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The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are
The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are
by Daniel J. Siegel
Edition: Paperback
56 used & new from $9.34

53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, thorough, and a little too much., September 27, 2009
Let me preface my review by stating that I have read this book for a neuroscience course, and although I have a tentative grasp of the subject I am by no means a professional, thus my interpretation of the book may be slightly biased. That being said, I will now discuss my opinions on The Developing Mind, by first giving a rough overview of the content, and then my opinions on how the author conveyed it.

This book thoroughly covers many aspect of the brain and how the mind develops as it ages and interacts with its environment. It begins by giving a basic introduction into the subject in the first chapter which can largely be glossed over by those familiar with the subject matter. The next few chapters, Memory, Attachment, and Emotion, establish the foundation of the author's ideas, and enhance the reader's understanding of how the brain works. In Memory, the author describes what memory is (as apposed to what people commonly describe as memory), and describes that two types of memory exist: implicit and explicit. Implicit memory is defined as memories that are not actively recalled, but rather emotions and associations involved with certain events that we are not conscious of, whereas explicit memory is the conscious act of remembering facts and experiences. He then goes on to describe how these memories form and how they impact the early developing brain. In Attachment, he describes the relationship formed between parent and child in terms of their attachment, and how important this is in later year, with the role that attachment plays in certain stress responses and attachments later in life. Emotion is about our emotions, how we feel them, both consciously and not, and how these emotions tie into our development and responses to situations. A decent portion of this chapter is also devoted to how emotions and the perception of emotions influence how we respond in social situations and affect our relationships.

The later chapters of the book, Representations, States of Mind, Self-Regulation, Interpersonal Connection, and Integration, are the `structure' of the book, tying the previous foundation chapters together and delving into more complex maters of mind and relationships interact, presenting the authors ideas on more advanced mental development. In Representations he talks about how the mind makes complex ideas and information, such as concepts, into symbols, or representations, and how the mind places value on these representations. He also discusses the difference between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and their importance in mental development and associations. States of Mind is about just that, how they are organized, and how changes in state of mind influence the mind. Self-Regulation is about how the brain regulates its own behavior and regulates emotion in its reception and expression of emotions. Interpersonal Connections is where the author discusses how early relationships affect future relationships and emotional regulation and how trauma can affect relationships. The final chapter, Integration, discusses how the brain integrates many processes, such as experience, emotion, and how all of these processes come together to form the mind and sense of self.

Now I will discuss some of the things that I think stood out about this book. Earlier I stated that the author wrote thoroughly on the subject material and the information is quite thorough. I think the author explained what was necessary to understand the idea, and then kept on going. He covers each topic with a lot of extraneous information that is more than necessary to convey the concepts he wishes to, so much so that it is easy to get lost in the details. He also restates certain concepts or ideas more than once, which gave me the feeling that he was saying the same thing over and over again. His overly verbose manner of discussing some of the (relatively) simple concepts in the book definitely makes the book harder to follow for the non-technical reader and make it more difficult to fully digest his more important points. At the author's own admission, the books subject material can be difficult to digest for the lay-person, and he would strive to use simple language in order to make the book concise and clear. This is hardly the case; even from the first chapter I knew I was in for a long haul, as his `basic' introduction the subject was fairly in depth. Between the repetition of ideas and overly-complicated explanations I felt like the book was dragging on, being unnecessarily long.

Despite these negative qualities the book was very interesting. A lot of the author's thoughts on how emotions and early development impact later behaviors I found especially interesting, and his approach to a combined nature-nurture approach to be a more logical than a nature versus nurture approach. His coverage of the subject matter is very comprehensive, and a lot of it was new to me. Although somewhat difficult to digest at times, he more than adequately explains all of his connections and associations.

Do I ultimately recommend this book? Yes, but with a few caveats. Like most books of a more technical nature, this book is a bit `dry' and does seem to drag on, but ultimately interesting despite that if these qualities doesn't turn you away from it. I think this book is perfect for people interested in the field and have some idea of what they are getting into, as well as some basic understanding of how the brain works. I do not recommend this book for the lay-person, as it is very comprehensive and perhaps a bit much for the lay-person to digest, and despite its relevance, would probably be of little use to them.
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