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The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure Hardcover – October 16, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1250001672 ISBN-10: 9781250001672

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781250001672
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250001672
  • ASIN: 1250001676
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A book that will help you understand what makes winners, and what paths to avoid when you get power.” —

"Fascinating."—The Sunday Times (UK)

"Compelling stories combine with cutting-edge science to show why coming first is not the same as being a real winner -- engrossing."—Oliver James, author of They F*** You Up

“Like a masterful detective, Dr. Robertson provides a captivating and insightful journey into understanding the mystery of the effects of power on human behavior and thinking.”—Mike Hawkins, award-winning author of Activating Your Ambition: A Guide to Coaching the Best Out of Yourself and Others

“He tells a compelling, vivid and instructive story of how we are empowered and how we are disempowered and how we succeed and how we fail. I really enjoyed it -- it is a must read.” —Raymond Tallis, author of Aping Mankind

“A fascinating topic dealt with in a fascinating way. … I love the book.”—Matt Cooper, author of How Ireland Really Went Bust

“What does it take to be a winner; to be successful and achieve at an optimal level? Professor Robertson has masterfully synthesized cutting edge social, cognitive, and developmental psychology, as well as neuroscience with fascinating stories of notable people in the public eye to answer this question. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written by an international scholar, once you begin reading this book it will be difficult to put down.  Whatever your profession, this remarkable book will most assuredly resonate with you.”—John B. Arden, PhD, author of Rewire Your Brain

"Utterly fascinating." —Publishers Weekly

About the Author

“Ian Robertson is a rare combination: a cutting edge neuroscientist whose important research is done in great depth and with careful detail, who also has the ability  to step back, take risks, and explore the big picture, with a vivid, clear, engaging style, and enviable energy.” —Norman Doidge, author of the New York Times bestseller The Brain that Changes Itself

A neuroscientist and trained clinical psychologist, Ian Robertson is an international expert on neuropsychology. Currently Professor of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, and formerly Fellow of Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge, he holds visiting professorships at University College London and Bangor University in the United Kingdom, and is a visiting scientist at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, Canada. He is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and has published over 250 scientific articles in leading journals. He is also author and editor of ten scientific books, including the leading international textbook on cognitive rehabilitation, and three books for the general reader including Mind Sculpture: Your Brain’s Untapped Potential. He is a regular keynote speaker at conferences on brain function throughout the world. He lives in Dublin, Ireland.

Learn more at

More About the Author

Ian Robertson: YouTube 2 minute video

Ian Robertson (born 1951) taught mathematics in Fiji before training as a clinical psychologist in London and specializing in neuropsychology. A leading international researcher, he has written widely about how our brains are changed by experience, and his popular books Mind Sculpture and Opening the Mind's Eye brought his scientific research to a wide audience.

Recently Visiting Professor at Columbia University New York, his latest book - The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure - was published in New York by St Martin's Press in October 2012. In this he shows how winning and losing shape our minds and brains more fundamentally than any drug and how our destinies depends on how we respond to success and failure.

Short Films from USA Doctors' Channel about the Winner Effect

Chemistry of the winner effect (2 mins approx)

Can Money Be Addictive Like Cocaine (2 mins approx)

Four steps to unleashing the winner effect (2 mins approx)

CBS Superbowl Sunday Morning Show interviews Ian Robertson on Winning

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By TREX on October 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is basically about the psychological phenomena surrounding power : the drives common in those who seek it; the biochemical effects - as observed via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) - of having and exercising power on various parts of the brains of its holders; changes in the the external behaviour of people with power and without it; factors affecting one's drive for power; and, principally, the need to have restrictions of those who exercise power.

This book has very interesting first and last chapters.
The first deals with something many of us have experienced - the burden of expectation. Using examples of both celebrities and friends/patients from the author's own experience, the destructiveness of overhigh expectation for children of famous people is explored. One thing sadly missing in this chapter is the final part of the story of Robertson's young patient, "Tony", whose "under-achieving" was revealed to be no more than a false expectation of inherited ability by his high-achieving parents. The author could (and really should) have checked to see if his proscribed therapy for "Tony" really brought about the desired effect.

But the other chapters all drag a little - perhaps none more so than the one where he uses Tony Blair as an example of how people in power become so addicted to it that they lose the trust and support of some vital friends : in his case, Bill Clinton.
Any book that uses celebrity examples runs the risk of losing both the reader's empathy and agreement despite the quality of the arguments offered : celebrities are really not living like the rest of us. This is the case in this chapter, and indeed also in parts of other chapters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. It has a somewhat quirky approach that can be seen in the chapter titles:

The Mystery of Picasso's Son - Are we born to win?
The Puzzle of the Changeling Fish - Is winning a matter of chance and circumstance?
The Enigma of Bill Clinton's Friend - What does power do to us?
The Mystery of the Oscars - Why do we want to win?
The Riddle of the Flying CEOs - Does winning have a downside?
The Winning Mind

According the the author, Ian H. Robertson, the winner effect is a label for a biological phenomena in which someone who has has success (is a "winner") is more likely to have more success. This isn't just due to learning how to win, but is actually a result of hormonal and chemical changes in the brain.

So people who win a game, a sport, a battle, or in business undergo changes that lead to more winning. The winners are more likely to win again - the rich just get richer. Robertson uses many examples from real life to describe the conditions and causes of this effect. In doing so the reader will learn what makes some people winners and how you can use this knowledge to both understand others better and harness the winner effect in your own life. Robertson also sounds a warning about the addictive nature of winning and how when it "goes to the head" can lead to problems.

This is a content dense book but written in a way that makes a very enjoyable read.

I read a lot of books on human behavior and the brain and if you enjoy those topics you will love this one.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ozgur bolat on January 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Every now and then comes a book that changes all your perspective on life. This book has everything i look for in a book.
It has a strong argument. It is backed with solid science. Prof. Robertson is not only a great scientist, but also a great story teller. If you are interested in power, leadership and influence, this book is for you. I also learnt how to be happy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 16, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really well written and thought out, Roberson has a an excellent writing style and manages to make most of the technical matter seem accessible. recognised a lot of people in the material, would recommend this a a good read and am looking forward to reading his other books. Not one for hte beach though.....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Hiced on July 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book has it's ups and down. For me, though, the downs became to heavy and I put it down about halfway through. I thought the first chapter was informative and interesting. I could relate to it. After that it started to become atmospheric. As a previous reviewer mentioned, I thought the chapter about Blair and Clinton was silly. Also I felt like he repeated himself considerably. The whole chapter sounded like something I would expect a college cohort to write, not an author with an editor. Was there an editor, even? Much of the time it seemed like he was absent.

Most disagreeable, however, for me was his terribly annoying writing tactics. He introduces a topic, and then says in order to answer that question we must first answer this question. He introduces the new question and then going further into the inception, he says to answer this second question first me must answer this third question. By this point, I have completely forgotten the original question he is trying to answer! I found it very confusing and off-putting.

Consciously I decided to give it several chances. After I skipped the end of the Blair chapter through sheer dismay, and started the next chapter only to learn it would be focused on Oscar winners, I lost all hope. I would rather devote my time to better written, more informative books. I want to like this book because the data is there and the subject is interesting, but the author made it incredibly hard. This book will stay filed and maybe someday I'll finish it. Although, I wouldn't count on it.
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