Irresistible

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter

HM 851 .A437 2017

“Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction – an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at New York University, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today’s products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.

By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good – to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play – and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.”
– publisher description

Can’t Just Stop

Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions by Sharon Begley

RC 533 .B446 2017

“Mild compulsions, such as shopping with military precision or hanging the tea towels just so, are something most of us have witnessed, or even engaged in. But compulsions exist along a broad continuum, and at the extremes there exist life-altering disorders.

Sharon Begley’s meticulously researched book is the first to examine all of these behaviors together – from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to hoarding, to compulsive exercise, even compulsions to do good. They may look profoundly different, but these behaviors are all ways of coping with varying degrees of anxiety.

With a focus on the personal stories of dozens of interviewees, Begley compassionately explores the role of compulsion in our fast-paced culture and the strange manifestations of this very human behavior throughout history.

Can’t Just Stop makes compulsion comprehensible and accessible, exploring how we can realistically grapple with it in ourselves and in those we love.”
– publisher description

The Lonely City

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

N 71 .L24 2016

“What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we’re not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? Does technology draw us closer together or trap us behind screens?

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives – from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks to Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules, from Henry Darger’s hoarding to David Wojnarowicz’s AIDS activism – Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.

Humane, provocative, and deeply moving, The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and the things that draw them together, about sexuality, mortality, and the magical possibilities of art. It’s a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive.”
– publisher description

What the F

What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves
by Benjamin K. Bergen

P 410 .O27 B47 2016

“Nearly everyone swears – whether it’s over a few too many drinks, in reaction to a stubbed toe, or in flagrante delicto. And yet, we sit idly by as words are banned from television and censored in books. We insist that people excise profanity from their vocabularies and we punish children for yelling the very same dirty words that we’ll mutter in relief seconds after they fall asleep. Swearing, it seems, is an intimate part of us that we have decided to selectively deny.

That’s a damn shame. Swearing is useful. It can be funny, cathartic, or emotionally arousing. As linguist and cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen shows us, it also opens a new window into how our brains process language and why languages vary around the world and over time.

In this groundbreaking yet ebullient romp through the linguistic muck, Bergen answers intriguing questions: How can patients left otherwise speechless after a stroke still shout goddamn! when they get upset? When did a cock grow to be more than merely a rooster? Why is crap vulgar when poo is just as childish? Do slurs make you treat people differently? Why is the first word that Samoan children say not mommy but eat shit? And why do we extend a middle finger to flip someone the bird?

Smart as hell and funny as fuck, What the F is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to know how and why we swear.”
– publisher description

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
by Frans de Waal

QL 785 .W127 2016

“What separates your mind from an animal’s? Maybe you think it’s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future – all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet’s preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have eroded, or even been disproven outright, by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long.

People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different forms that are often incomparable to ours? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you’re less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of an echolocating bat? De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal’s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal – and human – intelligence.”
– publisher description

You May Also Like

You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt

BF 611 .V36 2016

“Why is showing up to work wearing the same outfit as a coworker so embarrassing? Why do we venerate so many artists who were controversial or ignored during their lifetimes? What makes an ideal cat an ideal cat, or an ideal beer an ideal beer, in the eyes of expert judges? From the tangled underpinning of our food taste to our unsettling insecurity before unfamiliar works of art to the complex dynamics of our playlists and the pop charts, our preferences and opinions are constantly being shaped by countless forces. And in the digital age, a nonstop procession of “thumbs up” and “likes” and “stars” is helping dictate our choices. Taste has moved online – there are more ways than ever for us, and companies, to see what and how we are consuming. If you’ve ever wondered how Netflix recommends movies, how to spot a fake Yelp review, or why books often see a sudden decline in Amazon ratings after they win a major prize, Tom Vanderbilt has answers to these questions and many more that you’ve probably never thought to ask.

With a voracious curiosity, Vanderbilt stalks the elusive beast of taste, probing research in psychology, marketing, and neuroscience to answer myriad complex and fascinating questions. Comprehensively researched and singularly insightful, You May Also Like is a joyous intellectual journey that helps us better understand how we perceive, judge, and appreciate the world around us.”
– publisher description

Every Song Ever

Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty by Ben Ratliff

ML 3838 .R29 2016

“What does it mean to listen in the digital era? Today, new technologies make it possible to roam instantly and experimentally across musical languages and generations, from Detroit techno to jam bands to baroque opera – or to dive deeper into the set of tastes that we already have. Either way, we can listen to nearly everything, at any time. The possibilities in this new age of listening overturn old assumptions about what it means to properly appreciate music – to be an “educated” listener.

In Every Song Ever, the veteran New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff reimagines the very idea of music appreciation for our times. As familiar subdivisions like “rock” and “jazz” matter less and less and music’s accessible past becomes longer and broader, listeners can put aside the intentions of composers and musicians and engage music afresh, on their own terms. Ratliff isolates signal musical traits – such as repetition, speed, and virtuosity – and traces them across wildly diverse recordings to reveal unexpected connections. When we listen for slowness, for instance, we may detect surprising affinities between the drone metal of Sunn O))), the mixtape manipulations of DJ Screw, Sarah Vaughan singing “Lover Man,” and the final works of Shostakovich. And if we listen for closeness, we might notice how the tight harmonies of bluegrass vocals illuminated the virtuosic synchrony of John Coltrane’s quartet. Ratliff also goes in search of “the perfect moment”; considers what it means to hear emotion by sampling the complex sadness that powers the music of Nick Drake and Slayer; and examines the meaning of certain common behaviors, such as the impulse to document and possess the entire performance history of the Grateful Dead.

Encompassing the sounds of five continents and several centuries, Ratliff’s book is an artful work of criticism and a lesson in open-mindedness. It is a definitive field guide to our radically altered musical habitat.”
– publisher description