Saturday, September 03, 2011

Baron-Cohen's last book more of a miss than a hit?

It's interesting to peruse the reader reviews at Amazon for Professor Simon Baron-Cohen's most recent book sold under the title Zero Degrees of Empathy in the UK and in the US released in June 2011 under the title Science of Evil. I get the impression that this book is not a huge hit either side of the Atlantic, despite the book being reviewed in some major UK newspapers. For the UK version there are only eleven reviews, most giving a rating of three stars or less, and for the US version only three reviews, one with a low two-star rating. Some quite interesting discussions have been triggered by the unfavourable reviews of Zero Degrees of Empathy, so at least we can say the book has, in some ways, provoked discussion, but often not in ways that reflect well on the book or the author. In some previous posts I have explained that Baron-Cohen has apparently presented not one but two unverified urban legends in his book as factual anecdotes that tell us something profound about human nature, which raises many pointed questions about the book and also about the author.

Contrast the weak reception to the professor's new book with what can be found at the Amazon page for another book on the subject of psychopaths that was released within a month of the publication of Baron-Cohen's book. I refer to Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test, a book that I have recommended at my blog as a better alternative to Baron-Cohen's book for readers interested in the subject. One hundred and twelve readers have taken the time to write reviews of Ronson's book, the large majority rating it highly. So was I right, or was I right?

Zero Degrees of Empathy at Amazon:

The Psychopath Test at Amazon:

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