Complex and intellectually ambitious
The Organisation of Mind
Tim Shallice & Richard P. Cooper
In the October, 2011 issue of The Psychologist, there was a story reporting that research output in brain imaging has grown by 3119.05 per cent (I love the precision) in experimental psychology between 1989–93 and 2004–08. The worth of this mass of work, the vast expense of equipment, the resultant move of the brightest graduate students away from experimental and cognitive psychology, has been insufficiently debated.
The Organisation of Mind constitutes a massive advance in the required debate. Tim Shallice’s earlier, 1988 book From Neuropsychology to Mental Structure was very optimistic. The Organisation of Mind encompasses the whole of the previous area together with the last 20 years of brain imaging and a unified approach to cognitive modelling which takes in both sub-symbolic (neural nets) and symbolic processing. In short, it aims to establish a historical, empirical and theoretical basis for cognitive neuroscience. It, too, is an optimistic book, but with so many qualifications that I wonder where we can find the scientists to carry out its programme.
The book starts with a contemporary history of cognitive neuroscience, leading to an exposition of the basic problem – to link brain function to cognitive theory. The foundation for the discussion of cognitive theory is given through an exposition of a graphic formalism (called COGENT), in which all subsequent models are expressed. This gives consistency and precision to their thinking.
The authors next set up rules of inference from cognitive impairment to cognitive models and test the history of cognitive neuropsychology against it. Their doleful conclusion is summarised in: ‘We have seen that there are considerable problems in making solid inferences from neuropsychological findings to models of normal function’ (p.151). There follows the most crucial chapter, titled ‘Inferences to the functional architecture from functional imaging’. This includes an extension of the rules of inference and an examination of the kinds of data available. Their themes are illustrated from the literature, and, again, the conclusions are heavily tempered: ‘Without a putative task analysis, interpreting functional imaging results is little better than reading the tea leaves’ (p.186) and ‘we now have a plethora of poorly understood experimental paradigms’ (p.187).
In the rest of the book Shallice and Cooper take aspects of cognitive psychology in turn. First there are the components of simple cognitive acts, including semantic processing and working memory. Finally, more complex higher level processes are considered, including, supervisory processing, episodic memory, consciousness and problem solving. In all these areas Shallice and Cooper strive first of all to express a cognitive/computational model, symbolic or sub-symbolic, and then examine in detail numbers of studies in that area. There are very few cases where the conclusions are other than that a particular psychological operation is carried out in some area of the brain. I take the main message as ‘A theoretical framework must be produced prior to any attempt to produce a mapping’ (p.189). And very few such frameworks exist. However, Shallice and Cooper did leave me feeling there was hope for cognitive psychology, if only the bright young things would leave the brain be for a while.
After reading The Organisation of Mind, I now feel that no one should be allowed to adjudicate on a thesis or a grant application involving functional imaging and psychology without showing evidence of having read and considered this very complex and intellectually ambitious book. It will likely be 10 years before it is properly appreciated. Meanwhile, a lot of money will be wasted.
- Oxford University Press; 2011; Pb £34.99
Reviewed by John Morton who is Professor of Psychology at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London
Longitudinal Data Analysis: A Practical Guide for Researchers in Aging, Health, and Social Sciences
Jason T. Newsom, Richard N. Jones & Scott M. Hofer (Eds.)
There is an urgent need for this book. Although developments in the analysis of longitudinal data from the last 20 years have been very welcome, they have left many researchers behind. Many treatments of this topic, I have learned the hard way, are difficult for those without formidable statistical knowledge.
This book is written from the perspective of ageing and developmental research, and typical topics and models include: measurement issues when investigating within-person change, growth models, and SEM approaches to longitudinal data. Recommended readings, references, and guides to statistical software are all included, and are commendably useful.
It is very easy to recommend this book to those investigating ageing and developmental change. It is suitable also for those, like me, who work in other fields with longitudinal data, however the book is necessarily less accessible (and includes fewer useful examples) in this case. I’m not aware of such a useful and accessible introduction in my own field or any others, so this should serve well until more contributions are made from different perspectives.
- Routledge; 2012; Pb £29.95
Reviewed by Chris Beeley who is at the Institute of Mental Health, Nottingham
Something for everyone
The Psychology Book
As you would expect from Dorling Kindersley, The Psychology Book is a well-designed, satisfyingly chunky tome. It follows other recent attempts to represent the rich history and diversity of our discipline in a few hundred pages, such as The Rough Guide to Psychology and 30-second Psychology. So what can this effort bring to the coffee table?
Put together by a team of contributors including Catherine Collin, a Senior Lecturer in Psychological Therapies at the University of Plymouth, The Psychology Book is perhaps not as bang up to date as its competitors. Instead it takes a largely historical approach, organising the text into themes (Philosophical roots, behaviourism, psychotherapy, cognitive psychology, social psychology, developmental philosophy, and psychology of difference) but then tackling those areas via brief introductions to a major thinker and experimenter in the field. The emphasis is fairly social and cognitive, at the expense of more recent growth areas such as forensic and occupational psychology.
The book is aimed at those who are completely new to psychology, fully engaged as a student, or an armchair expert. Given the audience and scope of what the book tries to cover, the test is surely whether it’s possible to dip into the book at random and be engaged and informed. The section headings are well chosen to pull the reader in – for example ‘Did Robinson Crusoe lack personality traits before the advent of Friday?’ for Gordon Allport, ‘Ecstasy is a step into an alternative reality’ for Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. There are some interesting international figures, including Zing-Yang Kuo and Ignacio Martin-Baro. And the sections largely deliver, although inevitably depth is lacking in places. For example, the book largely fails my Zimbardo test for introductory texts, referring in passing to Reicher and Haslam’s revisiting of the infamous prison experiment, but not really in the context of shedding new light on the conclusions.
But I’m perhaps being harsh here: the book is not really aimed at me, and despite that I will continue to dip into it and find fascinating material well presented. Paul Valery, cited in the introduction, said that the purpose of psychology is to give us a completely different idea of the things we know best; this book is an admirable attempt to do just that.
-DK Books; 2012; Hb £16.99
Reviewed by Jon Sutton, Editor of The Psychologist
Society members can order The Psychology Book for the special offer price of £13.99 including free p&p. To order, call the DK Bookshop on 0845 130 7778 and quote reference Psych Offer subject to availability and open to UK residents only. Customers should allow up to 14 days for delivery.
Simple yet profound
Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict in Our Lives and Relationships
The title of Donna Hick’s book intrigued me: dignity is not a word that comes up frequently in the context of the scientific rigour of psychology. Dealing with something so profoundly human yet so difficult to define and operationalise, so that it can be objectively studied, is a brave task for a scientist-practitioner.
Donna Hicks does not disappoint. She is clearly an experienced practitioner, someone I would like to watch ‘in action’. She is not afraid to build a model of a human experience based on her insightful observations of actual human interactions in many settings and cultures. She is willing to follow her intuition, hazard a guess, suggest interventions and build a theoretical framework around what people actually say and do.
Drawing notably from evolutionary psychology, William James, John Burton’s human needs approach and other theoretical frameworks, Hick offers a very pragmatic model to help to deal with all different types of conflict.
A model that is simple yet quite profound; one which I will not only use in my work with clients but also one I will remember when facing conflicts in all other areas of my life.
Dignity: so complex yet so simple. A thoroughly recommended read for all.
- Yale University Press; 2011; Hb £20.00
Reviewed by Ewa Kremplewska who is a Chartered Psychologist
And No Birds Sing: Exploring the Landscapes of Personality Disorder
Ambitious in its aim to integrate research on narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) with personal reflections, this book’s execution of this ambition is disappointing. A narrative of four women’s dysfunctional relationships with partners with NPD is used to highlight that self-exploration within supportive relationships can aid ‘victims’ recovery from dysfunctional ones. The academic sounding title is at odds with the ‘chick lit’ writing style, making the author’s intended audience unclear.
More seriously, the portrayal of NPD is overly simplistic and, at times, offensive. There is little appreciation for individual differences or variability in functioning depending upon the extent to which an individual’s attachment system is activated. Instead, generic statements are made by the characters, such as ‘the narcissist’ (p.93) and ‘they don’t learn from experience...’ (p.142). Individuals with complex difficulties are even described as ‘wilder infestations’ (p.209). The bleak concluding message is that individuals with NPD are emotionally dangerous and best avoided. Overall, this book perpetuates the feeling of hopelessness that has stunted the study of personality disorder and does nothing to serve the current recovery focus of the field.
- EMIC Press; 2010; Pb £8.99
Reviewed by Nicola Spence who is a clinical psychologist
Helping the Bereaved College Student
David E. Balk
David Balk is a prominent figure in thanatology who has brought together years of experience and research to produce a practical text for use by those who interact with students on a day-to-day basis. Although primarily aimed at the US market, his findings and suggestions can be readily adapted to the UK. Balk highlights that 22–30 per cent of students are within 12 months of bereavement, and it is this hidden statistic that substantiates the need for such a text.
The first section describes the cohort followed by an understanding of bereavement. Part 2 explores how they have been affected, whilst Part 3 makes practical suggestions for support. Finally Balk pulls together all the advice given including next steps, followed by a letter addressed directly to the college student.
It is an easy to read text that broaches the somewhat unspoken subject of death that would be of great use to not only counsellors but also, more importantly, for tutors and lecturers who have a responsibility of pastoral care and who are in regular, ongoing contact with the students.
- Springer; 2011; Pb £42.95
Reviewed by Tracy McAteer, who is a Postgraduate Research Student, Oxford Brookes University
The Autism Spectrum in the 21st Century: Exploring Psychology, Biology and Practice
This textbook provides a comprehensive and current overview of the complex and evolving field of the autism spectrum. It opens with the history of the concept to date by way of introduction, followed by chapters on assessment and diagnosis, the psychology of the autism spectrum, both biological and psychological explanations of the spectrum, and concludes with chapters on intervention and the implications of autism, both educationally and on the family.
The chapters are clearly divided into subsections; thus, it is easy to locate the specific subject of interest. The text is ideal for students, as it assumes no prior knowledge of the concepts, clearly defining and explaining these, and has self-assessments to stimulate processing of the material, thus promoting learning through understanding and application. It is accessible for families and multidisciplinary professionals. It is also a good reference text for qualified clinicians, as it is clearly based on the existing research, which is summarised and presented it in a digestible form, facilitating evidence-based practice in this relatively under-researched and under-developed area.
A valuable addition to a psychologist’s bookshelf!
- Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2010; Pb £19.99
Reviewed by Dr Maria Loades, who is a clinical psychologist working in CAMHS, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
Critical Thinking in Psychology: Research Methods and Design in Psychology
Paul Richardson, Emma Vine and Allen Goodwin
Perhaps it is a worrying omen of things to come in the financial changes to higher education that this book manages to replicate a series of lectures via the medium of a book, nonetheless, it is something that it does well.
Designed to create the complete undergraduate student, it is not a welcome environment for the established professional to recapitulate over the long-lost minutiae of methods. Rather, it attempts a deeper level of learning through critical thinking and skill-builder activities that are far from the gimmicks presented in similar efforts.
By introducing the quantitative and the qualitative and all of the other usual suspects, the text never ventures too far from the basics. In separating the menagerie of methods out and isolating them under different headings, there is always a danger of departmentalising thoughts on research methodology leading to a narrow-minded approach. However, it is a danger that the authors deftly avoid in this case, by synthesising a cohesive narrative that reaches its peak when incorporating the broader methodologies into considerations of common problems and report writing.
- Learning Matters; 2011; Pb £16.99
Reviewed by Dean Mark Thompson, who is a postgraduate research student and teaching assistant at the University of Birmingham
Maintaining Recovery from Eating Disorders: Avoiding Relapse and Recovering Life
A truly inspirational book, which depicts life after an Eating Disorder. This book narrates empowering and motivational stories of real people with real experiences, which offers hope and strength to those who are struggling to manage their eating disorders. The chapters on ‘Celebrating Your True Self’ and ‘Getting Creative’ were particularly encouraging and offer some useful exercises for ways of focussing on other aspects of the self and empowering strength from within. I particularly liked the quote ‘A slip is not a relapse and a relapse is not the end’.
Although this book has a narrative around supporting individuals experiencing an eating disorder it would also be a useful read to clinicians working in this field. It provides insight into the highs and lows and demonstrates the power and the determination of the eating disorder voice, which drives to prevent recovery.
As the front cover depicts, ‘there really is somewhere over the rainbow’ and this book will be a fantastic support to those who are in any stage of recovery of an eating disorder. If you are inspired by the front cover then you will enjoy reading this book.
- Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2012; Pb £12.99
Reviewed by Amy Morgan, who is an assistant psychologist, Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
Sample titles just in:
Applied Evolutionary Psychology S. Craig Roberts (Ed.)
Psychology of Reading (2nd edn) Keith Raynor, Alexander Pollatsek, Jane Ashby & Charles Clifton Jr (Eds.)
Changing How We Live: Society from the Bottom Up Robert Hinde
Face Perception Vicki Bruce & Andy Young
Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children Elisabeth Young-Bruehl
For a full list of books available for review and information on reviewing for The Psychologist, see www.bps.org.uk/books
Send books for potential review to The Psychologist, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester LE1 7DR
BPS Members can discuss this article
Already a member? Or Create an account
Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber