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Suggestible You: The Curious Science of Your Brain's Ability to Deceive, Transform, and Heal Hardcover – November 8, 2016
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"An eye-opening exploration of the intersection between philosophy and science and a fascinating peek into our innermost selves." —Kirkus Reviews
"Science journalist Vance takes an inspired journey into the profound and often unnoticed powers of our brains." —Publishers Weekly
About the Author
ERIK VANCE is an award-winning science writer based in California and Mexico City. Raised as a Christian Scientist, he graduated with honors from the Christian Science school, Principia College in 1999 with a degree in biology. After working as a scientist on research projects dealing with dolphin intelligence and coastal ecology, he became an educator and then an environmental consultant. In 2005, he attended UC Santa Cruz’s famed science communication program and discovered a passion for journalism. There he learned that only through compelling characters can stories touch and inspire us. Since then, he has built his career around science-based profiles of inspiring, dedicated, or controversial figures in society. His work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, The Utne Reader, Scientific American, and National Geographic. He is also a contributing editor at Discover magazine.
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Top Customer Reviews
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It's written in somewhat of a Mythbusters style, and the author has a great sense of humor. For those of us who wonder about all kinds of strange things but are turned off by magical thinking, pseudo science, and woo-woo, this book is quite satisfying.
Vance found out that he was cured of Legionnaire’s disease not by the miracle of the Christian Science faith that his parents believed. He went on to inquire into how the human brain can perform miracles of its own. He treats us to a study of the effect of placebos. He explains how they work and why some people are more prone to responding to placebos than others. He explains what the converse – nocebo – is and how that works.
Placebos and nocebos are driven by the power of suggestion. Hence, Vance engages us in a detailed study of hypnotism. He explains how it works and how trickery may also be infused in a hypnotic act. More importantly, he shows us ‘With both hypnosis and the placebo effect, people rely on nothing but their own brains, mixed with a little suggestion, to yield sometimes dramatic results’.
At other times, the same factors just lead us to less drama. They may, for example, predispose some of us to believing in gods, ghosts, and superstition. The chapter that discusses the enzyme neurtin (chapter 3) will enlighten us as to how we are what we are, and what it is (valine) that makes us regulate dopamine in our brain. Vance explains that people with methyltransferase (met/met) instead of valine, are more sensitive to pain, rate experiences as more pleasurable than valine people do. Methyltransferase people are also more responsive to the placebo effect. Vance identifies Obama as a valine (what he describes as ‘val/val’ genetic contribution from both parents) and Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise as ‘met/met’). He goes on to explain the effect of other genes such as the OPRM1 which determines how the brain absorbs a drug (such as dopamine).
This book goes a long way to answering the question why some people are more suggestible than others. It is important to fully understand how our own brains may be deceiving us. The con artist can only do so much, the rest is left to us.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thought I wasn't going to like it as the first few pages dealt with Christian Science, but that changed and I got a lot more interested in...Read more