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on September 11, 2011
This is not really a book on what I consider "psychological" change but rather a book on "social" change. The difference being change yourself or change society. I thought this would be a book on personal change. Not so. I found the subtitle somewhat deceiving, "The surprising new science of psychological change". I should be, "The surprising new science of social change". I bought the book when it just came out, before you were able to look "inside" the book on Amazon. If I had seen the chapter headings I would not have bought it; Reducing Prejudice, Reducing Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Reducing Teenage Violence, Preventing Teenage Pregnancies, etc. All worthy subjects but not subjects that directly apply to changing yourself. The only personal use from this book that I found was in the first chapter, which is also the title of the book, "Redirect". In it Wilson talks about "story editing" (tell yourself a different story), "story prompting" (someone else tells you a different story) and "do good be good" (acting like the change before the change occurs). This didn't seem very new and what I've pretty much found in other self help books, reprogram the beliefs in your mind, and "be within when you're without", "act the part before you can be the part" in other words, act like what you want to become and that's what you will become.

This review is not totally fair. Although it's not the book I thought it would be, if you approach it knowing it's directed at social change, then it's worth reading. The strong suite of the book is the research documentation. You also have to credit Wilson with standing up for the research that says popular programs such as D.A.R.E (drug program in schools) and CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) and some other such methods and programs don't work, then telling you what research has shown does work. Another strong point of the book is that at the end of each chapter he has a section called "Using It" where he tells you how you can use the information that was presented in the chapter.

If you want to change others or the world, this book may be for you. If you want to change yourself, look elsewhere.
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VINE VOICEon August 30, 2011
In "Redirect," Timothy Wilson focuses on psychological strategies of changing one's way of viewing life and re-directing their thought processes to become more optimistic. Popular strategies that Wilson uses in his book include story-editing (which is refocusing one's view on a particular problem: e.g. the student who attributes his failed test to being stupid, versus a student who attributes his failed test to not enough studying--as a basic example of this premise), using writing as a way of coming to terms with a problem, and much more.

Besides discussing the actual strategies, Wilson devotes many chapters to problems where they may be well utilized. Chapters cover a slew of social problems such as underage violence, teen pregnancies, racial discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, becoming better parents, and closing the achievement gap between students. While the initial portion of the book focuses on increasing one's personal well-being, the majority of the book is focused on addressing these popular problems by implementing Wilson's strategies.

Overall, I found Wilson's book to be an interesting and useful guide to re-framing one's way of viewing the world. An important thought that Wilson mentions in his book is that positive thoughts alone don't mean anything--it is positive behavior that ultimately makes the changes. However, positive behavior is unlikely to come about without positive thoughts. And re-framing one's way at looking at things, is the only way that positive thoughts can come about. I found the book to be both helpful and informational.
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on September 25, 2011
This is a very challenging book to review: after all, it's written by a prominent university professor, endorsed by many other professors, and given superlative reviews here at, where (inexplicably) it is described as a extraordinary masterpiece capable of personal transformation of the reader. Moreover, one of the recurring messages of the book is that the author wields the power of scientific study, with the implication that the rest of us are unqualified to disagree since we're incapable of conducting randomized studies of our own from the comfort of our living rooms. Therefore, I go out on a limb a bit with this negative review, so I ask for some indulgence from the reader as I proceed.

Perhaps it is not entirely Timothy Wilson's fault that his book has been hideously misrepresented and grossly overhyped in the review,but the same unjustified and fulsome paean of praise appears on the back and inside covers of the book itself, and that's the reason I bought and read the book, but the bottom line is that this is an abysmal book for anyone looking for guidance as to personal change, although it serves well as a readable, though incomplete, social psychology textbook. In short, many readers such as myself have been "misdirected" into buying copies of "Redirect." Here's why.

Most psychotherapists practice the techniques of "cognitive therapy" (sometimes referred to as "cognitive-behavioral therapy"), a method of counseling intended to reduce or "reframe" the patient's negative, crippling, disempowering views of themselves and their worlds. You need to be a licensed mental health professional to practice cognitive therapy. Academics and social scientists who are not licensed cannot practice therapy, but the author here describes the same methods as cognitive therapy under the label "story editing" (alternatively at times "story prompting"). "Story editing" is not really very different from "cognitive therapy" as the author himself acknowledges on page 13 of the book; rather it is the non-clinical equivalent of cognitive therapy for those not licensed to practice therapy. Thus, the reader interested in personal change is better off 'redirected' to books about cognitive therapy. Read this book only if you want to read about how to address societal ills such as teen pregnancy, campus drinking, social prejudice, and how to deter at-risk youths from delinquency. Most of the book is about these social problems, and very little is about personal change and transformation. If you bought this book based on the lavish reviews looking for personal insight, you probably felt, as I did, ripped off once you got into the meat of it and realized you were reading hundreds of pages of studies of the efficacy of social intervention programs.

After an introductory chapter, there is a chapter describing the experimental method to lay persons. This chapter on scientific methodology will be irrelevant to individuals already trained in science, and rather tedious to untrained individuals. This chapter is also problematic in that it conveys the message that only those who conduct randomized scientific studies may judge which programs are worthwhile and which are not. I won't take a position arguing against scientific inquiry, but I do note that from this point on, Wilson has established himself as the authority on how to cure society's ills and anyone who dares to disagree is implicitly labeled as speaking from bias or ignorance. After this tedious chapter, there are the following chapters, with the author's primary recommendations, for anyone interested in pursing the details in the book itself:

Achieving personal happiness: Wilson recommends that you find personal meaning in your life (p.49) and that you make a lot of friends in order to build strong social connections (p.51). Of course, neither of these recommendations are original.

Raising healthy kids: the author recommends that you: don't label your kids, don't spoil them with material things, and be sure to praise them when they make an effort at things (p.102).

The problem of teen pregnancy: encourage community service work because girls who get involved in volunteer work feel better about themselves and don't need to get pregnant to feel that way (p.131).

Campus alcohol abuse: college kids drink primarily because they overestimate how much other kids drink, which gives them encouragement and permission to drink more themselves (p.168).

Juvenile delinquency: keep at-risk kids away from other at-risk kids (p.153).

Social and racial prejudice: treat all people as equals (p.199) and include minorities in photo shoots for company newsletters (p.233).

In sum, what is interesting in this book is not new, and re-labeling cognitive therapy as "story editing" does not in any sense make a unique or valuable contribution to the clinical psychology or self-help literature. The reviews and hype implying that this book is a valuable contribution toward achieving personal insight and growth are, in my opinion, misleading. Those looking for the latter might consider instead Martin Seligman's "Learned Optimism" or "Authentic Happiness", or Michigan State University's Gershen Kaufman's books on building self-esteem and 'personal power.' I am sure I will be unceremoniously castigated for disagreeing with academia but these are my views and I'm sticking with them!
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"Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By" builds off the Authors previous work: "Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change. " The basic idea is to improve your life by "story editing". As Wilson says: "We all have personal stories about who we are and what the world is like. These stories aren't necessarily conscious, but they are the narratives by which we live our lives. Many of us have healthy, optimistic stories that serve us well. But sometimes, people develop pessimistic stories and get caught in self-defeating thinking cycles, whereby they assume the worst and, as a result, cope poorly. The question then becomes how to help people revise their negative stories."

This is an interesting, even novel idea of how to generate happiness and contentment in your everyday life. But not only your life, the author goes on about how helpful this technique can be for parents: ".... how parents can use story-editing techniques to do this well. For example, parents should use “minimally sufficient” rewards and punishments—ones that are strong enough to shape their kids’ behaviors but not so strong that the kids attribute their behavior to the rewards and punishments."

Somewhat controversial, but extremely interesting and very readable. Full of fascinating insights.

Timothy D. Wilson PhD. is the Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology at U.Va. He has done "Strangers to Ourselves" and co-authored an introductory textbook on social psychology.
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on January 27, 2015
The title of this book suggests that it is a prescriptive book written to help individuals change their lives. That's what got me to buy. In fact, it is not that - it is largely a descriptive book written at the policy level.

The book is very well-written, full of insights and anecdotes (many of them rehashed from a dozen previous books in this genre). If you have nothing else to do and are interested in an overview from social science, this is great. If you're not already aware of persistent racism in the US, this book will set you straight. But if you're looking for a "how to" - this book does contain some specific advice, but that's far from its main focus.

More actionable books in a similar genre are The How of Happiness and Mindset.
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VINE VOICEon August 29, 2011
Program after program purport to solve problems. Teen pregnancy, drug use, sexual activity. When they are put to the test they almost always fail. Why? No one bothers to test to see what will work prior to the installation of the program on a wide scale use.

D.A.R.E. seems to be representative of these kinds of programs. Nationwide (worldwide!) implementation of a program where police officers go into the classroom and encourage kids to not use drugs through various strategies which included my daughter and son getting to wear a pair of "cool drunk goggles." Wonderful.

Is there any chance such massive wastes of money and programs that either have zero effect or a deadly negative effect will change in the face of scientific evidence?

We'll see.

Timothy Wilson has written a book that should be read by every parent, everyone in management....maybe just everyone.

Excellence in "Self Help" books is a rare feat. And Wilson would likely prefer not to have the Self Help label on his book, but the fact is that the individual reading this book *will* learn tools for helping themselves and their families live better lives.

Wilson has put together a vast amount of research, including original work, that teases out what works and what doesn't in causing personal change in many areas.

One example would be helping a community to reduce child abuse using an application of "story editing."

Story editing allows the individual to reframe their past experiences or to frame their future experiences. The difference between the approaches presented here and similar approaches both driven by scientific method and those put together on clinical work is that Wilson has set out to draw out those factors that cause change to occur.

The story editing strategy is clearly presented in a way that allows anyone to take advantage.

I suspect that story editing will grab hold by many. For this to happen, it will need to hit the popular psychology and business/professional crowd to help bring the approach mainstream. Otherwise it will sit at the University only to have missed it's greatest potential, that of helping people be better parents and better humans, beginning at an early age.

The book is brilliant, completely readable, enjoyable and one to pass on. I bought two copies knowing that Wilson (Strangers Unto Ourselves) is a dedicated
professional who has given his field many valuable insights that could change the world. It will change your world.

Kevin Hogan, author of
The 168 Hour Week: Living Life Your Way 24-7
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on May 20, 2012
"Just say no" made kids more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Tough love programs increase criminal activity among participants. And one of the worst things you can do for disaster survivors is have them talk about their feelings immediately after the incident.

Tim Wilson introduces these counterintuitive research findings and ties them together with his useful and powerful theory called story-editing. Parents can use story-editing to raise healthy and ethical children. Teachers can use story-editing to get their students to study harder. And psychologists can use story-editing to help trauma victims recover.

Wilson's premise is that we view our world through narratives, "narratives we construct about ourselves and the social world." We can improve our thinking by altering negative narratives. "Small changes in people's narratives," Wilson writes, "can have a lasting impact on their behavior." Wilson distinguishes his approach from self-help positive thinking advanced by Rhonda Byrne. Story-editing, unlike The Secret, has a robust scientific basis.

Wilson organizes the book into applications of theory. Here is a quick, overly simplified overview of some of the applications.

Parenting children: Label kids as helpful to encourage them to focus on others. When they mess up, label their feelings as guilt. Give them latitude to make their own decisions. "The idea is to gently guide one's kids in the right direction while giving them the sense that they are making the choices themselves," Wilson writes. And don't use incentives that are overly powerful because your children will not develop internal motivation.

Teaching teenagers: Get teenagers to engage in regular volunteer work. This gets to change their narrative from alienation to belonging.

Trauma victims: Use the Pennebaker writing technique in which, after waiting some time after the event to gain some distance, write about the event for 15 minutes on each of four consecutive days. Wilson says, "this is a simple yet powerful way of making sense of confusing, upsetting episodes in our lives, giving us some closure and allowing us to move on." The key to this approach, Wilson says, is to achieve a detachment and distance from the event first and then write in order to interpret it differently.

Anyone looking for a happiness boost: Use a twist on the gratitude journal by using the "George Bailey technique." Write about something you are grateful for by writing about all the ways the good thing might not have occured. Or try the "best possible self" exercise, in which you write about the best possible outcome for your future life.

Wilson also includes extended discussions of how story-editing can reduce college alcohol use, encourage cross-racial relations, and lessen the achievement gap. Wilson's approach makes intuitive sense, and it is backed up by dozens of research studies. According to Wilson, anyone can use this approach to raise happier children, teach students more effectively, and live a happier life. Plus, it helps us understand why previous strategies--like D.A.R.E. and post-trauma debriefing--did more harm than good.
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on April 8, 2012
I read this book before diving into "Strangers To Ourselves," another amazing book written by Timothy Wilson. I would highly recommend reading both, as Redirect, though it certainly isn't a "sequel," does make much more sense when read with "Strangers to Ourselves" in mind. Timothy's thesis is that we are ultimately unconscious of most of what goes on in our minds, and there's not really a lot we can do about that. Our circuitry, from the nervous system to our gut feeling, is much faster and stronger than what we can consciously think. Therefore, when it comes to our core narratives that guide our lives, we need a "Redirect," or a way to observe what's going on in our unconscious and work with it to yield better results.

That's where the journaling exercises come in. These are priceless, and easy too! He offers several that have been proven to help restructure the core narratives we get in a healthy way. This book is an easy read, and has a lot of charm, especially when it comes to what little we can expect from programs that have not been proven to work. He goes at DARE, Scared Straight, and the self-help genre in a way that is serious yet light-hearted. I highly recommend this book to help you navigate the pitfalls of self-improvement!
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on May 10, 2015
This book seems to have been misread or misunderstood by other reviewers. It certainly does offer plenty by way of insight into how an individual can change their personal narrative for lasting change and understanding. What it does not do is offer band aids or do the heavy lifting of the actual work described. It's easy to take pot-shots at this book, claiming it is not for the individual, if one is not inclined to do the work necessary to integrate the content into one's life. It's no substitute for therapy, but to claim that it's not relevant, helpful, or even profound, belies a significant lack of willingness to actually engage with the content and intellectual laziness bordering on dishonesty.
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on April 3, 2012
I found `Redirect' to be really intriguing. Others have stated that this book really isn't about personal change and more about social change. I would agree to a point in that the latter half of the book does delve more into social psychology, yet the few things that the author does recommend for personal change I think are powerful tools, such as the information on a specific type of journaling, and I probably wouldn't have run across them without them being mentioned. Also, the social psychology section I think is powerful in that it does show that people's intuitions on how certain acts or programs that will affect others need to be widely tested before any of it is accepted as valid and implemented widely. In many cases the programs that were put together for positive reasons and intentions turned out to have a negative overall impact. Overall a very thought provoking book and one that I would recommend to anyone interested in personal and social change.
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