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Customer Review

on December 15, 2006
I've been a fan of Timothy Wilson's research in social psychology for quite some time. He has been an author or co-author on some classic studies and reviews in psychology - usually asking interesting questions, using clever research methods, and written with clarity. In particular, if you can get your hands on the following paper it will give you a good idea of what you'll see in this book: "Telling more than we can know: verbal reports of mental processes" in Psychological Review (1977) with Richard Nisbett.

In the first chapter "Freud's Genius, Freud's Myopia" Wilson compares modern and early psychological theories of the unconscious. Wilson argues that Freud made a great contribution to psychology by pointing out that we aren't always aware of our motives and thoughts, but that Freud's conceptualization of the unconsciousness was limited for many reasons. Wilson's view is of an information-processing unconscious that does much of the work needed to navigate us through the world without taxing our limited consciousness - unlike Freud's view of the unconscious as a reservoir of inappropriate thoughts and desires. Furthermore, Wilson's view is informed by much more, and more rigiourous, research than Freud's.

An interesting chapter in the middle of the book discusses people's ability - or lack there of - to predict how they will react emotionally to events. This chapter is a good introduction to the concept of "affective forecasting" for people who are unfamiliar with the topic. However, the more recent book by Wilson's research collaborator Daniel Gilbert ("Stumbling on Happiness") is a more thorough and up-to-date treatment of this subject.

In "Strangers to Ourselves" Wilson expands on some of his own research on the limits of introspection, as well as integrating ideas from other researchers. Wilson argues that because we cannot know ourselves via introspection that self-knowledge can be enhanced by understanding other people - an excellent point in my opinion as a psychologist. In the later chapters, Wilson blends his ideas about consciousness and self-knowledge with Jamie Pennibaker's research and theories into the effects of writing about emotional events.

This is a fantastic book and I'd highly recommend it to people with any level of background knowledge in psychology from novices to experts.
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