Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New Psychology Books

Aside from coffee, my only other addiction is books -- especially Buddhist and psychology books, and a lot of poetry.

Metapsychology Online Reviews offers up some tasty titles every week. Here are four new ones. These have all been added to my Amazon wish list.

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Psychoanalysis and Narrative Medicine
by Peter L. Rudnytsky and Rita Charon (Editors)
State University of New York Press, 2008
Review by Terry Burridge
As the title suggests this series of papers is about narrative medicine-or, more accurately, about narrative and medicine or, narrative in medicine. These distinctions are not just pedantry-they are the core of the book. Each small preposition shifts the focus of the book into allowing the reader to consider how much a small difference makes. And to consider the whole question of personal narrative. Simply the question of the book is "Who owns the patient?" Is a patient-and their story- the "property "of the clinician or the property of the patient? The answer from the various contributors to this book is that it is, at best, shared "property". The patient comes to the clinician with a story to tell and wants someone else to hear this story and to reverence it. But the clinician's role is not simply to be the passive hearer, but to become a participant observer and listener. Bruno Bettleheim in his book "The Uses of Enchantment" makes the point that fairy tales "... carry important messages to the conscious, the preconscious , and the unconscious mind, on whatever level each is functioning at the time" (Belleheim:1975) Our own narratives carry a similar message, both to ourselves and to whoever we are asking to share them with us.
Read the whole review.

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On Being Moved: From Mirror Neurons to Empathy

by Stein Braten (Editor)
John Benjamins, 2007
Review by Roy Sugarman, Ph.D.
The field of social cognition has begun to involve. While general cognition has dominated the field since the Stanford Binet, Goldstein, Luria and Vygotsky got neuropsychology defined and under way in the early 20th Century, the social brain has been investigated more effectively recently. Social cognition largely investigates attributional biases that predispose us, or reveal our predisposition to behavioral illness, as well as emotional intelligence and social skills. Good emotional intelligence imparts emotional resilience, and includes empathy, intuiting, self esteem and self efficacy. Empathy is however the offshoot of a more complex system, not just representing an intersubjective appreciation of other's emotion, but a response in the brain to observed activity in another, mirroring the motor process.

The editor presents in this volume, the proceedings of the Theory Forum Symposium on "Foundations of pre-verbal inter-subjectivity in light of new findings" in 2004. There were three previous publications.

The inter-subjective phrase here refers to early work with animals where monkeys observing food grasping or other motor sequences, 'mirrored' this activity before and during their own motor sequences.
Read the rest of this review.

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Essential Philosophy of Psychiatry
by Tim Thornton
Oxford University Press, 2007
Review by Neil Levy, Ph.D.
The title of Tim Thornton’s short book suggests that it is an introduction to central debates in the philosophy of psychiatry. In fact, it is better thought of as a defense of a certain approach to philosophy of psychiatry (and, indeed, mind more generally): a Wittgensteinian approach, which is opposed to the naturalistic standpoint that dominates the mainstream. It does provide extensive coverage of some major debates, but it moves too rapidly to be suitable as an introduction. It is both too difficult and too unusual in its view to be suitable for beginners. Instead, it casts an unusual light on some familiar debates.

Thornton has three themes: the role of values in diagnosis and treatment, the limits of understanding and the scientific underpinnings of psychiatry. He approaches all from the perspective of his non-naturalism (he calls it a relaxed naturalism, and he has some grounds for this terminological innovation, but in the reigning nomenclature it is a non-naturalism). He is opposed to views that attempt to take a bottom-up approach to meaning and to value; that is, which attempt to show that meaning and value are constructed out of elements that are not themselves meaningful or valuable. On his account, meaning and value are irreducible to naturalistic components; instead, they are independently components of the universe.
Read the rest of this review.

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The Normal Personality: A New Way of Thinking About People

by Steven Reiss
Cambridge University Press, 2008
Review by Gustav Jahoda, Ph.D.
The main argument of this book is that psychologists should stop looking for unconscious factors supposedly underlying behavior (in the manner of Freud) and confine themselves to the study of individual values. For this purpose the author has developed the 'Reiss Motivation Profile' (RMP), which was administered to large samples in several industrialized countries. On this basis he postulates a universal set of sixteen motives (or 'desires', or 'basic needs'),varying in intensity across individuals, that can be 'scientifically' measured.

This is introduced in the first chapter entitled 'My wife thinks there is something wrong with me', in which the 'need for order' is illustrated. One learns that his wife Maggi has a strong need for order, planning and cleanliness. He himself, by contrast, prefers things to be a bit messy and dislikes planning, which enhances spontaneity. This kind of folksy style is adopted throughout the book. The claim of novelty of an approach through values is contradicted by a brief account of his predecessors (of whom there are many more than those he listed). The RMP is employed to describe 'normal personality types', each type being illustrated by examples of individuals. It is argued, plausibly, that a diagnosis of differential values is also helpful for resolving a variety of personal problems including 'personal troubles', 'adolescent under-achievement', 'self-hugging' (believing that one's own values are best), and 'relationships'. The case histories offered, though rich and lively, hardly constitute evidence. A 'Dictionary of normal personality traits' is appended, as well as a questionnaire that allows the reader to estimate their 'strong and weak basic desires' -- though one is warned that the results would not be 'scientifically valid'.
Read the rest of this review.

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Finally, my mind on books offers up a quick list of newish neuroscience books:

Cognitive psychology books 2008

Artificial Psychology: The Quest for What It Means to Be Human by Jay Friedenberg (Psychology Press, 2008)

Brain-Based Teaching for All Subjects: Patterns to Promote Learning by Madlon T Laster (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2008)

Cognition and Emotion: From Order to Disorder by Michael J Power; Tim Dalgleish (Psychology Press, 2008)

Emotion Science: Cognitive and Neuroscientific Approaches to Understanding Human Emotions by Elaine Fox (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) forthcoming

Music, Language, and the Brain by Aniruddh D Patel (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Social Cognition: Development, Neuroscience and Autism ed. by Tricia Striano and Vincent Reid (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008) forthcoming

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