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Mindfulness (A Merloyd Lawrence Book) Paperback – January 22, 1990

93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The mindless following of routine and other automatic behaviors lead to much error, pain and a predetermined course of life, contends Langer, Harvard professor of psychology, in this thought-provoking study in which she "translates" for lay readers the findings of her research, much of it among the elderly. With anecdotes and metaphors, she explains how the mindless--as opposed to the mindful--develop mindsets of categories, associations, habits of thought born of repetition in childhood and throughout schooling. To be mindful, she notes, stressing process over outcome, allows free rein to intuition and creativity, and opens us to new information and perspectives. Langer discusses the negative impact of mindsets on business and social relations, showing special concern for the elderly, who often suffer from learned helplessness and lack of options. Encouraging the application of mindfulness to health, the author affirms that placebos and alternative, mind-based therapies can help patients and addicts move from unhealthy to healthy contexts. First serial to Health magazine; QPBC, Library of Science, Behavioral Science, Natural Science and Psychotherapy and Social Science Book Clubs selections.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Stretches our minds in startling new directions.”

— Howard Gardner

“Ellen Langer has succeeded in writing a book that, in one bite, manages to be scientifically interesting, immensely practical, and dramatically absorbing. It is about the mindsets that lead human beings—even the smartest of them—to become stupid and ‘mindless.’ Its power as drama in demonstrating that mindlessness leads not only to the banality of dullness, but to a giving up of life itself. In a series of fascinating research studies, Dr. Langer demonstrates that the young can be made more creative, the man in charge made more effective, and the elderly kept from giving in to and dying of their age.”

— Jerome Bruner, author of Actual Minds, Possible Worlds

“One simply can’t finish this book and not see the world in the same way.”

— Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School

"A provocative, engaging essay on the relation between our mindstates and our actions, by an astute and irrepressible social scientist who obviously  enjoys playing with bold ideas."

— Jerome Kagan, Harvard University

“A landmark work of social psychology.”


"Langer. . . .has shown us the power of mindfulness."

Psychology Today

"Extremely provocative. . . . This book cannot be read mindlessly."

— Robert Abelson, Yale University

Female First, 1/18/15
“Mindfulness is the book which changed it all.”

Blogging on Business (UK), 3/14/15
“More relevant now than ever before.”

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

See all Editorial Reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: A Merloyd Lawrence Book
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (January 22, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201523418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201523416
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

179 of 184 people found the following review helpful By on September 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
I purchased this wonderful book back in the 80's! I had quite a few bad habits, and really wanted to change not only my life but my attitude.Mindfulness not only enabled me to quit smoking without suffering any withdrawals, but woke me up from the sleep ofcomplacency. I began to look at the world differently. I learned to let go of destructive ideas.I learned how to slow down, and to be grateful for the moment.Over the years I have given this book to anyone seeking advice. Miss Langer writes in an easy to understand style as if she is your best friend who has just discovered some amazing insights that she is going to share with just you.I have not re-read this little gem in years, but can still remember certain paragraphs and sentences that were so true then as they are now. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to put the zest & joy of living back in their life.Even those that are truly happy will find this book riveting & a fun read.
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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Pam Golden on August 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've been listening to this book on my MP3 while I walk in the mornings and one realization so surprised me I had to run and tell my husband. Ms. Langer talks about the premature cognitive commitments we make. Which means we often make a decision about how life is and become trapped by it.

I'm 63 and, and, after listening to one particular passage in her book, I realized that I had made a decision very young that life is a burden to bear. It wasn't a complaint I had, it's just the way life was. I had no idea I even felt that way. What's odd is that most people think I'm an unbridled optimist. They see me as full of energy. One person even said to me one, "My gosh, you bring such cheer into a room with you." And it's true, I do have a lot of energy, but there has always been an undercurrent of depression. In fact, when I take those depression tests they always tell me to get help immediately because I come out so high on the depression scale. I never knew why and nothing I ever did changed it (and I've done lots of things, including writing a book on happiness.) Now I have an understanding of why that despair was always there and why nothing I did could change it.

I'm not even sure which passage woke me up to this. However, my life has changed, dramatically since that moment. I no longer look at the future as something bleak I have to put up with. I've started practicing the piano again and stopped watching television incessantly. I am in strong positive action on my projects. That pebble of despair is out of my shoe.

A quote in the book by Florida Scott-Maxwell has also given me the possibility of a passionate future -- "Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate...
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147 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Adam Khan VINE VOICE on January 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is still selling well after ten years because Langer is a first-rate researcher who can write. And not only that, the subject she chose to study is extremely valuable and important.
The book is basically about mindLESSness: What causes it, what we can do about it, and what difference it makes. If you would like to be more creative in your work, if you would like to be more alive and awake, if you would like to stay mentally young for your entire life, read this book. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I'm an expert on what is effective and what is not. Ellen Langer's work is effective and extremely important, both for you personally and for society at large. I highly recommend this book.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By JG on November 9, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You don't have to sit in meditation or try various techniques of

mindfulness to acheive mindfulness....mindfulness is always there, if you see it...her book is an amazing book that needs to be reread and is truly a psychological study whose premise needs to be advertised to those who are afraid of adopting mind sets which can make them happier human beings.

The implications can have far reaching benefits in all spheres of life..awareness of the obvious is the key to mental health.

The clarity of perception is always present if we eliminate the conditioned hindering filters that hamper one's creative energy.
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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Michael Hogan on June 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
Michael Hogan, National University of Ireland, Galway:

This review is based on my reading of all 4 of Ellen's books, which I was inspired to read after meeting Ellen in Harvard recently.

Ellen Langer is one of the most vivacious women I have ever met. Upon arriving to meet her in Harvard's William James Hall, I was actually extremely ill, but mindlessly ignoring the symptoms. The painful and yet irrelevant swelling in my right leg and the weak and feverish state that led me to sleep through a very stimulating lecture by Daniel Dennett, was in fact a serious blood infection that would later result in my hospitalization. Little did I know that my conversation with Ellen Langer would be the thing that completely transformed my hospital experience from a potentially stressful, painful nuisance into a very interesting and rewarding experience. And notwithstanding the fact that I could hardly talk, in our short walk from Ellen's office to the Harvard clinic (where Ellen was going to get a cut in her hand seen to, the cause of which she transformed into a very interesting story) we designed three experiments and I experienced firsthand, in vivo, decades of research on social and developmental psychology, and on mindfulness, creativity and decision-making.

To understand the transformative power of Ellen Langer's perspective, and to better understand her creative action, I believe it is useful to experience firsthand her version of mindfulness -- the act of noticing new things -- which is actually very easy to practice, if for no other reason than it energizes and engages us and opens us to new possibilities.
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