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3.7 out of 5 stars15
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 19 November 2010
When was the last time you told a lie? Why did you do so? This interesting and carefully researched book delves into a destructive aspect of human nature that most of us spend a lot of time not thinking about. Rowe's extensive experience as psychologist and evident interest in history, politics and science gives her a very broad basis for her fascinating insights into why we resort to lying from a very early age. Our sense of self is so precarious, argues Rowe, that we will do anything to preserve it - even lie to ourselves.

She has some sharp observations to make about those in her own profession who insist on continuing to follow the practices of Freud, even though his observations and studies have been superseded by modern techniques such as brain scans, which shows us that there is no inherent `inner core' within each of us. Rather, our brain receives a mass of external information about the world around us and resolves this input into a pattern that we think of as `self'. However your `self' is nothing like my `self' because my touch, taste, hearing, vision and imagination that constitutes my sense of who I am, are quite different to your various sensory impressions. I found this first section of the book profound and absorbing as she explains just how we use lies to defend ourselves, make ourselves more likeable and bolster our own self esteem, in addition to preserving our fragile `self'. The explanations as to what impels people to lie were riveting and illuminating - I certainly recommend any student of human nature reading the book for this section, alone.

However, Rowe extends her analysis to the professions, business, religion and politics. By citing recent events, such as America and Britain's ill-planned war on Iraq under the guise of seeking weapons of mass destruction, she contends that lies have cost lives and billions of dollars. She goes on to denounce the hypocrisy of bankers and businessmen who become enmeshed in scandals like that of Enron and more recently, the selling of sub-prime mortgages that led to the financial crisis which is currently making all our lives miserably insecure. Rowe is an Australian and it shows. She doesn't pull her punches as she points the finger and wags it reprovingly at a number of well-known statesmen and financiers for their dishonesty and complete lack of guilt.

Whether you agree with her analysis or not, this book is a readable, thought provoking reflection on our society and a basic faultline in human behaviour that Rowe argues, we should all consider taking more seriously.
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on 28 July 2011
Doctor Dorothy Rowe walks the walk as she talks the talk. This is a much-needed book which blows the lid off all the greed and narrow-mindedness at the top which have taken mankind to the brink of extinction. Dorothy Rowe is arguably the cleverest human being alive and anyone who cares must read this. There is nothing in it she cannot back up. She simply operates at a higher level than anyone else. It must be lonely up there. Aged 81 and still going strongly. An amazing piece of work from an amazing person who dared to confront the system a long time ago. AND TELL THE TRUTH. Unfortunately, for anyone aged around 50, reading her books makes you extremely angry that you were not introduced to her a long time ago. Thus, I feel, the anger vented towards her at times.
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on 26 June 2010
I came to this book a mature thinker on the human condition. For those who have considered human interactions deeply,the early part of this book will not startle them but will be well known. But there are areas where lies are considered in their fullest sense, and this I feel sometimes is obscured by the authors beliefs about the perpetrators of the so-called lies. Even though I may not agree with her interpretations of their actions, it does make one consider where lying ends and belief begins. She examines lies in politics, family and western culture. I am glad I have read it and it has made me look for lies where I hadn't seen them before. Does that make my life easier? Not neccessarily, but it helps to explain some of the actions taken that make no sense.
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on 8 October 2010
There is a lot that is good in this book, but it needs a good editor. Perhaps Dorothy Rowe is now so famous - and her books so easy to sell - that the publisher feels no need to bother with quality control.

In the early pages she attempts a potted review of scientific culture: long strings of showy items with no coherent argument. OK, she knows about Einstein and Darwin, but must she waste so many pages skimming through her shallow knowledge of deep research? At one point she interrupts a pompous, highly superficial summary of the physics of time to comment on the difference between European and American conventions for setting out calendar dates! At times it reads like a script for that most accomplished of trivial show-offs, Stephen Fry.

And that outburst of mine brings me to the main point of my review. What shouts from this book is not insight or understanding, but anger. Rowe is angry with her parents, with her teachers, psychologist colleagues, and competitors. She rages against ad-men and bankers. And she is rather cross with Tony Blair, too. (But then, who isn't?)

Underneath her anger she has very interesting, even wise things to say. But she interrupts herself constantly. She can't stick to her track for more than a page or two before leaping onto one or other of her horde of angry hobby horses.

It's a shame. A good editor could have cut the length by at least 50%. That would make the book at least ten times better.
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Do you lie? Most of us would like to think we do not lie - or perhaps we only tell so-called white lies which tend to oil the social wheels. Maybe you feel it is acceptable to lie to certain people or organisations. Maybe you feel it is acceptable to say someone you love looks marvellous in those new clothes when your unvoiced opinion is actually rather less flattering. This interesting book points out the consequences of lying whether on a global scale or within your family.

I found the author's constant references to the recent world banking crisis somewhat irritating after a while and that is why I have only awarded the book four stars. It is well known that obvious risks were ignored and maybe bankers lied to themselves and to each other though I do like the author's comparison of the bankers with out of control teenagers who think they know all the answers to everything. Clearly if you tell lies on a global scale then the lies may have fatal consequences but where does sincere belief in a particular ideology end and lies begin? How can anyone possibly distinguish truth from fiction? That's not to say we should not try to distinguish the two.

I found the book very interesting when discussing the effect on children when their parents lie. Children are often told that their parents will always know what they are doing or thinking and young children are rarely able to understand that this statement is a lie. No one can possibly know what your thoughts are - even someone studying your brain by means of an MRI scanner. Even when children grow into adults they can still be adversely affected by lies told by their parents.

The book is not advocating that we should always tell the truth but reading it may cause you to question how many lies you do actually tell without even thinking about the possible consequences of such falsehoods. It is written in an easy accessible style but there are also plenty of notes to refer to for ideas about further reading and for sources of the author's statements. If you are someone who likes thinking about people's behaviour then this would be a worthwhile book to read though it may prove uncomfortable reading.
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on 13 August 2010
This is a fantastic read, I cannot recommend it enough.
It's excellently written, affecting and entertaining.
Every page made me think about something in a new way, with a fresh perspective.
It has really affected the way I now try to think around events and behaviour.
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on 24 August 2010
Unfortunately, this is a very bad book. Dorothy Rowe never identifies or resolves her own confusions regarding: lies, (self-) deceptions and delusions.
In claiming something incredible, that they genuinely believe to be true, is true, people are not lying. They may well be mistaken (free-markets work), they may be deluded (my prayers will be answered), or they may be clinically insane (Now we must move on to bomb Iran), but they are not lying.
A lie is a deliberate - and internally acknowledged - untruth. Lies are morally wrong, ethically damaging and, from a purely utilitarian calculus, usually fail to achieve their objective. Lies are dangerous and to be avoided whenever possible. But it does no good to confuse them with the whole range of errors that flesh is heir to.
The author proudly wears her heart on her left sleeve, she is often perceptive and quite often right, but C E M Joad's maxim is fatally neglected.
"Why We Lie" depends on what we mean by lying.Why We Lie: The Source of our Disasters
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on 9 May 2013
Lies may be subjective truths. But the crux of the matter may be purely relative: when does a lie cause damage? It may be by encouraging self-delusion which causes problems in our lives as private individuals. Or it may affect other people or whole societies, in which case it is obviously of far greater moment and may attract opprobrium or punishment as a deterrent. We have lying politicians, who are especially objectionable, since they deceive, then misuse the power accorded them by breaking the social contract under which they are elected (or simply the society over which they have seized power). At this level negative consequences demand condign punishment - but how often do they get away with it? Equally objectionable are the misleading or lying media forces which politicians and other corporate interest manipulate and deceive in favour of vested interests. Yet again the punishment (if any) seems to be in inverse proportion to the damage the lying inflicts. We may oppose to Rowe's question "Why we lie" the question of Pilate: "What is truth?"
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on 13 January 2014
Top rating from me; it is full of real stories from Dorothy Rowe's extensive experience and describes how we think and act and gets to the nub of why.

There are some passages that take a bit of concentration but it is well worth persevering through these as the final explanations are clear and understandable. The analysis makes sense and I would defy anyone not to recognise yourself and others in the descriptions of people and behaviour.

To me Dorothy Rowe gets to the root of why we think and act the way we do and describes this in a way that it accessible and useful. I have found it practically useful on many occasions and the understanding has helped me relax and accept people and then figure out a way of communicating to get a positive result. This is brilliant for personal and professional situations.

I would recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in understanding us as people.
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on 23 July 2014
Not yet finished yet, up to about 60% but so far so good. It has made me think about the reason why people lie. It has opened up many questions about my life and of the life of others I know. In places it gets quite scientific but you have to read though those bits, and there isn't that many. The author gives you lots of great explanations for the scientific jargon and plenty of real life stories concerning these. It is written really well, easy to read and very friendly. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to seek answers and think about their daily life re: lying. I can't wait to read to the end of the book.
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