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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,564 ratings  ·  137 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
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published July 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 12th 2005)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  2,564 ratings  ·  137 reviews

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If I’d read this about five years ago this would have been quite a different review. Don’t get me wrong, after reading her Delusions of Gender there is nothing, NOTHING Ms Fine could do that I wouldn’t think was potentially god-like. Delusions is an amazing book and you ought to read it first, before this one, in fact, before just about any other book. It is a necessary book in ways this one isn’t. I mean that kindly – but there are lots of other books on this topic, many at least as good, but t ...more
Nov 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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?)
If you've read much on the subject, this doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but it's presented in a readable, well-organised format, meticulously footnoted, and adopts a pretty light tone. If you're anything like me, you'll smile in recognition of some of the things she says -- in the middle of describing the brain's unreliability, Fine points out that precisely in line with what she's saying, your brain is probably insisting you're different. It doesn't apply to you. You'd ignore t ...more
Ash Moran
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Caleb Abraham
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating account of how we think we think. At times, what the author reveals about our unconscious brain activity is disconcerting to say the least. However, she does not fall into a "disresponsabilisation" attitude. Rather, she shows that through realising how our unconscious brain works, we can strive to counter our psychological sins and biases. ...more
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
Jul 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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
Apr 03, 2019 rated it liked it

I found this an easy enough read although there was not a great deal in here that I hadn't read somewhere else, at some point, before. Which is not necessarily a criticism of the book as such – after all, the vast majority of non-fiction books are not about subjects that nobody else has ever written about before, and the theme of what we don't realise or recognise about our own brains worked well enough (on the subject of which, I rather liked her throwaway remark late on in the book about
Amy Alice
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Really enjoyed this book! Such a fantastic look at some of the ways that the brain has of surviving, and how that's not actually a true portalrayal of reality. Particularly chilling was the "bigoted brain" chapter that talked about how much our brains love a stereotype and the impact this has on even the most liberal of people. Like. No-one is safe. However it does offer hope in how we can over come it, although it takes a lot of brain training. And with the other traits of our brains (we assume ...more
Sara Sutliff
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sara Sutliff 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
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
I did not like this book. I’ve read plenty of psychology books in my time, and this one is my least favorite thus far. The concepts, content, and ideas in the book are interesting. However, the writing style of the author leaves much to be desired. I found myself not wanting to pick up the book and read, and when I did, it felt like a chore. I’m glad I finally finished it. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. That’s just my opinion.
Amy Rhoda  Brown
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, prof-dev
This is a terrific little book about some of the numerous ways the brain takes the wheel and relieves our conscious minds of the work of making decisions, passing judgement, and evaluating ourselves. Fine is a meticulous researcher and there are plenty of references, but the writing is fun and breezy.

However, I wouldn't say this book is an easy read. It's written in a particularly English style that I find hard to characterize, but that relies on a large vocabulary and convoluted linguistic circ
The Angry Lawn Gnome
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
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating reading for a layman--a short, easy read. I highly recommend this book to everyone with a brain (except scientists already familiar with how the brain distorts and deceives). Although the author explains the hows and whys of some fascinating cases of people with strange disorders, most of the book covers how the normal brain works, and you'll be amazed at how much your brain twists perception, memory, conscious thought. Cordelia Fine explains so much, yet you'll be left reeling with ...more
Linda  Branham Greenwell
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, 2014
Interesting, although a little wordy at times. By "wordy" I mean explained the same thing several times. Made me realize that I can sometimes do that too, and I need to change that because it is distracting :)
Explains how our minds work in ways that distort reality and project its prejudices and beliefs on others. The book offers a very strong reason why we should be skeptical of our own hasty insights, generalizations, and rationalizations.
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
I liked this book as it had lots of great little research projects quoted throughout. I though the first half of the book was much stronger than the second half but it was informative all the same. Crazy what our brains can do!
Ami Iida
May 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
The book points out the habit of brain, biased thinking form of brain, and the disadvantage of the brain.
I reference their properties but the contents of the book are thin.
the book is not rewarding very much.
Дмитро Булах
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cognition
It's definitely worth a read. An extensive review of current state of social and cognitive psychology. It's perhaps not a milestone as Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow" but eventually gives you quite a solid understanding how and why you should be aware of your own mind.
No doubt recommend it.
Todd Martin
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it

You probably think you are smarter, funnier, more clever, better looking, more talented and more moral than the average person. That could be because it’s true, but more likely it’s because your brain is a tricksy organ of deceit. It lies to you so as to protect your delicate ego every minute of the day. It’s doing it right now … admit it, at this very moment you’re thinking to yourself “It just so happens I am one of those people who is smarter, funnier, more clever, better looking, more talent
Mar 09, 2021 rated it liked it
The writing is much less formal & academic than most psychology books I’ve read. Almost too much: sometimes the writing is metaphorical and poetic to the point of obscuring what it’s saying or not actually saying much. It nicely points out, however, some of the reasons why it’s good that our brains work the way they do. These weaknesses and shortcomings in our heads are often the result of something that helps us in life or makes us able to think about more than simply obtaining food, shelter an ...more
Judith Glover
Jan 15, 2021 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book and found it lots of fun, but once I had stopped chuckling about it realised I had my reservations. If you thought your thinking was rationale, unbiased, objective and altruistic think again. Fine reminds us that our thoughts and actions do not happen independently of our brain, and guess what? Our brain are hardwired to be self serving, and will resorts to all kinds of deception to protect us from the uncomfortable truths of our personal failings. Whilst I could see t ...more
Eddie Rodriguez Cruz
If you think you're the owner of your own brain, think again! Your brain may own you in more ways than just your thoughts... This book presents us with various traits of our brains that are super interesting.
Why do we defend our beliefs so strongly? If you think that stereotypes are an inappropriate way to box people in, even though we don't like to admit it, our brain tends to unconsciously box people in groups whether we like or not. Are we so vain that our brain makes us feel better even when
I almost gave this 3 stars because some of the information in the book is so frustrating, but I shouldn't really hold that against the author. The "bigoted brain" chapter, for example--ugh! It's so easy to be "primed" to be sexist and racist and ageist and all the other -ists/-isms. But, we really need to be aware of the fact that every single person is unconsciously biased in many ways and change our entire conversation about race/gender/etc. We can't get anywhere unless we acknowledge that ALL ...more
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
大脑的八个缺点 : 爱慕虚荣、情绪化、不道德、爱妄想、顽固、装神秘、意志薄弱、充满偏见。

When we don't want to admit that we are actually biased, prejudging, generalize, sometimes even evilly immoral, full of vanity, this book takes us to look at them directly, without hiding them.
I kept stopping after while reading each chapter, asking myself if i have this and that, and surely fortunately with the education we try to tame ourselves. These maybe the programmed qualities as humans during the evolution, with these 8 "qualities", we homo sap
Maja Repcic
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
An amusingly written and informative book about how our brain works in deceptive ways that twists perception, memory and conscious thought.
- It paints a distorted picture of our self-perception and reality that is designed to protect our fragile egos and pre-existing beliefs.
You will also get a disturbing insight to how our subconscious-process effects our decision making in ways we can’t even imagine.

This book gives you a basic understanding of how and why you should be aware of your own min
Lydia Aklilu
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was a very interesting and eye-opening read. I enjoyed reading about all of the experiments that Fine referenced, even though information in the book was sometimes repetitive. To learn that my brain is unconsciously biased and I am not in charge of many important actions that I take was very upsetting. I almost wish that I didn't pick up this book in the first place. Almost. Besides all of the intriguing facts, there was also a humorous tone to the book that I enjoyed. ...more
Brian Wood
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I think this was an excellent book for anyone with a brain and we all do. If own a thing I like to know how it works even if I'm not an expert. In the study of the brain I am definitely not an expert and I think even among those who are there is a lot to go as far as what we know about how it works. Having said all of this, 'a mind of its own' is a good place to go if you want a better understanding of how your brain distorts and deceives, and why. ...more
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
A fascinating look at the perils of the workings of our brain, based on multiple experiments which are both intriguing and disconcerting. The author refers to real-life examples from her marriage, mentioning her husband and children from time to time. The book is easy to read but feels a little short.
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Cordelia Fine (born 1975) 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

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