Book reviews

rationality for mortals; adjusting to life after deployment; stories of recovery and hope; and more, including web-only reviews
Warring consciences
The Untold War by Nancy Sherman

Wars always lead to a plethora of books that try to understand something of the experience of those who take part. We learn a lot from the experiences of war: key psychological factors, our strengths and weaknesses, the ways we interact with others, our moral stance, and the nature of the societies that fight. The Untold War examines both the psychological and the moral positions taken by soldiers. The author, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC, is trained in philosophy and psychoanalysis and has worked with and interviewed veterans of war, and she is involved in teaching issues relating to resilience, trauma and military ethics.

Sherman draws on a range of material, including philosophers of the last 2500 years, to generate an understanding of the moral and psychological issues facing people who experience active service, including the transition from civilian to soldier, why people join, the problems faced by those in the military, and also what happens to veterans when they return home after war, drawing on examples from those who have been both physically and mentally disabled by their experiences.

The book provides insight into the thinking of veterans. Sherman introduces people who were involved in the torture of Iraqis, and shows how they dealt with the moral aspect of this. One, who did not actually take part in the torture, refused all moral responsibility, even though he was an interrogator who questioned prisoners who had been tortured. He took the – surely unjustifiable – position that because he didn’t actually carry out the torture he had no responsibility for it, though he was in a team that condoned torture. She describes a case of a US air force pilot shot down in Vietnam who was a prisoner of war for seven years, who was tortured himself. Here Sherman provides a detailed account of the role played by the writings relating to the stoic philosopher Epictetus in helping the pilot remain sane in the face of torture and solitary confinement.

These detailed accounts and Sherman’s analysis are a useful contribution to understanding how people react to war. The book does, however, have a significant problem. The focus is entirely on the USA. The only time non-US people are discussed is when they were either tortured by US troops (e.g. Iraqis and others in Guantanamo) or carried out the torturing of US troops (e.g. Vietnamese guards). A book that tries to understand the morality and mindsets associated with war should look at the experiences of different nations, as culture can play such an important part. Sherman shows how many people turn to religion to deal with their experiences, but would that be true for societies that do not have the religious fundamentalism of the USA? I know in my research that Iranian veterans of the Iran–Iraq war often cope using a fatalistic approach (‘It is the will of Allah’), while British veterans place less reliance on religion. Our research shows that British veterans focus more on the justifiability of war rather than religion (Burnell et al., in press) and how this can impact on mental health. On the plus side, Sherman does draw on the literature of other countries, through examples such as Seneca, Remarque and Shakespeare, showing that societies have always been aware of the problems faced by soldiers.

Notwithstanding the narrow focus on the US experience, this book still makes a useful contribution to the literature, going beyond the narrow focus of ‘traumatic stress’, and examining resilience through morality.

Reference
Burnell, J., Boyce, N. & Hunt, N. (2011). A good war? Exploring British veterans’ moral evaluation of deployment. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25, 36–42.

W.W. Norton & Co; 2010; Hb £21.00
Reviewed by Nigel Hunt who is at the Institute of Work, Health and Organisations, University of Nottingham


Simply inspiring
Psychosis: Stories of Recovery and Hope by Hannah Cordle, Jane Fradgley, Jerome Carson, Frank Holloway & Paul Richards (Eds.)

This book documents the stories of 14 people who take you on a uniquely powerful journey through their lives. Each contributor invites you to share in a moving story of their experience of psychosis, through reflections on the difficulties they faced, their experiences in the mental health system, their transition to recovery and the discovery of hope in this journey. Although each story is highly individual, they all share one commonality: they promote an inspirational message that recovery is achievable and that hope is important for individuals to live positively with psychosis.

In a national health service advocating a more recovery-focused approach to the management of mental health, this book is timely and offers a realistic optimism for people experiencing psychosis. It should be made widely available for both service users and mental health professionals – to provide positive real-life role models for people experiencing psychosis, and to encourage the continued provision of recovery-focused and hopeful mental health services.

Quay Books; 2011; Pb £19.99
Reviewed by Lee. D. Mulligan who is an assistant psychologist for the RECOVERY programme, Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust


Essential reading
Wheels Down: Adjusting to Life after Deployment by Bret A. Moore & Carrie H. Kennedy

The military is another country, one with is own laws, chapels, cemeteries, housing, dress code, haircuts, history, language, morality and taboos, yet it’s easy for civilians to miss just how different the lives lived by veterans really has been. When we were on gap-year, they went to war.

What it’s like to return to a family who has learned to live without you, to respond to old mates who ask, ‘Did you kill anyone?’ or to come home and find that nothing has changed except you? How do you transition from fighting in Helmand to stacking shelves in ASDA, or worse, the drudgery of unemployment?

Wheels Down is not a doctoral paper. It’s a practical ‘blue collar’ self-help book, full of hints and tips for men and women who are returning to civilian life.
 
Chapters like ‘Living with taking another’s life’, ‘or ‘Dealing with the grief of losing a comrade’, or ‘Learning to live with hyperstartle’, are not ones that you will find elsewhere, and this makes it essential reading for anyone working with this client group.

APA LifeTools; 2010; Pb £17.95
Reviewed by Martin Pollecoff founder of The Long Boat Home (www.thelongboathome.co.uk) a nationwide network of psychotherapists and counsellors offering reduced-cost treatment for veterans and their families


An excellent platform
The Science of ADHD: A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Chris Chandler

Chris Chandler is Principal Lecturer in Psychobiology at London Metropolitan University. He lectures on biological aspects of behaviour, including ADHD. He also has a son who has ADHD. With this book Chris has pulled together a body of highly complex scientific research and produced an extremely accessible narrative.

‘Science’ is the key word, though, as the social/psychological understanding of ADHD is only touched upon. The neuropsychological understanding of ADHD however is very well described, and there is an excellent chapter on medication. The book is generally clear and readable, and will be interesting to a reasonable number of the target audience, although in my opinion it is a little over-simplified for scientific professionals and a little too complex for some parents. Chandler does not necessarily present an altogether objective narrative, and I felt that the focus was narrow in a couple of the chapters, but he reflects upon this quite confidently throughout the book. Overall the book provides an excellent platform, and the impressive list of references means that the reader can explore much farther in their area of interest.

Wiley-Blackwell; 2010; Pb £15.99
Reviewed by Joanne Porter who is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist working at a child development centre in Plymouth


Limited logic  
Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty by Gerd Gigerenzer

In this collection of revised articles, Gigerenzer looks at the way human behaviour adapts to the environment. He argues that adaptive behaviour has other goals than logical truth, for example dealing intelligently with other people. From this perspective, behaviour is far more rational that it may first appear.

Gigerenzer highlights a topic-oriented approach, viewing rationality from different angles. Psychologists, mathematicians and computer scientists, among others, help to highlight how people make decisions when time and information is limited.

The part I found most interesting was where Gigerenzer shows how people misunderstand statistical information due to its external representation, not human cognition itself. For example, single-event probabilities (e.g. that there is a 30 per cent chance of suffering a side-effect from medication) may be construed in several ways: e.g. that 30 per cent of people will suffer from the side-effect or that they will suffer from the side-effect 30 per cent of the time. Such confusion can be eliminated with mind tools, such as natural frequency statements that specify a reference (e.g. 3 out of 10 people will suffer a side-effect).

Such insights are invaluable in understanding how people judge risk and how clinicians can ensure the information they provide people is clearly understandable so people can make informed choices over treatment.

Oxford University Press; 2010; Pb £15.99
Reviewed by Helen Galliard who is an MSc student at the Open University


Web-only reviews

The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity by Kaufman, J.C. and Sternberg, R.J. (Eds.)

Great thinkers from Aristotle to Einstein have considered just what creativity is, yet despite over six decades of research in the field many debates on how to measure, utilise and improve creativity still remain. Anyone interested in the field will already be familiar with the names and work of James Kaufman and Robert Sternberg. For those new to the field, this text provides a comprehensive and scholarly introduction to creativity. For those psychologists, researchers and educators already familiar with the key concepts, this book provides a valuable reference point as well as a detailed discussion of future directions.

The book is divided into discrete sections. The first section, ‘Basic concepts’ provides an excellent historical overview of debates in creativity. ‘Diverse perspectives on creativity’ discusses the different approaches to conceptualising creativity, particularly given the changing debates that have taken place over the past decade. The third section, ‘Contemporary debates’ refers to ongoing discussions in the field.

The book examines functional, evolutionary and neuroscientific approaches to creativity across a wide range of perspectives. This text acts as an excellent reference guide to those interested in creativity across the arts, education, business, society and wider culture, yet also summarises critical debates and concepts for the future. This is a highly recommended text that provides a comprehensive introduction and reference to work in the field.

Cambridge University Press; 2010; Hb £80.00
Reviewed by Ruth Hewston who is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Worcester


Dissociation in Traumatized Children and Adolescents by Sandra Wieland (Ed.)

Sandra Wieland combines therapist’s real life examples in this book to address a largely unaddressed area of clinical work. The book aims explores dissociation in children and adolescents not through research and theory but rather through examples of therapy cases.  Aside for the first chapter the book is a rich array of clinical cases studies which describe how different children and adolescents have been treated for dissociation. Each case study, of which there are 7, provides a clear summary regarding background, intervention and conclusions. Each is perfectly written and interjected with the therapists understanding of the case, and why treatment progressed as it did. Whist the theory is not explicit it is certainly there, and the way this book has been written makes it both an enjoyable read and informative read.  As a clinical psychologist working with children and adolescents it has clearly increased my awareness and knowledge of dissociation, but would also be of huge benefit to anyone starting out, due to its largely atheoretical stance.

Routledge; 2011, Hb £24.99
Reviewed by Dr Helen O’Connor who is a Clinical Psychologist working with adolescents in an inpatient mental health unit in Winchester

Sample titles just in:
Inner View: Choosing Authenticity Omisina Fasina
What Literature teaches us about Emotion Patrick Colm Hogan
Imagery in Cognitive Therapy Ann Hackmann
Well-being: Productivity and Happiness at Work Ivan Robertson and Cary Cooper
The Three Christs of Ypsilanti Milton Rokeach
Educational Psychology Casework: A Practice Guide Rick Beaver
The Rehabilitation of Partner-Violent Men Erica Bowen
Business Coaching Anne Scoular
Empirical Research in Teaching and Learning: Contributions from Social Psychology Debra Mashek and Elizabeth Yost Hammer

For a full list of books available for review and information on reviewing for The Psychologist, see www.bps.org.uk/books


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