does work, which is changing narratives. if people think a lot of people drink and that people think drinking is cool, they will drink more. if they get the actual statistics and it shows fewer people drink, their own drinking will go down. if you start college and you do poorly on the first test and tell yourself you're not cut out for college, you're likely to continue to do poorly. if you see a video of people talking about how there's an adjustment period and they themselves did poorly on the first test but then adjusted to the study habits needed and did fine after that, you're more likely to take on the narrative of "college has an adjustment period" rather than "college isn't for me" and do better.

as far as the stereotype defense goes, one thing that worked was to have students write about a value that was important to them - family, religion, music, friendship - before they took a test. it didn't matter what the value was, it was just important for the student to think of things that mattered outside of academic success and stereotypes. this relaxed black students and improved their test scores.

so, some good information. not what I thought it was going to be but I learned something nevertheless.
Profile Image for Lisajean.
222 reviews40 followers
June 14, 2020
This was tough to rate because I got a lot out of this book, despite not enjoying it very much. The central premise - using story-editing techniques to reframe how people think about things - is strong and I’m excited to apply some of Wilson’s recommendations in my classroom. However, most of the book is an extended harangue against people who implement programs without first conducting a scientifically sound study. I agree with his points, I just didn’t need 200 pages to convince me... Still, I’m very glad that I read this book. I’d recommend it to any teachers and parents, with the caveat that it might be a bit of a slog.
10 reviews27 followers
January 20, 2021
If you love social psychology, this is an amazing book. I love the focus on experimentally testing social theories instead of defaulting to common sense solutions. At times, the book did focus a little too much on debunking the bad without providing clear alternatives, but I appreciate the content greatly.
Profile Image for Deb.
349 reviews80 followers
March 8, 2012
*Rewrite, revise, redirect.*

Popular belief and common sense would have you believe that self-help books (like the way-too-publicized _The Secret_) and programs to prevent and reduce child abuse, teen delinquency, and substance abuse (like Healthy Families of America, Dollar-A-Day programs, and the D.A.R.E. Program, respectively) work. After all, with all the publicity and praise they get, they surely seem to be accomplishing their goals, right?

As Timothy Wilson shows in his book _Redirect_, not only do these approaches often fail to produce any scientifically measurable benefits, but they have led to "some tragically flawed interventions that did more harm than good." (p. 239) The book provides enough evidence to accomplish the author's mission of making "people wary of untested interventions designed to address social and personal issues." (p. 238)

Luckily, social psychologists have been able to develop solutions that address a wide range of personal and social issues in ways that actually work. Story editing--the focus of this book--is just one of those promising approaches. Based on helping people rewrite, revise, and redirect their personal narratives, the story editing approach refocuses people on the aspects of their selves and their lives that they most value. This approach realizes that "small changes in interpretations can have self-sustaining effects, leading to long-lasting changes in behavior." (p. 238) Its efficacy is based on the fact that it "interrupts a self-defeating psychological cycle that causes [people] to spiral downward." (p. 230)

The basic assumption of this story-editing approach is that: "in order to solve a problem, we have to view it through the eyes of the people involved and get them to redirect their narratives about it." (p. 25). And, the three-step approach to achieving this goals involves: (1) reinterpreting a problem by writing about it; (2) using story prompting to help people interrupt self-defeating thinking patterns by revising their core narratives; and (3) using the "do good/be good approach" which utilizes the findings that behaviors can shape personal narratives, and thus people benefit from acting more like who they want to be.

Clearly, it's time for changing how we approach change. By illuminating the new science of psychological change, _Redirect_ can help us change our approaches to achieving the social and personal changes we have long been seeking.
26 reviews
November 21, 2011
While the premise of Redirect is that the story people tell themselves about a situation can change their long-term outlook on life, it spends a lot of time simply focusing on how multitudes of intervention programs don't work. Wilson is a strong believer in testing programs using a proper scientific method, with randomly selected treatment and control groups, and he makes this point over and over again. He digs into closing-the-gap education programs, teen pregnancy programs, school dropout programs, drug programs, violence programs, deliquency programs, and so on. He does point out how some of the most successful programs, that have been truly proven to work, do leverage the idea of story editing, but it almost seems an extra "oh by the way" at the end of each chapter rather than the focus. In reading the preview of the book, I was expecting it to be more about the reader - individual cases of story editing and how it can be applied in one's day-to-day life. There is a bit of it at the beginning, and the final chapter does send the reader off with some focused suggestions, but much of the book are about the broad programs, which ones work and which don't, with a guess at the "why". Certainly an interesting read, but not what I was hoping for.
Profile Image for Sean.
60 reviews14 followers
August 10, 2016
This is a well-focused book from an established academic in the field of Social Psychology. His premise is pretty simple: what he calls "story editing" is a technique to "redirect people's narratives about themselves and the social world in a way that leads to lasting changes in behavior." The basic premise is that changing the stories we tell ourselves can have measurable positive impacts on what we do.

The balance of the book applies this story-editing perspective to a variety of social issues: teen sex education, drinking, violence, prejudice. The persistent theme here is that it's quite common to create large, expensive social programs without ever testing (in a rigorous and valid way) whether they actually work! Happily there are also some examples of programs that have been tested and that do work. One interesting example: asking middle-schoolers to write essays 3-5 times per year about their values and why they're important improves their school performance, even with no other academic coaching. The analysis suggests that some amount of self-affirmation can help counter threats to self-esteem (but you need to read the book for the deeper background of what's going on here).
Profile Image for Derrick Trimble.
Author 1 book3 followers
February 11, 2019
There really is nothing new under the sun. I dove into the book with high expectations. After all, Malcolm Gladwell called Redirect a 'masterpiece.' The first three chapters did not let me down. Setting the foundation of the principles of redirecting, Wilson moved on to the validity question, and then on to refreshing look at shaping our narratives. The candor and unabashed evisceration of the self-help and actualization movement had me going "Yeah", "See," and left me with a sense of self-satisfaction.

Apart for the chapter on parenting, the subsequent chapters were more geared toward field specialists for teen pregnancy, addictions, teen violence, prejudice, and biases in the educational systems that impact achievement. While each chapter was informative, I didn't always pull something from the pages that was relevant to a general public.

If given an opportunity to chat with Mr. Wilson, I'd have to ask him if he would change anything to his chapter on prejudice. Again, very informative and offering some good insight. However, I wonder if his own views are skewed....just a tad.
Profile Image for Carielyn Mills.
266 reviews
January 10, 2016
this book has a few very useful strategies to redirect your thinking when you're stressed and feeling insecure about yourself. it lists them by detailing social programs gone wrong.

the takeaway is to beware of popular approaches aimed toward social improvement (which seem like common sense) and instead opt for methods backed by science and evidence-based testing.

it's a bit boring and slightly repetitive at times, but that's because several studies are quoted for each strategy, which is the main point of this book: do research and get proof whether a program works or not before you unleash it on the masses. several well-known programs turned out to be wastes of time and money, and didn't help people after all.

i loved the author's commitment to wanting to help people get better mentally (at-risk teens, war veterans, minorities facing discrimination, failing college students, troubled couples) and his dedication to questioning the norm just in case it's not on the right path to solving the problem.
Profile Image for Jenny.
283 reviews15 followers
March 14, 2012
I like the insight in this book and the refreshing approach of story-editing. I think it might be a bit oversimplified - whenever I read books like this, I am always depressed by the fact that so many little things can influence people's behaviors (other than themselves). We bend in the direction of least resistance. I would like to take this idea further and possibly in a completely different direction; in particular, how most initiatives and programs don't work specifically because they focus on outcomes as opposed to process. Wilson discusses how people internalize stories about themselves, and getting them to internalize strong positive stories is the best possible thing we can do - but still we measure success in terms of performance outcomes and make this very apparent. I don't know how to get around this necessity, but I would like to see people learn how to really enjoy themselves, and really enjoy making themselves better people.
255 reviews24 followers
March 20, 2013
I didn't get as much out of this as I thought I would and the cover is actually quite deceiving. Don't get me wrong, this is an absolutely fascinating and thought-provoking read; extensively researched and referenced, but I didn't feel that there were any practical applications for the findings and it does nothing to "redirect" your thinking. Wilson mentions the "story-editing" method a lot, but he doesn't actually go into it in any great detail or explain how to use it, he does touch on it briefly in the first chapter, but seems to abandon it for the rest of the book, which is disappointing because I felt that was the most interesting part of his argument. So it starts off well, but from the second chapter onward it spends too much time being a critical analysis of statistics and current issues very much like the book "Freakonomics" than an intelligent treatise on a potentially ground-breaking psychological technique.
Profile Image for Ned.
165 reviews1 follower
March 18, 2018
Which one is the most effective intervention? Does it work? The book starts by explaining that for a conclusions from a study to represent the truth the study should pick the participants in random manner. Several examples present why this fact measures causation vs correlation. The author then focuses on several well publicized or adopted programs. Each chapter represents a different social behavior and it is mainly focused on kids. Although the book mentions how to apply it to adults every now and then. I agree with the author that raising responsible kids is the best way to decrease crime, drug use and increase education levels and income. It just caught me by surprise how the full book was about the teenage behaviors with several other examples. I liked the summaries at the end of the chapters called "using it". Overall descent read and it's good for parents with kids that are getting in school or are teenagers.
Profile Image for Paul.
96 reviews
February 6, 2012
I have been looking for some insight into the teen mindset.
I have felt for some time that "common sense" that many parent by has limits on results.
This book sorts out the facts from the "common sense" parents.

This book is well grounded in rigorous studies and their social application on both social and individual levels.

I am a big believer in leading kids rather than beating them (figuratively speaking of course).

Leading is much harder than just setting rules and then setting rigid enforcement.
That smacks of management actually and no parent should strive to manage a family when they can do so much more by leading the family.

This book tells a parent how to lead your children and get good parenting results without conflict.
I hope this book is the start of a flood of well researched follow up titles.
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