Top positive review
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An intriguing book
on 15 July 2013
"IMPULSE" by David Lewis (Random House, 2013)
This is an intriguing book. Basically its aim is to explain why so many of our actions are driven by unconscious impulse, so that we are often completely unaware of the reason for our behaviour. In the past a book with this kind of remit would have merely trotted out some rather tired version of Freudian theory, but David Lewis takes a commendably scientific approach. In fact his book is almost entirely based on research studies, including recent work on mirror neurons, frontal lobe function, and subliminal perception. And all of this is tied together with research findings about impulsive behaviour in real-life, such as impulsive purchases, overeating, and sexual responses.
As I spent my entire career working as an academic psychologist, I was already familiar with many of these research studies. However, because they are drawn from such disparate areas of psychology and neuropsychology, I have never seen them all in one place before. These are areas of study which have never really met up with one another until now, but David Lewis has succeeded in drawing together these apparently separate areas of research and finding the underlying principles and mechanisms which connect them. The result is something greater than the sum of its parts, and I do think that even seasoned academics and researchers can learn something useful from this thoughtful act of integration. But this book is also highly accessible to non-psychologists, who I assume will make up its main audience. Everything is explained in a clear and highly engaging manner, so that any reasonably intelligent person will easily be able to follow the arguments and the evidence. This book is a fascinating read and would be a good choice for reading on the beach this summer. But although it is a fun book I think there is a strong possibility that the reader will end up learning something new about other people and even about themselves.