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Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness Hardcover – July 8, 2014

4.9 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Incisive [and] insightful. . . . [C]lear, witty, and engaging. . . . [T]he brothers Gold propose an intriguing new hypothesis to account for delusions: a malfunctioning “Suspicion System,” in which the cognitive system that has evolved to alert us to possible danger breaks down, becoming so overloaded by an abundance of real and perceived external threats that it can no longer discriminate between justifiable wariness and paranoia.” (The Boston Globe)

“The book amounts to nothing less than a frontal—or perhaps pre-frontal—challenge to the dominant view of modern psychiatry, which looks to neuroscience to explain disorders of the mind. . . . Suspicious Minds comes alive with often-provocative notions. [Joel and Ian Gold] pepper the book with often fascinating case histories of the deluded, which provide more proof that no fantasist can hope to match the wonders—and horrors—of the human mind.” (Washington Post)

"A dual broadside: against a psychiatric profession that has become infatuated with neuroscience as part of its longstanding attempt to establish itself as 'real medicine,' and against a culture that has become too networked for its own good." (New York Times Book Review)

"Suspicious Minds is an important book. It's sharp, compassionate and incredibly well researched. It gives a window into current psychiatric debates, and it builds toward a theory that is at least plausible and definitely thought provoking." (The Globe and Mail)

"Evidently, [the Gold brothers] hypothesize in a droll Oliver Sacksian tone, culture has a great deal of influence on trends in madness." (The Village Voice)

"A fascinating and intimate portrait of psychosis." (Scientific American)

"Juxtaposing recent research on schizophrenia with page-turning case studies of these paranoid patients, the Golds argue that psychotic delusions (not to mention mesmeric movie plots) are the result of interactions between the brain and the sociocultural world, and they bring to light the discipline-altering fact that culture has a role to play in the development of psychopathology generally. . . . [A] contrarian, insightful, and important book. . . . [Gold and Gold's] analysis of culture-linked paranoia comprises an effective argument that our seemingly endless struggle to align our society with our more enlightened ideals may be a fight for our very minds." (The New Republic)

Suspicious Minds offers lessons to anyone interested in the complexity of the mental health field’s future.” (New York Post)

"The Golds reveal how the categories of delusion map onto the social world, and they raise questions about the future of madness in a social world that’s gone global in the age of the Internet. The result is a view that breaks the bonds of contemporary psychiatry by showing that madness is as much a social disease as it is biological." (The Philadelphia Tribune)

"A provocative new perspective on the diagnosis, and therefore treatment, of mental illness." (Kirkus Reviews)

“This remarkable book isn’t just a crash course in delusions, which would be interesting enough. It’s a history of psychiatry, a thriller, an expose of dubious brain science, a collection of fascinating and heartbreaking mini-biographies, and a warning about the fragmentation of modern life.” (A.J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically)

"A compulsively readable and unexpectedly entertaining book that stands as a needed corrective to a purely biological explanation for mental illness. By emphasizing the cultural vector for madness, the Gold brothers reveal their compassionate understanding of both the sick and the sane—and the surprisingly porous border between those two states." (John Colapinto, author of As Nature Made Him and a staff writer at The New Yorker)

"An excellent portrayal of delusions and madness, well written, well researched and exciting to read. Written by experts in the field, I highly recommend this book to all those who want a deeper understanding of the mind and how it works." (Benjamin Sadock, MD, Menas S Gregory Professor of Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine)

“A powerful and engaging examination of how insanity is molded by culture. Pithy, insightful, and engrossing.” (Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine)

“The book provides a bracing insight into the natural hidden camera apprehensions of our era, through the eyes of the most vulnerable among us. Artists, videographers and writers interested in the philosophy of the digital era will want to place Suspicious Minds on their nightstands.” (The Times-Picayune)

About the Author

Joel Gold, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. He is in private practice in Manhattan.

Ian Gold, PhD, is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry at McGill University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439181551
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439181553
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Joel and Ian Gold worked painstakingly to deliver Suspicious Minds. I was happy to find that they reference the work of Sander Gilman, who until now, thought to be the only person to offer a comprehensive look at how culture shapes madness, in Seeing the Insane. In this book, readers will find true stories and tales of research of the human mind. Most importantly, the Golds explore the way neuroscience, society and biology intersect as they explore the concept of the "Truman Show Delusion."

This book paints an accurate picture of the so-called delusional brain. It is almost like taking a crash course into psychiatry, but it also delves into history in a more thrilling tone than other non-fiction books. This makes sense, considering that the two authors are an attending psychiatrist and a psychiatric researcher.

According to Joel and Ian Gold, delusions go back "nearly as far as the written records of human civilization," and yet we still know so little about them. In fact, Mesopotamians and Babylonians viewed madness as a punishment for something done wrong; they harbored little sympathy for those ailing.

If you enjoy Suspicious Minds, you might also enjoy reading about the psychology behind animal minds. Many psychology fans recommend Laurel Braitman's Animal Madness, a study into the lives of anxious and compulsive animals throughout history. Both books paint accurate pictures of the world of psychology.

Finally, this book is succinct and easy to read as it offers such refreshing insight into the world of early psychiatry. It is easily accessible and entertaining enough to include on any psych bookshelf.
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Format: Hardcover
Surprising for a non-fiction book dealing with medical/psychological matters, you might find Suspicious Minds difficult to put down once you begin reading. It’s a truly masterful accomplishment -- of depth, substance, and courageously proferred (yes, the naysayers are out there waiting to pounce) opinions, all backed by vast erudition, clinical experience, and sound judgment. A historical overview of madness and psychosis, together with theories and treatments thereof, precedes the presentation of an original theory of mind the authors call the Suspicion System. The theory goes a long way toward explaining the fact that though delusions are a not an uncommon psychological experience, only a select few types of delusion are seen. The “Truman delusion,” named after the film with a similar theme, in which you’re unknowingly being televised for a reality show, is an example. The book is beautifully written -- informal and sparkling when it wants to be, scholarly and solemn when it needs to be. The case histories are superb narratives, each a self-contained, wickedly interesting short story; the theoretical accounts are models of expository prose. Suspicious Minds is a magisterial work, sure to be consulted long after an initial run through.
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Format: Hardcover
Incredible insight into how modern culture influences mental health and paranoid delusions. Must read for amateurs and academics alike. The writing style is very accessible and the case histories are fascinating. It also doesn't take itself too seriously. If you're a fan of Oliver Sacks you'll definitely find this book interesting as well, and in many ways more satisfying as it digs deeper and reveals brand new insights into how the outer world can influence psychosis.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been trying to find information about historical attitudes towards and treatments of schizophrenia, and this book is by far the best resource I have found. While some have claimed that schizophrenia did not exist prior to the Industrial Age, these authors do a great job of cataloging the manifestations of delusions throughout the ages and across cultures. The book manages to be informative and entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend this read!
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a wonderful book. I am impressed with the good Doctors' knowledge, experience and humanity in discussing and explaining delusions and schizophrenia, a very difficult mental disorder to treat. I'm getting the book to read in print because it's worth reading again, in print, because it is so good.

The book also does a great service in enlightening ordinary, everyday people about the tragedy of mental illness and how pervasive it can be. Mental illness affects many, whether the patient is a co-worker, relative or close friend. This is demonstrated in the book by the numerous case studies found throughout the book. They are enlightening and really show the human, caring side of the doctors. This is a very kind and educational book.

I would recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about delusions and schizophrenia, since it is very approachable and easy to read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The environment is front and center in this brilliant new theory of delusions as the product of a “Suspicion System” gone amok. Extant research supports the role of environmental factors such as economic inequality and immigration as playing a role in psychosis. But why? The Golds posit “social defeat” -- which occurs when someone is persistently demeaned, humiliated, or subordinated -- as a potent factor in breaking down the vulnerable psyche, The brothers (Joel is a psychiatrist in New York City; Ian is a philosophy professor in Canada) pull together research in neuroscience and evolutionary psychiatry to locate the Suspicion System in the amygdala (evolved to anticipate threat) and connected brain regions. Delusions take hold, they posit, with a breakdown in communication between this early-warning Suspicion System and the more rational, slower-thinking cognitive network that should be dampening the amygdala’s over-enthusiasm. Thorough and well-written, this book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in understanding psychosis and the thin line separating the "normal" from the "abnormal." (Interested readers can find my in-depth review at my forensic psychology blog, located at forensicpsychologist.blogspot (period) com.)
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