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Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: How to Retrain Your Brain to Overcome Pessimism and Achieve a More Positive Outlook Hardcover – June 5, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465019455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465019458
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Michael J. Fox
“Every day I send my kids out the door to school with this admonition, ‘you can choose to be happy.’  More often than not, they roll their eyes, but in Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain Elaine Fox (no relation) offers a scientific argument for my contention.  After much research, and in comprehensive, but comprehensible detail, Professor Fox provides a mental map to the sunny side of the street.  For optimists and pessimists alike, this fascinating book is a must read.”

Joseph LeDoux, author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self
“Every experience you have, from the most trivial to the most significant, alters the brain.  Elaine Fox offers scientifically based advice about how to make the most of this, how to be in charge of changing your brain for the better.”
Publishers Weekly
“Drawing on a host of studies in neurobiology and genetics, as well as evolutionary and behavioral psychology, Fox explores the struggle between the parts of the brain associated with fear and pessimism and those associated with pleasure and optimism…. Fox introduces readers to many new concepts from experimental psychology and recent research on neuroplasticity and neurogenesis…. [A] welcome, if intellectually demanding, introduction to a key area of brain research.”
Kirkus Reviews
“A psychologist looks at the influence that outlook – a tendency toward optimism or pessimism – can play in shaping the events in our lives…. An insightful addition to the self-help bookshelf.”
Library Journal
“Fox brings to this book a wealth of knowledge and experience from her many years as head of the psychology department and Center for Brain Science at the University of Essex. She explains how the latest research in the areas of genetics, neurology, and psychology intersects and how it relates to optimistic versus pessimistic attitudes toward life…. Fox’s writing style will appeal to a lay audience with scholarly interests.”

Philadelphia Inquirer
“It’s worth sticking with the hard science of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain. Fox offers persuasive arguments that ‘we are well on the way toward creating people and societies that will allow healthy minds to truly flourish.’”
New York Times
“An informative new book on the science of optimism.”

About the Author

Elaine Fox is currently a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and Director of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, where she leads a program of research combining cognitive psychology, neuroimaging, and genetics. She has been Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex and an associate editor of leading scientific journals including Emotion and Cognition & Emotion. Her work has been discussed in Nature, Science, New Scientist, The Economist, and the New York Times.  A Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science (APS), she divides her time between Wivenhoe and Oxford in England.


More About the Author

Elaine Fox, PhD is Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, where she directs the Oxford Centre for Emotions & Affective Neuroscience (OCEAN). She was awarded a prestigious ERC Advanced Investigator fellowship in 2013 to set up a large study in Oxford investigating why some people are emotionally vulnerable (to anxiety, depression, & addictions) while others are resilient. She is also a writer and speaker with a passion for engaging everyone with the science behind how our mind works. "RAINY BRAIN SUNNY BRAIN" is her first book for a general audience describing the fascinating science and stories behind why some of us are optimistic and resilient while others take a pessimistic slant on things. An earlier academic text book "EMOTION SCIENCE" was shortlisted for the 2011 BPS "Book of the Year" award. She lives in the Cotswolds near Oxford.

Customer Reviews

Very interesting and well researched.
I read the book TWICE to make sure I didn't somehow miss those parts.
Once you start reading this book you will find it difficult to stop.
Nazanin Derakhshan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Karate1kid on June 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I think that emotion regulation and rational / reasonable optimism (`a healthy and responsive rainy-brain as well as a healthy and responsive sunny-brain') are very important but, until now I haven't been able to find a serious popular book on the topic. Mostly I find magical thinking or an elaborate system of recommendations with some hand waving, and I can't understand how and why they work. Here, I finally get a theory with plenty of supporting scientific evidence to start considering it seriously.

Let me begin with a word of warning for the self-help reader. This book is for you if you are interested in the `why is it good' and `how it works' questions. This is not a `do-it-yourself optimism-cookbook'. In this book you will find descriptive definitions of emotion regulation and rational optimism and theories + empirical studies that show why it is good for you and what happens when it is not there. You will find information about experiments and therapies that induce optimism bias but there is no step by step recipe.

I liked reading about scientific theories and experiments rather than getting a pep talk with a to-do list. I liked the balanced view - that you need two healthy systems, not just blind optimism. I liked the emphasis on engagement and `doing' rather than just `thinking'. I liked the non-linear model of a feed-back loop, triggered by very small cognitive biases (positive or negative), that generates significant dispositional differences. It fits well into a thought framework of systems and complexity. So this book gets 5 stars for content.

As for execution, I'd say no more than 3 stars. Most of the time I had to do some work to follow the ideas and get them organized; otherwise, it would have been just another book with some interesting anecdotes.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Hurst on August 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I am by nature pessimistic and I was hoping to get some insights into how to change that, based on solid scientific research rather than just someone's pet theories. I have read a lot of books on psychology and subscribe to Psychology Today, so many of the concepts in this book about the structure of the brain and the neurological basis for emotions and their impact on personality were not new to me. However, I still found it mostly interesting reading about the science behind it all in more detail.

Over all though, I was disappointed in the limited recommendations to come out of this book towards becoming more optimistic. This was confined to one short, final chapter and didn't really tell me anything new - meditate, practise focussing on the positive things, use mindfulness. There was a description of some psychological interventions which entailed subconscious brain retraining using responses to images, but no information was provided as to how to gain access to that type of therapy. This method has apparently been used successfully to treat PTSD sufferers, and the book suggested that it could be readily delivered via the Internet, but it seems this may not be available to the general public as yet.

The book read as though its intention was to explain the science to an average, well adjusted reader, rather than to someone specifically seeking help for pessimistic thinking. There are a number of short self evaluative tests in the book (the marking of which could have been better explained), and it is clear that the author thinks it just as likely that the reader will have an optimistic result as a pessimistic one.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TeeZee on March 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a science book written by a scientist. This is not a how to book. If you are interested in the science of how minds created optimism and negativity and have no interest in learning what to do about it, then this is an ok read. There are much better books on brain science, such as The Brain That Changes Itself. The author doesn't talk about much that I haven't seen elsewhere. The discussion of CBM is interesting, but light. The part about the woman who had her amygdala removed is interesting, but hardly helpful to the reader who isn't interested in radical surgeries.

The writing style is average. Not particularly engaging, and occasionally too complicated to follow.

I got this book based on the claim on the cover that it would provide tools, and it did not. The author was obviously overruled by the publishers marketing department.

If you are looking for tools to retrain your brain, look elsewhere.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Liora on November 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is "more of the same" reporting on all the studies that have been done about neuroplasticity or optimism. There are at least a dozen books out there that have already covered this material. Fox describes the differences between optimists and pessimists but other than generalized references to cognitive brain training or mindfulness techniques, there's nothing really useful here to identify how to retrain your brain.

And I'm with the other reviewer. The audiobook's narration is annoying.

The PR people who titled the book were right on target. A book that actually does what this title promises would be a great book. But that's not the book Fox actually wrote.
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