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Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press; 1 edition (October 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594630836
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594630835
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mary Ellen O'Toole, PhD, retired from the FBI in 2009. She lectures at the Smithsonian, and frequently speaks all over the world.
Alisa Bowman is the coauthor of six New York Times best- sellers.
Visit dangerousinstincts.com.

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Customer Reviews

I will make sure my own daughter reads this book.
Brette Sember
The bottom line is that we are never 100% sure of anybody and adults who ought to know better will still make errors in judgment.
Karen A. Duncan
Thank you Mary Ellen O'Toole for opening my eyes to my own dangerous instincts.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Mike on October 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is really eye-opening. It's only a 1 in 8 million chance that a serial killer will come to your door, but clearly the chance you will meet, date, or work with a criminal or dangerous person is much higher than that. I don't really worry about being hacked into pieces or locked in a basement dungeon, but I think we all know someone who has been attacked, swindled, physically or emotionally abused, etc. because they or someone else didn't see the warning signs.

I've certainly let strangers in my house on the basis of a uniform or a friendly voice, and I usually put a lot of trust in my first impression when meeting someone. But this book shows you a lot of simple things you can do that will give you insight into what's really going on. I'm pretty easy-going and certainly won't use all the advice the authors give, but there's a lot of useful stuff in there. And just in case Ted Bundy shows up at my door, I'm a little more prepared!
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Brette Sember on November 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is eye-opening. Many of things that we rely on to make decisions about other people are completely flawed. In short, our instincts are often wrong. It's frightening once you realize how "off" they really are. O'Toole offers a complete guide to changing how you think, evaluate others, and make everyday decisions which could have potentially devastating consequences. She provides excellent tips for how to evaluate people, interview people (such as for a job as a nanny or babysitter, or even as a painter), and how to read them. The 'rules' we have been taught to follow are often wrong and can often lead us into danger, and O'Toole points out all of the ways we open ourselves to danger.

I really appreciate the advice in this book, which helps you get inside your own decision-making process and retool it so that it will protect you and your family. This is also just a great read if you ever wondered about serial killers and psycopaths. O'Toole is an expert and offers fascinating vignettes about the criminals she personally worked with, as well as cases she worked on involving missing children. Be sure to read the section that compares how TV profilers do things versus how REAL profilers do things. It's revealing!

Some reviews have focused on the serial killer aspect. O'Toole is not telling us how to avoid serial killers (which are rare), but instead how to spot anyone who poses potential danger - especially things like theft, assault, breaking and entering, and other common crimes. In short, this is a primer for learning to be a better evaluator of others.

This is an important book for everyone to read, but I also think it ought to be required reading for young people heading off to college or to their own apartments. I will make sure my own daughter reads this book.
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68 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on December 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm about halfway through this book right now, and while I find it fairly enjoyable to read, I have some criticisms of it.

The following are my criticisms:
1. The author's writing style is simplistic, as though the book's content were dumbed down for the reader.
2. A lot of what the author writes about is common sense. For example, she suggests that those who own a handgun participate in target practice and learn how to use the weapon safely, which should be completely obvious to those who are considering owning this type of weapon.
3. The author makes herself sound a bit pompous by repeating her FBI-related accomplishments several times. Yes, we understand that she's a retired FBI behavior analyst who has participated in several high-profile investigations, and no, we don't need her to mention that over and over again.
4. I spotted a couple of typographical errors in the book, which isn't a huge deal, but bothers me nonetheless.

What I like about this book:
1. I have learned some interesting facts from the book. For instance, I learned the definition of "psychopath," and the difference between the terms "psychopath" and "sociopath." One might find me naive for not initially knowing what the definitions mean, but I don't have a strong educational background in psychology or criminal justice, so I'm glad the author chose to share some of her expertise in these subject matters.
2. Although I consider myself a fairly rational, level-headed person who's adept at making major decisions, it doesn't hurt to be reminded of factors that should go into my decision-making process, such as whether a particular situation poses a "high," "medium," or "low" risk.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra Grabbe on November 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
If you are curious about whether crime shows on television are accurate in their portrayal of FBI profilers and why you should not rely on gut feelings, get yourself a copy of Dangerous Instincts. The author, a retired profiler, shares tips on how to stay safe and mitigate risk. I run an inn on Cape Cod. I picked up Dangerous Instincts thinking the book might provide insight on ways to scope out strangers, in this case, our guests. We receive people we don't know all the time. They knock at the door. I open it and welcome them inside. What we have in common is a prior engagement, an appointment, a set meeting. But I have already decided from earlier contact, often an exchange of several emails, whether a person is someone I want in my house or not. Yes, I choose them based on gut feelings. There is no other way to do it. While psychopaths could visit the inn, usually there are people here, like my husband, which does not present the ideal scenario for any serious wrongdoing. Still, as I was reading, it occurred to me that my younger self could have really used this book. I have not met any psychopaths, but at least one pathological liar did cross my path and influence my life. My elder daughter would have been made better choices of men to date if she had read Dangerous Instincts. I'm going to get a copy for my daughter-in-law, who is always worrying about sex offenders in her neighborhood. She will love the Resource List. I found the chapter about interviews particularly worthwhile and came away knowing to pay attention to what is not said. This book provides no-nonsense advice on how to stay safe in life. I came away with a better understanding of the behavior of both strangers and intimates.
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