Last week at the Boston Skeptics’ Book Club, we discussed Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot. For the uninitiated, the book was a look at how psychological studies can help people change their lives. The “59 seconds” hook is the fact that each chapter ends with a summary that will presumably take less than a minute to read, for people who just want the gist of how to change their lives. For anyone who read the book: have you tried out any of the techniques yet, and if so, have they worked or not?
There are ten chapters that cover the following topics: Happiness, Persuasion, Motivation, Creativity, Attraction, Stress, Relationships, Decision Making, Parenting, and Personality. My favorite chapter was the one about persuasion, mainly because it gives pointers on how to have a successful job interview (I’m sort of doing a little field testing lately). Overall, I found most of the advice in the book to be useful and it’s definitely a book that I’ll keep on my bookshelf to reference occasionally (mostly because I have a horrible memory and I have already forgotten most of the tips on how to change my life). There was some debate in the group about whether or not the advice in the book was obvious. Example advice: in the chapter about parenting, studies showed that if you praise a child for its intelligence, the child is more likely to stick to easier tasks; but if you praise a child for effort, the child is more likely to try harder tasks.
Here’s my own “59 seconds” of the book: holding a pencil in your teeth will make you feel happier; people will like you more if you ask them to do small favors for you; don’t be fooled by “diet packs” because you’ll eat more of those than regular food; the color green makes you more creative; people bond quicker when sharing dislikes; “active listening” doesn’t work; if you feel angry, go play with a puppy; groups make riskier decisions than individuals; Mozart will not make your child smarter; and index finger length v. ring finger length indicates how aggressive you are.
If any of the above points have intrigued you, please pick up a copy of the book to learn more (and there are tons of awesome citations in the back if you really want to dive into the research).
For our next meeting, we’ll be reading Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein. It’s a light-hearted reimagining of some books of the Old Testament. A few lines from the back of the book:
Wouldn’t a person get bored living in a whale? How did Joseph explain Mary’s pregnancy to the guys at work? And what was Cain’s problem anyway? Meet the megalomaniac foreman who oversaw the construction of the Tower of Babel. Discover how Moses dealt with a shifty Golden Calf dealer who was more concerned with “rebranding” his wares in the wake of the whole idol-worshiping scandal than obeying his commandments.
For anyone who wants to sample the book, This American Life read the “Adam and Eve” chapter. (Actually, after doing a little searching, I found readings of most of the book here.)
Our time and venue has changed just because we want to try to find a place not too crowded where we can have a good discussion. We’ll be meeting on Saturday, March 27th, at 3 pm at the Borders bookstore on Boylston Ave in Boston (two blocks from the Arlington T-stop on the Green Line). The cafe section is up the escalators on the second floor and the back in the corner near the science books. If anyone knows of another coffee shop that we can try out, suggest it in the comments!