Dangerous Instincts

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Title: Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us. (Fear Can’t Help You. An FBI Profiler Can)

Author: Mary Ellen O’Toole, Ph.D.

Publisher: Penguin, 2011

Summary/Review: The author knows her business.  She is a retired FBI profiler and has seen and interviewed violent criminals of all types: mass murderers, rapists, kidnappers, pedophiles.  The purpose of this book is to impart to readers how people don’t make safe decisions on a regular basis:  hiring a contractor in the home, deciding at whose home your child can play, or even opening the door to a complete stranger.  We get lulled into a false sense of safety because our biases lead us to deem someone harmless when we really don’t have enough information to make a decision. The author tries to instruct on how to assess risk: physical risk, health risk, social or emotional risk, professional, or financial.  Being a good listener is key; but “listening between the lines” is even better.  She also discusses how to observe a persons behavior to try to make an assessment.  She also discusses those people in our society who are most dangerous:  the sociopath.

Scary when I think of the number of times that I have done exactly what the author warns us against.  I will never be able to read someone’s mind, but I will try to employ some of these techniques in my own danger-filled life!

Who will like this book?:  Those who are interested in psychology, or are interested in true crime.

If you like this, try this:  If you are interested in the psychology topics discussed in the book, Malcolm Gladwell has a number of books, including “Blink” which you may find interesting- especially because he discusses the decisions made on impulse.  “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout may also be interesting for you, as she discusses the nature of humans and what makes them stray from a healthy psychological profile.

If you would like to learn more about criminal profiling, Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, Erik Larson’s “Devil in the White City”, and Vincent Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter” might be good choices, but beware – they may be graphic.

Recommended by: Sue Z, Reference Librarian

If this looks like your kind of book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check if its available and place a hold. [Link will open in a new window]

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