2013 Book Report 16: Rip It Up – Richard Wiseman.

Professor Richard Wiseman is a psychologist. In fact, in Britiain, he is almost the media’s ‘go to’ psychologist, especially for the more ‘wacky’ parts of the field. And the wonderful thing about psychology is that there is a lot of wacky to be had!

This isn’t the first book of Richard Wiseman’s that I have read, and in many ways it acts as a follow up to the previous book ’59 Seconds’. The first book had been written as a sort of response to all those advice books which aim to impart their message in tiny aliquots of time. The idea, presumably being that it would appeal to people who are so busy that they can only spare moments at a time to gain new knowledge. The difference with the Wiseman take on these books was that everything was based on proper psychological research.

“Rip It Up” is a continuation of that approach, using ‘proper’ science to provide ‘self-help’ type advice, much of which runs contrary to the popular ideas. Central to this guidance is the research that shows that if you make your body behave in specific ways then your mind will start to act as if you are thinking and feeling that way.

At its simplest, if you wear a smile on your face you start to feel happier. The research that led to this conclusion involved asking people to grip pencils in their mouths, specifying whether the pencil was held between the teeth or the lips, and by one end, or lengthways. But the outcome is quite clear. Making the face form a grin will cause an increase in positive feelings.

The same sort of process means you can make yourself feel more determined by clenching your fists in a determined manner.

The central thesis of the book therefore is that the mind-body connection is a bi-directional thing. Your brain can make your body do things, but your body can make your brain do things to, and with the knowledge that you can influence your thinking in this way it is possible to change the way you feel and perform every day.

And once again, because this is psychology, and not positive mental attitude snake oil Wiseman is able to cite the studies that show that the changes work.

It is worth noting that one of the studies cited is by Simone Schall, one of my academic colleagues here at the University.

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