National Geographic Mind: A Scientific Guide to Who You Are, How You Got That Way, and How to Make the Most of It



Book: National Geographic Mind: A Scientific Guide to Who You Are, How You Got That Way, and How to Make the Most of It

Author: Patricia Daniels

Cover Designer: Elisa Gibson

Publisher: National Geographic Society, 2016

ISBN-13: 9781426216732 New

ISBN-10: 1426216734 New

ISBN-13: 9781426216725 Old

ISBN-10: 1426216726 Old

Related website: (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Older teens and adults

Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Daniels, Patricia.  National Geographic Mind: A Scientific Guide to Who You Are, How You Got That Way, and How to Make the Most of It (published in 2015 by the National Geographic Society, 1145 17th St., Washington, DC  20036). This book was given to us; otherwise, I would never have had any occasion or desire to read it.  Psychology just isn’t within my realm of interests.  I might have understood and appreciated it more if I were a psychologist, but it mostly seemed to me as if it were filled with a bunch of psychobabble gobblety-gook.  First, there is a lot, and I mean A LOT, of emphasis on evolution, with references to millions of years.  The first chapter opens with a discussion of Darwin’s theory of biological evolution and quickly moves on to Freud’s theories of psychological evolution.  In fact, nearly every subject is treated “from an evolutionary perspective.”  This should not be surprising given the fact that the National Geographic Society has become one of the primary proponents of evolutionary theory as “scientific truth” in our modern popular culture.

As one might imagine, a great deal is said about sex, including an experiment in which researchers approached people of the opposite sex on a college campus and asked, “Would you go to bed with me tonight?”   In a set of questions about what bothers people, one scenario has a man buying a dead chicken, having sex with it, then cooking and eating it.  And it is noted that “Creative people, especially those in the arts, report more sexual partners than their less creative counterparts,” almost as if this were a good thing, or at least not necessarily a bad thing.  Other features objectionable to me include the  statement that the vast majority of psychologists today reject the duality of a mind and body distinction, references encouraging the moderate use of alcohol, and a rather negative portrayal of conservative religious beliefs (“Spiritual beliefs are most beneficial when they are broad and flexible…”).  And for me, the pages are just way too busy, making it hard to follow the flow of the text.

The introduction says, “This book will give you a look at some surprising new findings about why you act the way you do….With these insights, you can start down the road to a more satisfying, fulfilling life.”  Really?  It is impossible to have a more satisfying, fulfilling life without reading and accepting all the assumptions in this book?  This is not to say the book is all bad.  Many people might find a good deal of interesting information in it.  In fact, having had some family history of psychological therapy in my youth, it was fascinating to read that a couple of “old style therapies,” retrieval of repressed memories and interpretation of dreams, are no longer considered valid.  Perhaps in the future, the same will be said for many of the theories that are promoted in the book.  Trying to find information on National Geographic Mind was like pulling hen’s teeth.  It is not listed on National Geographic’s website.  Amazon says that is to be published in the spring of 2016.  However, I have a copy in hand that was published in 2015, and I saw a copy for sale on E-bay.  Perhaps the first edition has been pulled and there is to be a second edition.

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