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Suggestible You: The Curious Science of Your Brain's Ability to Deceive, Transform, and Heal
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Suggestible You: The Curious Science of Your Brain's Ability to Deceive, Transform, and Heal

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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  771 ratings  ·  110 reviews
This riveting narrative explores the world of placebos, hypnosis, false memories, and neurology to reveal the groundbreaking science of our suggestible minds. Could the secrets to personal health lie within our own brains? Journalist Erik Vance explores the surprising ways our expectations and beliefs influence our bodily responses to pain, disease, and everyday events. ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 8th 2016 by National Geographic
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Anita I read Daniel Kahneman's book which is very well written and covers a great deal more than this book by Vance. I read one-third of this book and…moreI read Daniel Kahneman's book which is very well written and covers a great deal more than this book by Vance. I read one-third of this book and abandoned it. In my opinion it is quite repetitive. I don't disagree with what he says, but it didn't seem very well written and doesn't really say much. (less)

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Ami
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Could the key to future health treatments lie buried within our own brains? Can we trick our minds into healing ourselves, losing weight, or digging up distant memories? In this riveting narrative, acclaimed science journalist Erik Vance explores the surprising power of suggestibility and how our expectations and beliefs can shape our bodily response to pain, disease, and every day events. Drawing on centuries of research, interviews with leading experts and international journeys to the field, ...more
Kent Winward
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't know how to do it, but the placebo effect isn't a mind trick. The placebo effect is an, as yet, unexplained cascade of neuro-chemicals that humans access when other humans help them. It is our immune system gone social. We know that part of the impact is natural occurring opioids. We know this because you can block the placebo effect with naloxone, the anti-opiate agent.

I think the title of this book is a little deceptive. The "deceive" part of the title is that we can also create
...more
Emily
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was not at all what I expected when I picked it up, so I had to think about how to rate it. The author is a former Christian Scientist who discusses the relative merits of one's ability to heal oneself through convincing him or herself that s/he can. Usually in an unknowing manner- like taking a placebo and still having the effects. Overall, I found the idea fascinating. I'm seriously considering getting my DNA mapped by 23andme like the author suggests to find out my met/val situation ...more
Robert
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Placebos, nocebos, hypnosis, false memories are discussed and related study conclusions revealed. It's an interesting read for sure, but it left me longing for more actionable strategies. It almost felt like the author said, "Here are some fascinating things that happen in the mind. Cool, huh?" Indeed, they are cool, but how can we use these results to address fear, pain, and generally take advantage of the immense power that we have but can't control? The answer might be that we simply don't ...more
Anastasia
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Suggestible You by Erik Vance explains the way our expectations and beliefs influence or responses to various situations and events. A fascinating account of the science and research into the mind and how it can be influenced.
Peter Mcloughlin
Your brain contains the equivalent analogs of all the naughty schedule two substances ready to be called into action by belief and expectation. Opioids, cannabinoids, hallucinogens, you name it. A whole pharmacopeia at your beck and call floating between your ears. Welcome to the placebo effect. Theatrics like medical theatrics are often enough to elicit this response but it need not only be medical. That expensive wine may be molecule for molecule identical to that cheap off brand but ...more
Reuben
Nov 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
While "Suggestible You" touches on interesting research and a few curious anecdotes, it still manages to widely miss the mark. Vance simply cannot stop conflating his heavily-biased opinions with the science he superficially cites. He apparently feels an overwhelming desire to defend "suggestible" people who embrace some of the most obvious and (as he irregularly and reluctantly admits) damaging delusions.

While he desperately attempts to make a case for the few positive outcomes that can come
...more
Grace
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the scientific community, there are a lot of people who think that people using "alternative medicines" are either lying or being duped.

This book offers a look from various aspects through scientific brain imaging, the author's attempt to get hypnotized, genetic markers in studies, and many more. He readily admits when he doesn't know something.

There's a lot of information about how being suggestible affects our lives, and towards the end, he offers a "how to" section advising readers that
...more
Dana Tuss
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book — it was fascinating with great story telling. Times I laughed out loud or nearly gasped. I loved that the author did some of these “experiments “ himself — the most readable parts of the book. The section about “expectations” especially resonated with me. And I think the things we’ve been trying with Alex’s headaches and anxiety are supported by this. The part about the book I didn’t like was the come-away. So what am I supposed to do? Avoid pain meds because they don’t really ...more
Nupur Tustin
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read Vance's fascinating article in the December issue of National Geographic. He writes about the placebo effect--one of the ways in which the brain deceives us into healing our bodies--and compares it to faith and religious healing. Vance's article was absolutely fabulous, the cutting edge research he shares simply astounding. I'm looking forward to reading the entire book, and think this should be on everyone's must-read shelf.
Hope
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pros: Psychology, simple language, easy read, enjoyable for those that likes psychology
Cons: Can be boring at times, feels like psych 101 in a book
Disclaimer: I won this book in a goodreads giveaway. Thank you for the opportunity. c:
Cindy Leighton
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Compelling look at the significant impact expectation has on our body's reaction to diagnosed illness and a variety of treatments - western medicine, placebos, traditional healers, faith healers, "natural" remedies, hypnosis. He makes a compelling argument that what your brain expects impacts what you actually feel - both in ways we can understand (and he explains) and in ways we cannot. Of course he is clear that there is a list of symptoms that are particularly susceptible to suggestion - ...more
Ron
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Vance delves into placebos, sham surgeries, nocebos, which are each endlessly fascinating. Overall the book provides a new framework to think about any intervention in your life. It's good to believe a story because it might help you. Reminds me of the saying that you are the story that you tell yourself. The human mind is so powerful.
Ogi Ogas
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
My ratings of books on Goodreads are solely a crude ranking of their utility to me, and not an evaluation of literary merit, entertainment value, social importance, humor, insightfulness, scientific accuracy, creative vigor, suspensefulness of plot, depth of characters, vitality of theme, excitement of climax, satisfaction of ending, or any other combination of dimensions of value which we are expected to boil down through some fabulous alchemy into a single digit.
Dale
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is an interesting exploration into what we believe and how that helps us heal (or not). The author takes us on a tour of beliefs, and delves into the world of placebos and how they work. Fascinating study of subjects that need more press.
Cari
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lots of interesting brain science and food for thought in this one!
Chad Schultz
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Don't let the atrocious lack of cover art fool you; this book is worth listening to.

Don't let the subtitle, summary or first few minutes of the book fool you: this IS scientific. When I started listening to it, I wondered if I had made a mistake. If this was just some alternative medicine quack peddling snake oil and if I needed to stop listening and get a refund from Audible.

Fear not, fans of critical thinking and evidence-based medicine. This is a scientific work. The adventurous writer simply
...more
Sophia
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book.
This is a real pop psychology book but quality material in it's own right. It is not a self help book, but would probably do more good to your well-being than any of those. Despite offering almost no numbers, very metaphoric and broad explanations, unnecessary descriptive regressions on the researchers' appearances, the information in here is genuinely valuable, coming from a sharp mind who both understood the science and how to explain it to the layman. As a neuroscience
...more
Pat
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Not the type of book I would've expected from a "science journalist". About 30-40% of it is a fascinating look at the clinically-proven nature of placebo healing with all the depth and clarity you would hope to see from a science writer. It discusses the nature of the experiments, the neurotransmitters associated with accelerating or blocking particular placebo effects and the extent to which this field is still in its infancy.

And then there's all the rest of it. There is another chunk about
...more
Jessica Poracky
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting read. It starts off telling a story about Christian Scientists and healing through prayer. I thought, "this may not be for me." I am so glad I hung in there! It's an investigation into hypnotism, holistic medicine, placebos, neural mechanics, and habit forming.

The author explores voodoo and magic practices people truly believe in, exploring why these practices seemingly work for these people. He investigates the power of great story telling through the generations
...more
Dan Connors
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
This is a well-done, thought provoking book about the power of expectations and the mind.

The author, who was brought up in the Christian Science religion, details their beliefs on the power of faith healing, even though he no longer practices it. He goes on to go into great detail about the power of placebos, something that the medical profession has struggled with for a century or more. If the patient believes the treatment will work- it often does, even if a blank sugar pill is used.

The
...more
Pam
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I found this book fascinating. The author considers various aspects of alternative medicine and discusses the science behind their success. He starts off talking about Christian Scientists (he is a former member) and their success with faith healing. (And I appreciated that he never denigrated people of any faith.) The main part of the book discusses the placebo effect, which is something I've been very interested in ever since I read a neuroscience book about pain awhile ago. I consider myself ...more
Toto
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This is, and ought to have been, one long article. Fascinating as it is, as a full length book it gets overwhelmed by its own minutiae. The title is misleading, too. Because science of this is, to say the least, incomplete if not contradictory. Plus, it is not so "curious" a science, as all science is curious. Plus, only some people are more prone to, or open to depending on your take, to being affected by suggestion, such as placebo pills or prayer, while others can't be moved either by a ...more
Colin
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
This was a pleasant surprise. Usually I'll choose books from book recommendations of people I respect, but this one caught my eye in a library shelf. The author is extremely interesting. He was a former Christian Scientist--the same religion that prohibits it's members from getting most traditional medicine--and then decided to look at the placebo affect in depth.

Vance has a flair for writing, and it would be nice to even read fiction from him as he makes even more boring, informational
...more
Vaidas
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book and I would highly recommend it for everyone, especially those who look down on placebo effects and the like.
I will admit that I was expecting something totally different. When at the start of the book you hear that writer was raised as a Christian Scientist (?! - being from Lithuania, I have never heard of this religion) - you start to consider that there probably there are better books to spend your time on. However, I found this book to be very insightful, full of
...more
Ross Tierney
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a journey. Too often popular science writing becomes a reduction to materialism. At points throughout this book, I felt that was the authors tendency. But I persisted through some of the more rigid chemical, genetic and neural interpretations and came to realize the author takes a more nuanced approach to the "brain's power" (a flawed materialistic reduction, but an occasionally useful analogy). The journey the author takes you on is ultimately one that holds space for the unknown. ...more
Victor Villas
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book completely sold me out on seeing suggestibility as a kind of superpower. It's a weird and dangerous superpower that can be (and is routinely) abused, nonetheless impressive.

New to me was this very simple thesis that the placebo effect can be (and already is, somewhat) harvested by standard medicine and we are all susceptible to it, with reasonably documented evidence.

I find the book a bit too soft on alternative medicine, but it has the occasional warning here and there that placebo +
...more
David
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another in the brain and behavioral science genre I like so much. I've read elsewhere about the power of placebos, but this book goes into much more depth on our understanding of how inert substances and ineffective procedures can still cause our brains to release real opioids and other chemicals. It's not that we're gullible and think something's happening that's not--the chemicals produced in our brains and bodies are very real. Vance explores implications of this that I wasn't aware of and ...more
Gina
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book... Not a self-help book, but rather an excursion into the biochemistry of placebos, nocebos and alternative healing methods. Quite eye-opening!

However, the author doesn't seem to know that many herbs don't just work because of the placebo effect, but rather because they have actual alkaloids in them. Perhaps he should have researched that topic better, rather than lumping herbal medicine (and chiropractic??) with magic/superstition/anything that works just because you
...more
William
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author has an obvious gender bias when describing the scientists encountered on this journey through the mind's propensity for anticipating and generating physical response. However, it did not entirely distract me from the fascinating work being done here. I would have enjoyed a bit more on the process used by Christian Scientists to manufacture bodily responses, but I can understand the reluctance to do so by an author seeking to transcend the structure of their upbringing. Hopefully this ...more
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“Your brain is wired to build expectations throughout your life over hours, years, or decades, then tries its best to turn those expectations into reality. Simply put, your brain doesn't want to be wrong - and in order for expectation to match reality, it's willing to bend a few rules or even cheat outright. When expectations clash with reality, more often than not, it's your stubborn brain that wins.” 1 likes
“in reality, your eyes and ears are taking light and sound and turning them into electrical signals to the brain, which then has to construct a version of what is being seen that makes sense. To do that, your brain has to make assumptions and take shortcuts, and it sometimes makes mistakes.” 0 likes
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