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Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength Audible – Unabridged

4.4 out of 5 stars 315 customer reviews

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been contemplating on the subject of willpower for a while and was very excited to get this book when it came out. While there is a good amount of interesting material here on the science of self-control, overall, I would say this title didn't quite live up to my expectations.

As one of the reviewers pointed out, there is a multitude of different pop sci books out there. Some are written by the researchers themselves and others by journalists who digest and interpret the information second-hand. In my experience, there is a clear distinction in style between someone who is a primary subject matter expert and someone who is just synthesizing secondary information. The researcher-authors tend to focus more on the actual experiments, strike a decent balance between pop and hard science, do a much better job explaining the meaning of the findings, and are usually pretty cautious about overly extrapolating the results. Journalist-authors tend to err much more on the side of watering down the science (perhaps because they have an incomplete understanding themselves) and generally strike a "let me explain this to an idiot" type of tone.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that this book is co-authored with the primary researcher, it really falls into the "journalist-author" bucket. I get a distinct impression that John Tierny was responsible for most of the writing, where Roy Baumeister is cited as an author only because the book is mostly based on his research. I think Tierny tries way too hard to oversimplify the science and calls on very extensive celebrity examples to illustrate some of the findings.
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Format: Hardcover
There are few concepts in psychology with as much scientific support as the idea that willpower is a limited resource and when its drained, people (and even dogs) have less willpower for whatever task is coming next in their lives. Perhaps the most sexy finding is that if you use a great deal of self-control or willpower in doing something you end up exhausted in whatever you do next that requires self-control even if it is completed unrelated to the first activity. For instance, you try to resist the sexual temptation of looking at beautiful women at work and without even knowing it, you end up physically weaker during your gym workout. This tends to happen when the two activities are back to back. Other people will be fascinated by the unusual ways that people can build up their reservoir of willpower. I won't give away the juice here.

As a scientist, I am impressed with how the authors stay close to the science.
As a reader, I relish the smooth writing style.
As someone who wants to be entertained, I appreciate the great storytelling ability. For this reason, the ideas in this book are sticky.

Honestly, I find it difficult to imagine an audience that would not benefit from reading this book. Educators. Policy makers. Parents. Self-help book fanatics. Therapists and coaches. People interested in why human beings do the things they do (that is, fans of psychology). If you disagree, let me know. Roy Baumeister is one of the most important psychologists alive and he is not afraid of taking risks and delving into what matters- sex, death, love, happiness, suicide, and even UFO abductions. Its about time people outside of science get a taste of his excellent contributions.

I couldn't recommend this more strongly.

cheers,
Todd
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Format: Hardcover
Roy Baumeister is a psychologist who has spent decades exploring how willpower works, and what exactly it is. Here, he teams up with journalist John Tierney to write a popular book surveying his and other folks' research on the subject. The result is somewhere between a work of social science and a self-help book. Not only do we get insights on how willpower works, but also get tips on how to make it work for us.

Perhaps one of the most interesting (and in the field of psychology, controversial) Baumeister and Tierney detail several studies that have subjects to some hard decision making tasks, and move on to other moderate decision making tasks. The results: those who engaged in hard decision making tasks gave up quicker on the next round of tasks (as opposed to the control group who were given easier tasks first). Another interesting finding is that glucose increases one's self-control abilities, as evidenced by studies where some groups were giving a sugary soft-drink before engaging in self-control tasks (while others weren't) and, as a consequence, were better able to exercise self-control. (The authors are quick to tell us that they aren't endorsing large sugar intakes to increase self-control, but that protein consumption can also do the trick.)

Later chapters focus on the idea that willpower works best when others are holding us accountable. There is a chapter detailing several websites that help people achieve their goals by either posting results (budgetary, weight loss, etc) on a public space, or having us assign a friend or colleague to monitor our progress (and give rewards).
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