BOOK REVIEW: A Mind of Its Own

By Ox Drover

I recently read A Mind of Its Own—How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, by Cordelia Fine, Ph.D. Dr. Fine was awarded a degree in experimental psychology from Oxford University, an M.Phil. in criminology from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. in psychology from University College in London. She is currently a research associate at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

This book is very entertaining and as the book jacket says,

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about the extraordinary workings of our hundred-billion-celled brain: its amazing capacities to regulate sensation, perception, thinking, and feeling, its ability to shape all experience and define our identity. But there is a brain we don’t generally hear about, a brain we might not want to hear about, a brain with a mind of its own.

Exposing the mind’s deceptions and exploring how the mind defends and glorifies the ego, Dr. Cordelia Fine illustrates the brain’s tendency toward self delusion. Unbeknownst to us, our brain—vain, emotional, immoral, deluded, pigheaded, secretive, weak-willed, and bigoted—pushes, pulls, twists, and warps our perceptions. Each of us has a slew of prejudices that prevent us from seeing the truth about the world, the people around us, and ourselves. With fascinating studies to support her arguments, Dr. Fine takes us on an insightful, rip-roaringly funny tour through the brain you never knew you had.

While we all, I think, want to “know the truth,” the biggest hazard to our knowledge of the truth of what is around us and of ourselves, according to Dr. Fine, is our own brain, protecting our ego’s perceptions.

“Memory is often the overzealous secretary who assists ”¦ by hiding or destroying files that harbor unwanted information,” she says. “It is like a smart lawyer searching for evidence to bolster his client’s case, rather than a jury searching for truth.”

With a psychopath trying to con us, we tend to believe more than disbelieve because “belief” seems to be the default judgment of the brain. Since more often than not, belief is true, it is easier for us to believe something than to disbelieve.

Also, Dr. Fine says, “If your brain is distracted or under pressure, you will tend to believe statements that you would normally find rather dubious. In fact, you may even find yourself believing things you were explicitly told were untrue.”

When we are involved with someone who is deliberately conniving, deliberately misleading and false, such as a psychopath, we need every element of our logical, truth-seeking brain to function at maximum capacity.

This book is an excellent guide to how we can watch for our false beliefs and prejudices to surface, and how we can rethink our opinions and prejudices.

Dr. Fine says, “It’s our irresistible urge to play amateur psychologist that makes us so vulnerable to our initial beliefs, no matter how bluntly the facts they were based on may be discredited. It’s human nature to try to explain everything that happens around us, perhaps as a way to make life seem less capricious.

“We are credulous creatures who find it easy to believe, but difficult to doubt. The problem is that we believe things to be true as a matter of course.”

Psychopaths understand this about us and use the “love bomb” approach when they first encounter us, to overcome our natural caution in interacting with new individuals. Once they have “conned” us into believing that we can trust them, our own brains distort and deceive us into continuing with that opinion.

This is a great book for opening our eyes to how our own brains deceive us.

A Mind of Its Own is available on Amazon.com.

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21 Comments on "BOOK REVIEW: A Mind of Its Own"

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Thanks Skylar, Annie, & Ox! Again such good points and great advice from all of you. I have never shown aggression, anger for that matter, dominance, or fear. I am not dependent on my SIL for anything whatsoever (unlike my brother), so I am atleast happy about that. It is just maintaining a diplomatic relationship so I can keep an eye on my niece. Annie, I too don’t believe in kissing feet, you are so right about that. My SIL does not drink coffee and one time she made me a great cappuccino and I complimented her saying for a non coffee drinker that’s a great cup of coffee. So I do give her credit when she deserves it and I don’t go overboard. But my brother is the expert in kissing blank….My SIL is a bank teller works part time and takes the kid to school and comes back home with her. She works 1-2 saturdays a month for 3 hrs. This is the only time we get to have any alone time with the kid. But she tells her exactly what to eat, what to do,(gives her dvds to watch, work out dvds for kids she follows along) each about 40 minutes long and a few of them. Then it is time to make mommy a card and a surprise. So the kid does all this, obeys her every instruction! There is no spontaneous play, talk, fun. It is with great difficulty I get her to dance, play, or have a conversation with me. She told her mom she loved it when I read her stories, so next time she is not allowed to do it. Oh, speaking of my brother (my mom lives with them) here is an example of kissing up to his wife. One day (saturday) my mom fed the kid before my SIL got home. She was furious and must have told my brother. My brother told my mom not to feed the kid even if she is hungry, her mom will come home and do it. When it is close to noon he gets the kid out of any other room in the house, she should be in the living room waiting for mommy or at the door. So my brother will make sure the kid is not in grandma’s room. He told his own kid in front of my SIL (and myself) if she does not eat fruits and vegetables she is going to die, if she eats junk food she is going to get fat and ugly. My niece was so upset and this put a further strain in the daddy-daughter relationship, and my SIL was delighted. He hardly talks to her but when he does says a lot of negative things just to please his wife. I told him not to say that and did somewhat get angry with him that day. I feel sorry for him, I care about him, at the same time I feel very angry he is allowing this to go on and is an accomplice. I have told him he is an accomplice to a crime. He gets very quiet and avoids me sometimes so I too don’t push it. Last week my SIL had an early meeting from 7:30AM. She took the kid with her to the meeting, then dropped her in school, my brother does not leave for work until after 11, but he was not allowed to take her to school. Then at work she would give excuses how nobody could take the kid to school. One time when my niece was in pre school I asked to take her out of school early so I could spend time with her.(I had gone there to drive my mom to a doctor’s appt). My SIL told me no problem, then she called the teacher and told her to tell me aunts are not allowed and she can’t do that it is the school’s policy. The teacher told me this, she told me what my SIL said and that the teacher should tell me it is the last time. The teacher could not believe what was asked of her. So I told my brother this and he thought I was lying and he went to school the next day and asked the teacher. She told him the same story and my brother just said let’s drop it and never talked to my SIL about it. When I asked my SIL she told me it was a big misunderstanding she never said that. My brother is quick to yell at me, my mom, and his kid, but he never blames his wife for anything. We used to be very close, but I don’t even recognize him anymore.

Thanks guys for the reading suggestions by Dr. Hare and also the article when relatives suspect child abuse. And I will teach her morals, right from wrong, in hope of immunizing her. And yes SIL could easily have the child accuse me of hitting her or something so I have to protect myself first. Great pearls guys, and I really appreciate it. Thanks for your time, really helps to know there are people who understand exactly what I am going through.

Dear Caring aunt,

I’m sorry for your brother, but you are right, he is enabling his wife to abuse his kid, so he is an accompliace. His own saying ugly hurtful things to his daughter about what she eats is also abusive, so he is in my opinion a co-abuser. He may not be as bad as your SIL but he sure is not doing that child any good. He is at the very least standing by while his wife emotionally abuses that child.

I understand your frustration, but I don’t see a lot you can do. The taking her out of her room so she is waiting at the door for mom to come home is SICK SICK SICK and the telling your mom not to feed the child even if she is hungry! WTF????

(Head shaking here) and the worst part is there’s not a lot you can do about it…Sigh My prayers for that child and for you.

Thanks Ox, my thoughts exactly. Thanks for your kind words and support. Initially I was fooled by my SIL many times, before I even suspected some personality problem. However I wonder how my brother can get this way (we are from the same parents), so totally willing to submit to any of her wishes, and I am not vulnerable to the extent that he is. He was more “normal” before and the change initially was gradual, they would fight a lot, now the change is very drastic and he does not question her about anything!!!

And Annie, I hope my niece someday will be in a spot where you are now, knowledgeable, and helping others!!!

Annie, Ox,& Skylar: You have high psych IQ and thanks for those pearls!!!

Annie, if/when you get a chance could you explain the escalate/provoke part? And the article “when relatives suspect child abuse” is very relevant to my situation, I wonder what the situation/update is now after 2 years.

And thanks for all your help, wish I had found this site earlier!


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