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Why We Lie: The Source of our Disasters Paperback – 3 Feb 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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£9.98 FREE Delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books. Only 2 left in stock. Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

  • Why We Lie: The Source of our Disasters
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  • What Should I Believe?: Why Our Beliefs about the Nature of Death and the Purpose of Life Dominate Our Lives
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (3 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007357974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007357970
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 530,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dorothy Rowe is a clinical psychologist and writer who is renowned for her work on how we create meaning, and how the meanings we create determine what we do. Her application of this understanding to the problems of depression and of fear has changed many people's lives for the better, and has caused many mental health professionals to think more carefully about how they deal with people who are suffering great mental distress. She writes regularly for newspapers and magazines, appears frequently in the media, and is the author of over 15 books, the most popular of which are Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison which is in its third edition, and Beyond Fear which is in its second edition. Her latest book My Dearest Enemy, My Dangerous Friend is a radical examination of what is often the most important relationships in our lives, our relationships with our siblings, was published by Routledge in April 2007. What Should I Believe?, considers why our beliefs about the nature of death and the purpose of life dominate our lives, and was published by Routledge in October 2008. Her latest book, Why We Lie, was published by HarperCollins in 2010.

Dorothy was born Dorothy Conn in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, in 1930. She was educated at Newcastle Girls' High and Sydney University where she obtained a degree in psychology and a Diploma of Education. She taught for three years, married in 1956 and her son Edward was born in 1957. She returned to teaching when he was two but was offered the opportunity to train as a school counsellor (educational psychologist) and went on to become Specialist for Emotionally Disturbed Children. At the same time she completed her Diploma in Clinical Psychology. In 1965 her marriage came to an end, and in 1968 she and Edward went to England. She accepted a National Health Service post at Whiteley Wood Clinic, Sheffield, which was the clinic attached to Sheffield University Department of Psychiatry where Alec Jenner, already well known for his work on the biological basis of mood change, had recently taken up his post as Professor of Psychiatry. This began Dorothy's close scrutiny of the research into the biological basis of mental disorder. She became an Associate of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and is now Emeritus Associate of the Royal College.

Alec Jenner suggested to Dorothy that her research PhD topic should be 'Psychological aspects of regular mood change'. Quite serendipitously, the psychologist Don Bannister was busy introducing British psychologists to the work of George Kelly and Personal Construct Theory. Dorothy discovered that she had always been a personal construct psychologist without knowing it. Kelly had developed a technique called repertory grids which enabled the researcher to examine the meanings which an individual had created around a particular subject or situation. Patrick Slater, a psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, provided invaluable help to Dorothy in her research by his development of computer software which analysed grids.

In 1971 Dorothy completed her PhD, and in 1972 she went to Lincolnshire to set up and head the Lincolnshire Department of Clinical Psychology. Dorothy obtained a research grant which enabled her to continue her research. This research became the basis of her first book The Experience of Depression, now called Choosing Not Losing. Her second book The Construction of Life and Death (The Courage to Live) was published in 1982. A chance discussion with the manager of a health food shop led to her third book, Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison, now in its third edition. This book won the Mind Book of the Year Award in 1984. More books followed.

In 1986 Dorothy left the National Health Service to become self-employed. She moved to Sheffield where she lived for nine years. In 1995 she moved to London where she still lives. She writes regularly for Openmind, and intermittently for other publications. She is frequently interviewed on radio and television, and she has a great many conversations with journalists who phone her for advice and information.

Product Description


‘Rowe asks why we tell lies and puts the answer down to a mixture of vanity and terror.…all pretty toxic, as far as personal relationships are concerned, but Rowe goes further: our failure to tell the truth is behind all manner of ills, from the current economic crisis to global warming…scary stuff, but Rowe is so wise that you begin to think it might be possible to change’ Guardian

'Rowe has a clear, easy style…[she] is accurate in her perceptions, and persuasive in her presentation of them…she paints a nuanced picture of why lying is always dangerous, and why we should cultivate an attitude of considered scepticism' TLS

'Her analysis is gripping, astute and incisive…parts of this book are hilarious' FT

‘[A] seer… with qualities that place her between sainthood and genius’ Fay Weldon

About the Author

Dorothy Rowe was born in Australia in 1930, and worked as a teacher and child psychologist before coming to England, where she obtained her PhD at Sheffield University. From 1972 until 1986 she was head of Clinical Psychology. She is now engaged in writing, lecturing and research, and is world-renowned for her work on how we communicate and why we suffer. Her books include ‘‘Wanting Everything’, ‘‘Beyond Fear’ and ‘‘Time On Our Side’.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Mar. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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