Book Review: Writing for Social Scientists
Announcing: Escape from Bucktown

Book Review: How Do We Know Ourselves?

A 2022 publication subtitled “Curiosities and Marvels of the Human Mind.”

gordon meyer holding book

The author is David G. Myers, a noted and prolific psychologist. He describes this book as a short and playful collection of some of psychology’s wisdom. And indeed, any reader will be armed with numerous anecdotes and quips based on the book’s myriad of short chapters. For this reason alone, I recommend picking up a copy.

Despite the author’s misspelling of his last name, I feel an affinity for him, as explained and predicted in the books’ discussion of how “Louis” is a statistically outlying common name in Missouri. (Among many other examples.)

Here’s a small sampling of my highlights:

  • Cognitive psychologist George Miller once described two ocean liner passengers gazing over the sea. “There sure is a lot of water in the ocean,” said one. “Yes,” replied the other, “and we’ve only seen the top of it.”
  • Pain is most acutely felt when attended to. Myers gives the example of performers whose maladies disappear when on stage, phenomena that I have witnessed and experienced.
  • Hearing is both a physical and mental act — our brain imposes meanings on vibrations — and because we lack “ear lids,” unlike sight, it cannot be turned off. (So you should never apologize for eavesdropping.)
  • Reno is further west than Los Angeles.
  • Psychologically speaking, loss is greater than gain. Bad is greater than good. Fear of losing steals our chances at winning.
  • The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance — it is the illusion of knowledge.
  • Confessing failure and disapproval can lead to strengthened relationships.

One unique aspect of this book — which I suspect might become more commonplace in current publications — is the author’s references to the MAGA crowd and their traitorous leader. It makes for meaningful examples when maladies are put in contemporary settings, and will undoubtably cement this book as a product of its time.

I bought my copy from the closeout shelf at Barbara’s Books, but you can get yours from the Amazon.

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