Good Thinking by Guy P. Harrison (book review).

Every time I see a book about thinking, it has to be about rational thinking and Guy P. Harrison’s book ‘Good Thinking’ is no exception in this. Here he outlines all the kinds of things you should know to make informed choices and more importantly, how easy it is for us to be also taken in.


I do wish he’d given some consideration to where us loners stand in his dozen common mental mistakes as surely there must be some advantage in having no herd instinct or we’d all be jumping off cliffs. This kind of crops up again with belief. I mean are humans naturally delusional or is it more a matter of needing something to hang onto when they don’t understand on? This does make some sort of sense with some people dismissing evolution because they can’t imagine how long a millennia is but equally is it more than evidence that allows the rest of us to agree and understand a considerable length of time? From the start, Harrison will make both sides of the fence think, assuming the evolutionary doubters would pick up a book such as this.

His examination of astrology makes sense but people believe in it because the framework is used to hang loose predictions on that could apply to anyone so there’s a chance that any of it could be right for someone. People are more prone to remember what they deem accurate than the multitude of times when the information was wrong. Again, we are seeing more about how people think. There really needs to be an overhaul of the schooling system to see why people stick to their guns on such material.

This goes a lot further as Harrison points out how many of his own people give up books after a university education. Some 40% in America is staggering. It would have been interesting to see this in perspective with other countries, including the UK, but it does indicate something is again wrong with the education system if people don’t read books for enjoyment’s sake or to further their knowledge. Mind you, he also points out that there are also a lot of useless books out there as well and a lot of misguided ideas. When I pick non-fiction books to review here, I tend to avoid bum steers and fortunately have never been offered them. However, looking at his examples of some books and quack medical cures tends to suggest the snake oil salesman is doing very nicely thank you.

Don’t think this book is all about right thinking as Harrison quickly moves on and spends a chapter on the structure of the brain. Although he admits the names of the various parts are large, what they do is more interesting and I came away with a firmer grasp on what the amyglada does and if you’re fearful of anything, that’s what controls it. Those who lack that part of the brain have no fear of anything. Oh, the estimates of the human brain having one hundred billion neurons is way off. More like 86 billion, according to his figures. Even so, it’s still a lot and few mammals have anything like that number. I liked how he shows how the estimate was originally made although I would have thought how they were distributed throughout the brain differentiated their usage and, as a network, you need more than one or two to function, let alone give you your personality.

When it comes to diet and how to feed your brain, you really do need to assess how much sugar you have in your diet because you can give it too much of the wrong type. Although the statistics are for those of you in the USA, it should scare you a little to think about just what you are feeding yourself. Saying that, Harrison also explains the benefits of Omega-3 for keeping your brain cells healthy although I wish he’d also covered just how much you should eat on a daily basis. I know from personal experience 3 capsules equalling 1.8g daily of pure advanced Omega-3 to be very beneficial. That and a moderation of regular physical exercise, like that walking thing, helps the brain’s health as well.

I’m sure most of you here are aware of the nature of memory and we don’t store or remember digitally. There’s just too much to remember and a lot of junk memories. Saying that, there are people like me who can dredge up a lot of trivia information that I wish he had covered. Is it repetition or interest that keeps the data in our heads? It isn’t as though we intentionally memorise everything, it’s just there. Someone with my kind of memory, which isn’t entirely ‘photographic’ but can bone a subject for vital information finds it handy for writing reviews and with the right cues can draw back these things further down the line. I did find his comment that after revising for exams for an hour, to meditate for 10 minutes or so to let your brain digest the information before doing anything else. Some of the time I read two books at the same time, providing they are different subjects, and find that by switching between them makes them both fresh. So it works with a lot of other things, not just exams.

Harrison uses his memories of where he was when the events of 9/11 happened and the clarity of his memory. I can do that for that subject and many others although the date itself doesn’t always come up which tends to imply that our brains don’t link memories like that.

His discussion on our unconscious minds or, as he calls it, our shadow brain is quite enlightening, more so in how we see images in everything from clouds to pieces of toast. Harrison quite rightly points out that the images we see of the likes of Christ and Mary in food are influenced by how artists have also imagined them. The fact that this works so well with so many tends to make me think that there’s something about our mindsets that needs to make sense of random shapes and patterns to categorise them.

The discussion on why people turn to ‘alternative medicines’, a contradiction if ever I heard of a name, is yet another confirmation of peoples’ ability to be swayed by gullibility or silver-tongued salespeople. Harrison makes a good case that such ‘medicines’ are sold in ‘friendly’ warm places, starting from the waiting rooms up, compared to the more ‘sterile’ looking waiting rooms up for normal medical surgeries. Although that must surely apply more to the USA than our side of the pond, it does give a case of how a sugarified look can sell any product. Saying that, there’s an argument hidden there that people feel intimidated with normal surgeries. It’s either that or the cost to their medical insurance in America.

Finally, Harrison’s examination of conspiracy plots reminded me a lot about images in toast again. People want to join the dots, even when there might be too few to make any sense. I wish there had been a better examination of whether people follow the patterns other people create or draw similar conclusions. I tend to suspect the former but would prefer proof. Something I hadn’t realised was one of the beliefs in shape-changers were in influential positions in the world. When I came up with this in my recent ‘Psi-Kicks’ stories, it didn’t come from this or their ‘Pattern’ name but from deity pantheons whose common denominator was the ability to shape-change. Now I’m wondering if I should exploit that belief.

As usual, I’m hitting on things that made me think the most. There really is a lot more in this book than these above but I think if you read this book you will actually think more on what motivates you on some subjects. Well, I hope you do. The strongest message is not to be swept along in the crowd. Most of us geeky types tend to be individualists so this book is likely to affirm that we are doing the right thing. I wish he would address what makes us so different but maybe that’s a subject for another book. Maybe we channel our imaginations differently and can differentiate fact from fiction easier because of it. Whatever, this book deserves a read.

GF Willmetts

October 2015

(pub: Prometheus Books. 288 page weith occasional illustrations enlarged paperback. Price: $17.00 (US), $18.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-63388-064-1)

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