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

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

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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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