Book reviews

Including parapsychological investigations, altruism, psycholinguistics and more (including web-only extras).

The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations
Stephen E. Braude


All that glitters…
I would be surprised if any reader with the slightest tendency towards critical thinking would find the evidence for psi presented in this slim volume to be anywhere near compelling. Instead, the book consists mainly of one anecdote after another of typically failed attempts to demonstrate psi under reasonably controlled conditions. Braude finds occasional apparent partial success pretty convincing and always has a ready explanation for the more frequent obvious failures.
The opening chapter deals with Braude’s investigations of Katie, the titular ‘gold leaf lady’, upon whose body a golden foil would allegedly spontaneously appear. Unfortunately, the appearance of the foil has only ever been caught on video on a single occasion, near Katie’s eye after she had rubbed it. This evidence is, as Braude admits, ‘problematic’.
In discussing the case of Dennis Lee, another subject allegedly capable of producing impressive psychokinetic effects, Braude explains away his failure to deliver under controlled circumstances as being due to his being undermined by the negative attitude of the person sponsoring the testing. Braude even suggests, apparently seriously, that this same person may have exerted a paranormal inhibitory effect to make sure that a second test failed as well, even though the alleged culprit was not involved in this test at all. But, Braude informs us, he may have been aware of it through ESP. Of course – silly me! But wouldn’t that mean that the presence of any negative attitude towards psi on the part of anyone anywhere in the universe would be enough to ensure a negative outcome in any psi experiment? That suggestion does at least have the merit of being consistent with most of the available data, I suppose.
Braude is very fond of accusing sceptics of using ridiculous arguments that very few informed sceptics would ever actually use, such as the ‘Argument from Gullibility’ in which, according to Braude, sceptics allegedly claim that people are much less gullible than they were in the Victorian era. Which sceptics exactly? It does not ring true of any sceptics I know.
The final chapter, on astrology, offers perhaps the greatest insight into Braude’s own reasoning. If he is aware of the vast empirical literature testing astrological claims with almost totally negative results, this is not apparent (despite his fondness in other chapters for berating his opponents for their lack of scholarship). He is, however, convinced that his wife, Gina, can produce reliable astrological predictions where other astrologers, using inferior approaches, fail. Surely this conclusion must be based upon carefully controlled tests of Gina’s ability that rule out the possibility of drawing invalid conclusions on the basis of known cognitive biases? Unfortunately not.

-    University of Chicago Press; 2007; Hb £12.00
Reviewed by Chris French who is Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London

Short on answers
Altruism and Health
Stephen Post (Ed.)

So eclectic is the use of key terms by the 42 contributors to this book that it is difficult to work out whether a measure (e.g. positive relations with others) is being used as indicative of altruism, of health, or of a process said to mediate the relationship between them.
The most commonly examined predictor of health in this book is probably volunteering; despite it being noted that this need not be motivated by other-concern.
Despite allegedly ‘improving on Socrates’ by using ‘careful empirical science’, carelessness about what is being measured means that the main conclusion from this book is that being altruistic (broadly conceived) probably often improves health (broadly conceived). And sometimes it probably doesn’t. And sometimes it probably makes it worse.
Not a book for anyone seeking easy answers, then. But this forms no part of Professor Post’s ambition. His stated purpose is ‘merely to help open the door to a serious research assessment’. He successfully does this by collecting research reports and reviews by experts drawn from a genuinely impressive array of disciplines. Most of these contributions are of a very high quality. As a result, anyone with any curiosity about possible links between altruism and health (or related concepts) will find much to interest and educate them.

-    Oxford University Press; 2007; Hb £38.99
Reviewed by Tom Farsides

Riding the Celtic Tiger in Irish adolescence
Young People in Contemporary Ireland
Kevin Lalor, Áine de Róiste & Maurice Devlin

As a child clinical psychologist coming to work in Ireland for the first time I was pleased when this book arrived, hoping it would speed up my task of identifying differences in service provision between the Irish system and the UK. I was not disappointed.
The authors have put together an easily digestible yet critical overview of the status quo within key services and government policies which impact on Irish young people. The book also gives the reader a fair sense of the range of experiences that typify adolescence in Ireland, with chapters summarising research on values and attitudes, family life, and peer relationships. Perhaps most interestingly these issues are also placed within a historical context, with the authors providing a brief outline of the extent to which the Celtic Tiger has transformed the experience of being young in Ireland.
The book is primarily written for an undergraduate audience and in my view would be of most interest to aspirant youth workers and social workers.

I    Gill & Macmillan; 2007; Pb £34.99
Reviewed by Michael Stoker

State of the art
The Oxford Handbook of Psycholinguistics
Gareth Gaskell (Ed.)

The barrier between language and thought is tenuous. Are we able to represent a concept mentally if we do not possess a word for it? Are all our thoughts systematically formulated into words? Such questions form the backdrop for this edited volume.
Psycholinguistics is a young and exciting science that spans a range of different subjects, such as psychology, memory, linguistics, cognitive neuroscience and genetics.
This handbook brings together the contributions of 79 scientists from these disparate fields. It is arranged into six general themes: word recognition; the mental lexicon; comprehension and discourse; language production; language development; and perspectives on psycholinguistics. As with many edited books, however, the quality of the chapters is somewhat inconsistent. In particular, a number of chapters do not contain any figures, which significantly hinders comprehension.
This handbook was written to be accessible to graduate students. It does not assume any prior knowledge beyond some general understanding of cognitive psychology. Overall, it is an authoritative and exhaustive account of the state of the art in psycholinguistics. It will be an indispensable resource for all those interested in language processes.

I    Oxford University Press; 2007; Pb £49.95
Reviewed by Cedric Ginestet

A fresh snapshot
The Cognitive Neuroscience of Working Memory
Naoyuki Osaka, Robert H. Logie & Mark D’Esposito (Eds.)

In 2004 the 2nd International Conference on Working Memory celebrated the 30th anniversary of Baddeley and Hitch’s now famous model of working memory. This book contains chapters written by many of the contributors to that conference, and thus includes a pretty wide selection of theoretical perspectives. Not exactly a textbook in the traditional sense, it feels more like a snapshot of contemporary research. As such it serves to demonstrate the broad explanatory power of the working-memory concept, as well as its continued experimental appeal.
The essays are generally well written and engaging, though some will be a little beyond the casual reader. Topics range from pure behavioural studies to single-cell recording techniques, so there’ll certainly be something here for you.
This book isn’t the ideal choice if you want to learn everything there is to know about working memory, but it would be absolutely perfect for a grad student starting off on a PhD in this area. You would definitely come away from it with a wealth of fresh perspectives and new directions.

I    Oxford University Press; 2007; Hb £45.00
Reviewed by Alan Blighe

Voting with your heart
The Political Brain
Drew Westen

This is a book born out of the author’s strong Democratic Party values, his intense frustration at its inability to win elections against the Republicans, and an experimental research base primarily involving the influence of emotion. It analyses speeches by those who reached the White House (Bush 1 and 2, Clinton, Roosevelt) and those who failed (Kerry, Gore, Dukakis, and so on) to show how those who spoke to emotions linked to the core values of American voters were much more likely to be successful over those who provided rational, logical arguments.
Democrats, Westen suggests, are uncomfortable with emotion and perhaps ‘jest too damned smart’ for their own good! If there is a clash of policies between candidates, the feelings aroused always win over ‘rational’ preferences.
The author suggests that the US people didn’t begin to revolt against the Iraq War because of its illegality or inevitable destabilisation of the Middle East, but because they saw the body bags of their boys.
Westen details not only the speeches but also his own experiments around emotions and choice and outlines the evolution and neuropsychology involved, using Darwin, Freud and Skinner. He shows that even material interests have less influence than politicians think; rather, voters need also to feel that someone is addressing both their interests and the values that give their lives meaning. He describes how images and music play important roles in emphasising those feelings.
Westen makes the point that there is no stronger link between reason and morality than between emotion and morality. Moreover, it’s probably worth reading the book to remind ourselves of just how much our political strings can be pulled. I enjoyed it and I’m sure I’ll listen in a new way to political speeches on this side of the Atlantic. But be prepared for an avalanche of emotion once our politicians make it bedside reading.

I    Perseus Books; 2007; Hb £15.99
Reviewed by Jenny Firth-Cozens

Just in
Memory in the Real World Gillian Cohen and Martin Conway
Employee Well-being Support A. Kinder, R. Hughes and C.L. Cooper
Key Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology Lavallee, Williams and Jones
Mental Processes in the Human Brain J. Driver, P. Haggard and T. Shallice

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Web-only reviews

 In Order to Learn
HOW THE SEQUENCE OF TOPICS INFLUENCES LEARNING
Edited by:
Frank E. Ritter
Josef Nerb
Erno Lehtinen
Timothy M. O’Shea
ISBN 978-0-8058-4973-8

2007, Oxford University Press

In terms of Cognitive Models and Architectures, the title does not do justice to the affluence of material the book contains, which focuses on the study of ‘order effects’ in learning, reviews the wealth of study in this area, and sets the scene for advances in methodology and strategy for exploring the fundamental issue of how humans and machines learn.

Protagonists of Machine Language (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will find this book necessary reading. The book will interest students of experimental psychology, those involved in educational design, ML and AI devotees, and cognitive psychology in general. Being designed to be a source book for students in their early studies of the Ph.D., the Editors warn the readings raise more questions than they answer.

There is much that can be learnt by studying leaning in machines and AI. Undoubtedly there is a long way to go in these areas, factually or conceptually; already advances in understanding order theory have led to significant lessons in learning and education.

The chapters of this book are self contained and many argue significant points of view on the importance or irrelevance of ordering or sequencing for instructional design, about human skill learning and machine learning mechanisms.

Ian Clancy
Orchard Counselling Practice

 

Freud’s Art-Psychoanalysis Retold
Janet Sayers
New York: Routledge
£ 21.99/-
ISBN: 13: 978-0-415-41568-2

Reviewed by:
Dr. Tanvir  Rana
Visiting Senior Lecturer
Staffordshire University

&
Dr. Shabbir Rana
Assistant Professor of Psychology
G.C. University, Lahore.

In  Freud’s Art-Psychoanalysis Retold, Janet Sayers, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic, has narrated the story of  psychoanalysis through art. She has shown how art and psychoanalysis complement each other. The book underscores the  relationship and  significance of psychoanalysis and art in a very lucid and clear style.

Apart from Freud, the other major figures in the psychoanalysis , Jung, Spielrein , Klien , Winnicott, Bion  and  Lacan are also  discussed.

One major strength of this book is that  it is very well illustrated with case histories.

Towards the end of the book, Janet Sayers rightly concludes that many works of twenty-first century art  are inspired by psychoanalysis. She quotes examples of Louise Bourgeouis’s installations—Maman and I Do, I Undo, I Redo  and Sublimation.
The author concludes  by  quoting  the phenomenologist and existentialist philosopher, Merleau –Ponty  who emphasized that “ If no painting comes to be the painting , if no work is ever absolutely completed and done with, still each creation changes, alters, enlightens, deepens, confirms, exalts, re-creates, or creates in advance all the others”.

Moving with the times….           
Title:            The Handbook of Clinical Adult Psychology
Author:        Lindsay, S & Powell G (Eds.)
Publisher:        Routledge
Price:            £32.99            Year of Publication    2007   
ISBN:            978-1-58391-866-1

The 3rd edition of the handbook of clinical adult psychology is a book moving with the times. As with previous editions the book covers a number of topics pertinent to modern day clinical psychology practice. The book describes aetiology and corresponding investigation for each of a number of problems before outlining treatment approaches, all presented with a strong evidenced base where possible.

The aim of the editors was to provide a comprehensive handbook which throughout, illustrated the importance of clinical investigation as a basis for intervention. They also wanted to expand upon the previous editions of this text to incorporate important changes that have taken place in the world of clinical psychology, such as cyclical emotional disorders and psychoses. However, as a consequence there was no chapter on anxiety, as in previous editions which I thought was a great shame.

Chapters which I found of particular interest were those on psychosocial rehabilitation; investigation and treatment. I currently work with people in the community who have an acquired brain injury and psychosocial rehabilitation is the primary model which I work within. Although written predominantly for use within mental health, there are some general cross over points that are relevant for working with people with brain injury.

On the whole this book is an excellent resource for both practitioners and trainees of clinical psychology.

Sarah Louise Hyland
Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS
 

 

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