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The Tell: The Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths about Who We Are Hardcover – November 12, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on poker's concept of the tell, a mannerism that can yield clues to an opponent's cards, and numerous behavioral studies in which he has been involved, psychologist Hertenstein has produced a study that is lively and engaging yet unremarkable in its conclusion that both environment and genes influence our decision-making. For example, he reveals that we're able to predict ways an adult might behave by looking at early tells; thus, infants that have insecure attachments to their parents are more likely than those with secure attachments to develop some form of psychopathology later. Various studies have found that facial features can be useful in predicting aggression or lying and cheating: In carefully controlled studies, men with wider faces were three times more willing to lie than slim-faced men. In dating, women choose men based on facial attractiveness, symmetry, smell, and masculinity, while men choose women who are attractive, youthful, and display signs of fertility. Despite the inconclusiveness of evolutionary psychology, Hertenstein offers much material to ponder and suggests that we embrace the power of these tools for helping us predict behavior, though he also cautions against an overly prescriptive use of these approaches, which could lead to harmful cultural stereotypes. 31 b&w figures. (Nov.)

Review

"An enjoyable read, particularly for nonspecialists; researchers who aspire to write for a popular audience can learn from the author’s confident and informative writing style.”
—CHOICE

“[W]ritten in a style that could have appeared in an article in The New York Times Magazine.... The Tell is both entertaining and fascinating, full of interesting information about human beings and their behavior.”
—PsycCRITIQUES

“Verdict: Extremely relatable to the lay reader while still accessing an incredible amount of peer-reviewed scholarship, Hertenstein's work is perhaps the most comprehensive explanation of the correlation of nonverbal communication to genetics and behavior available today. Despite its nonacademic tone, this book has much to teach any reader.”
Library Journal Review (Starred Review)

“An entertaining look at our oft-maligned intuitive capabilities, offering useful tips on how we may sharpen our powers of observation and increase the accuracy of our predictions.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Fascinating.... The Tell succeeds as an engaging tour through current work in the science of behavior by a young psychologist who has the makings of a leading contributor to his field.”
Shelf Awareness

The Tell is highly recommended.”
Style Magazine

“Entertaining...in the Malcolm Gladwell-ian tradition.”
Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life

“Those curious to learn about the powers of observation and the unconscious mind should definitely put this book on their to-read list.”
Quick Book Reviews

“Lively and engaging.... Hertenstein offers much material to ponder and suggests that we embrace the power of these tools for helping us predict behavior.”
Publishers Weekly

“The human brain, some have said, is a prediction machine. Sometimes our forecasts go awry, of course. But often our astonishing ability to predict helps us navigate our complex physical, social, and emotional environments. In this fascinating book, Matthew Hertenstein unpacks the secrets of our predictive abilities and shows how we can hone those abilities to become better judges of people and situations. The Tell is one of the year’s essential reads.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, Drive, and A Whole New Mind

“Some of the most important decisions you make in life could be improved by taking advantage of the information contained in the hidden clues that, unknown to you, surround you every day. In this lively and informative book, Matthew Hertenstein will show you how to find those clues and use them to improve your understanding of the world around you.”
—Sam Gosling, author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You

“Prepare to be amazed. Psychologist Matthew Hertenstein reveals stunning discoveries of how mere glimpses of behavior—infant reactivity, portrait smiles, physical energy, facial width and symmetry, height, nonverbal microbehaviors, and more—can foretell one’s future personality, risk of divorce, sexual orientation, longevity, income, psychopathology, lies, and success. The grand result: a science of people prediction, or (dare I say) a scientific basis for some authentic fortune telling.”
—David G. Myers, Professor of Psychology, Hope College, and author of Intuition: Its Powers and Perils
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (November 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046503165X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031658
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #496,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Matthew Hertenstein received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and is a faculty member at DePauw University. His work has been featured on the Today Show, ABC News, NPR, and in the New York Times, the Economist, and The Guardian (UK), among others. He lives in Greencastle, Indiana, with his wife, Margo, and his ever-curious son, Isaac.

www.thetellbook.com

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Todd B. Kashdan VINE VOICE on November 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This is the kind of book that is filled with the interesting, bizarre research findings that you feel compelled to share with someone. Hertenstein even uses a literary device where at the end of each chapter, he gives you the 3 best findings to share at a party.

What behaviors help in the early detection of autism in children? and which are myths? p.19
How do unhealthy parent-relationships influences the puberty development of girls? p. 36
What does a man's face tell us about their potential to be violent? p.62
How can you get better at detecting lies? p. 118
Why can 5-year old kids predict who wins an election better than your favorite political pundit? p. 164

the list goes on in terms of simple cues that can help us predict extremely important behavior. the first few chapters were the best, as Hertenstein does a masterful job describing some of the most interesting findings about early attachment relationships.

Because the writing is smooth with ample use of headings and subheadings, I was able to polish off this entire book in a 2.5 hour flight. Its a testament to good content and excellent writing.

All this being said, let me list two minor problems I had with the book.
1. excessive apologizing and caveats about research limitations. you will find apologies littered throughout the book and in Chapter 5, when the focus is on predicting sexual orientation ("gaydar"), it becomes tedious. If it is too uncomfortable to discuss "the tells of sexual orientation", you should skip the topic.
2. several of the examples in the book will be overly familiar. For example, I was surprised to find the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate dissected. This event is a mainstay in psychology books and textbooks.

It's a good book with a killer overarching theme. From the knowledge in this book, you will be a better judge of yourself and other people.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Angela Bergen on December 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fantastic read, full of knowledge that is very applicable to our everyday lives. Although written by an experienced psychologist the text is written in a very user-friendly way, achieving the goal of reaching the eyes of the general public. The reader does not need any previous literary experience with the genre, as the author inclusively presents all background information making it a standalone read.

I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be interested in what this book has to offer, since it resonates with the very same rhetorical questions we ask ourselves all the time. How can you make a good first impression? How can you tip the scales in your favor in a job interview? What does our appearance say about ourselves? What verbal and nonverbal expressions really show that a person is lying? Will you have marital success and how long is your spouse likely to live? What kind of attachment style will your child have? What predicts a good teacher or CEO?

This book answers these questions and then some. The author more than amply supports his writing with findings from prominent researchers, and summarizes them in to-the-point statements that leave you with the “Wow, really?!” reaction. The findings he shares are astonishing. You will find that your predictive intuition is, in fact, much more accurate than you thought...and for statistically-supported reasons that will certainly surprise you.

This book is a quick and enjoyable read. Having finished it, I feel more confident in my predictive abilities as well as feeling privileged to now know some “secrets” of my own tells and the tells of others.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Edward Durney VINE VOICE on April 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
On page 4 of his book, Matthew Hertenstein says that "we humans have an uncanny ability to accurately predict a variety of outcomes based on fleeting nonverbal cues." The back cover of the book outlines in more detail what those predictable things are:

----- Election results: Kids can predict the outcomes of national elections in a different country based solely on candidates' photos

----- Adult personality: With only 45 minutes of observation, one can predict whether 4-month-olds will grow up to become outgoing and bubbly or introverted and anxious

----- Corporate success: The profits of Fortune 500 companies can be predicted by nothing more than a CEO's face

----- Autism: The chances of your child developing autism can often be predicted long before he has his second birthday party

----- Divorce: Expressions in childhood and college yearbook photos foretell whether people will be married or divorced years later

Sound amazing? It did to me. Imagine if investors could learn how to determine if a company is going to be profitable by looking at the CEO's face. Before buying a company's stock, just look at CEO pictures. Then choose what stock to buy. Same with politics. If you want to know who is going to win an election, just get photos of the candidates and ask kids in another country to tell you who is going to win. Simple.

Trouble is, it's not that simple. Read the book The Tell, and you'll find no amazing secrets like those above that have been revealed by science. Instead, you'll get some personal anecdotes, some superficial studies, and some "party-worthy findings" that you can amaze people with at parties. This is not a serious book.
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