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Mindreading: How We Learn to Love and Lie [Paperback]

Sanjida O'Connell
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Oct 1998
A study of how we understand others, ourselves and society. It looks at research indicating that, for example, people with autism - a mainly male disorder - cannot detect emotions from pictures of eyes; and that children remember when their wishes have been fulfilled better than when they have not.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 Oct 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749322640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749322649
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,365,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sanjida O'Connell is a writer, journalist and broadcaster.

She's the author of four novels, Theory of Mind, Angel Bird, The Naked Name of Love and Sugar Island.

She's contributed to a number of non-fiction books, including Animal Life and Nature's Calendar, based on the BBC TV series, which she co-presented with Chris Packham.

Her other non-fiction books are Mindreading: How we learn to love and lie, Sugar: The grass that changed the world and Chimpanzee: The making of the film.

Product Description

From the Author

I'm the author of 'Mindreading' and would like to comment on a review by 'A reader from London'. I think the reader may have misunderstood part of my book, or else not read it quite carefully enough. He or she seems to think that I have conflated empathy (the lack of ability to understand another person's state of mind) with sympathy (caring about others). I make this distinction quite carefully in the book, as many people do mix these two terms up. On p138 (paperback version) I wrote 'In psychology, we use the term 'Sympathy' to refer to how we feel when we are moved by another can lead to an unselfish attempt to alleviate the other’s suffering...Empathy...refers to the attempt of one person to understand the subjective experience of another.' I explicitly say that people with autism are able to show sympathy for others (i.e. they care about other people) but many are not able to understand another person’s state of mind (i.e. they lack empathy p144). Psychopaths do not show sympathy, but do have empathy. It is precisely the ability to understand another person’s feelings coupled with a lack of feeling that enables them to be cruel (p145). I do not say that people with autism are like psychopaths.
The only reason I can think of why this confusion may have arisen is that I quote an experiment in which the author of the experiment uses the term ‘empathy’ to describe murderers who show no emotional arousal towards pictures of people in distress. Whilst I think this was a clever and insightful experiment, the author was using the term empathy in a different way from some other psychologists – hence the reason why I spent the best part of two pages describing the difference between the two terms. In addition, less than two pages out of 240 were spent discussing psychopaths. The book deals with how we develop a theory of mind, what theory of mind is, whether animals have it, and finally, if robots could ever know what a person is thinking. I am sorry that ‘a reader from London’ thinks that I am ‘sloppy and irresponsible’. I spent four years researching this subject; I have a post-graduate degree in it, carried out research in theory of mind in chimpanzees, spider monkeys, bonobos, children and people with Asperger’s syndrome, and know many of the other scientists involved in this field.
Sanjida O’Connell

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Could have been great 1 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This book promised very well: interesting idea to examine the psychology of self-deception and theory of mind as a whole. But can't help getting the feeling that the author lost heart as it is indifferently written. Nice try and I don't want to be cruel but just not what I thought it promised.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended 2 May 2005
By A Customer
An interesting and enlightening read
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy and thoughtless 25 Jun 1999
By A Customer
O'Connell pulls together quotes and references taken from other sources without fully understanding them, and consequently the book is more misleading than illuminating. For example, she conflates the "lack of empathy" attributed to psychopaths (lack of ability to care about others) with the "lack of empathy" attributed in a very different sense to people with autism (lack of ability to understand and "read" the behaviour of others). In fact, people with autism are often very caring, despite their social difficulties, and have nothing in common with psychopaths. That O'Connell fails to understand this suggests an amazing degree of sloppiness and irresponsibility, which is sadly typical of the book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended 2 May 2005
By A Customer
An interesting and enlightening read on a vital subject
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