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The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You) Paperback – February 7, 2012
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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You know what they are—lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy, and pride, the seven deadly sins. Only, you see, they’re not as deadly as you think. In fact, they can be good for you. For example, lust—more specifically, arousal—heightens one’s sense of urgency about the present moment, not the undefined future. Also, sex in advertising really doesn’t sell; it actually lowers recall of the products being advertised. But arousal stimulates what Laham calls “prosocial,” Good Samaritan–like behavior because, when aroused, one is more apt to want to impress and appear to be an attractive person. Writing in a light, almost breezy manner, social psychologist Laham tries to stay far away from jargon and mumbo-jumbo. Consequently, his book will certainly open readers’ eyes to the unexpected and sometimes very surprising ways in which the seven “deadly” sins can actually enrich their lives and improve their minds. Lots to think about here. --David Pitt
“In his engaging new book, Laham takes us on a sinfully delicious tour of human nature that reveals the bright side of our dark side.”
– Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
“A lighthearted foray into motivational research.”
- Kirkus Reviews
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he offers a combination of newer psychological studies pitted against traditional religion with often differing outcomes.
for example, there is malicious and good envy. good envy or upward envy allowed me to emulate smart students in undergrad school helping me gain entrance into medical school where it helped me survive. Scores on tests were posted for all to see. I hope it was to encourage all to upward envy or try harder as it did for me. However, others could have adopted malicious envy leading to resentment, schadenfreude (if the top person had a bad score) or even the The Tall Poppy Syndrome if the tall should fall into the mean. (Most medical schools now have pass or fail).
other sins were equally illuminating.
Lust, greed, gluttony, anger, sloth, envy and pride. The seven deadly sins are recognized as an integral part of the Christian (and especially the Catholic) belief system, but their influence in Western culture extends well beyond these realms. Indeed, even the atheistic among us are likely to regard the seven characteristics perhaps not as sins, but at the very least as vices, or character flaws.
Nevertheless, despite the near universal acknowledgement of the reproachfulness of the seven deadly sins, the psychologist Simon Laham takes a very different approach to these so-called sins in his new book "The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good for You)". Indeed, as the title suggests, Laham maintains that the seven deadly sins are not nearly as bad as they are cracked up to be, and in fact the author argues that much good can come of them, so long as they are approached in the right way.
Laham tackles each sin in order, awarding each a separate chapter. As a general rule, each chapter begins with an explanation of the sin as it was originally conceived, and why it was considered to be a sin (though there are chapters where the author stints in this regard, or leaves such a discussion out altogether, and in these cases it is sorely missed). Following this, we are apprised of how the characteristic, or, in some cases the emotion, that is represented by each sin is regarded by modern psychology. Included here is an account of why each characteristic is thought to have evolved in our species in the first place (though again, the author is sometimes remiss in providing such an explanation, much to the chagrin of the interested reader).
From here, Laham takes the reader through numerous lab and field experiments to demonstrate that the characteristic or emotion in question can indeed lead to positive consequences. For instance, lust can trigger us to be more helpful and brave; gluttony can help us focus on the aesthetic experience of eating (which can lead to an enhancement of the culinary experience itself); greed can make us more persistent and self-sufficient; anger can motivate us to overcome the obstacles that we face, and also prompt us to confront moral transgressors (to the betterment of society); envy can motivate us to better ourselves; sloth can allow us think more efficiently and also prompt us to be more helpful towards others; pride can make us more competent and work harder, and also give us more self-esteem.
Though the author's main point is to outline the positive aspects of the seven deadly sins, he does acknowledge that, when approached in the wrong kind of way, they can indeed backfire on us (though again, the author could afford to go into much more detail here than he does on many occasions).
Despite the shortcomings mentioned above, there is much of interest to be learned here, and the book is well worth the read. A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone considering it, an entertaining read, Laham certainly has written a witty page turning look into the age old condemned seven "deadly" sins.