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Williams, N. (2014). Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution. Michael Moskowitz. London: Karnac, 2010. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 14(1):203-209.

(2014). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 14(1):203-209

Book Reviews

Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution. Michael Moskowitz. London: Karnac, 2010

Review by:
Nigel Williams, Msc, Dip Psych

Michael Moskowitz's book does what it says in providing a guide to the emergence of the new neurosciences that began to appear in earnest at the turn of the twentieth century. It is truly a cultural as well as a scientific phenomenon and the book is delightfully illustrated by extended personal and professional vignettes that span a working lifetime.

The book opens with the key role of “mind reading” (knowing the state of mind of the other, but also knowing how the other is experiencing you) in Bill Gate's rise to power and has the good news story that mind reading and business success go hand in hand. Moskowitz is careful to deepen out the implications of this and we learn that mind reading is innate and relational, thereby getting us beyond the nature/nurture/culture divide in a refreshing and helpful way.

The “theories of mind” we thus generate by “mind reading” can be infinitely tested and adapted. It is possible for everyone to train and improve this capacity. This further good news story is based on the recent findings about brain plasticity showing that our capacities and neurones are a lot less fixed than we might think. The neuroscience revolution is emancipatory, if we can embrace it fully. Men and women will better understand each other. Parents and children will have fuller more nurturing or less damaging relationships, police will understand criminals better (and vice versa), teachers will be better informed as how to teach children.

This however also ushers in a puzzle concerning the emphasis the book has toward the cognitive rather than the affective dimension in contemporary neuroscience. There is only one reference for instance to Allan Schore (2003), and none to Colwyn Trevarthen (2001, 2004; Panksepp & Trevarthen, 2009), so the biggest arena for the confirmation of psychoanalytic understandings about the making of minds gets little mention. We hear very little about the affect regulating pre/nonverbal right brain-right brain relationship which gives us our very first theories of mind about which psychotherapy is so concerned.

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