Jennifer Queen

Why We Do What We Do

Associate professor of psychology and behavioral scientist Jennifer Queen 
discusses the five books that made her rethink her thoughts and behavior.

Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know

Stumbling on Happiness

Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness examines why we often seem to be so wrong about what will or will not make us happy in the future. It turns out that we are not particularly rational, and often, what we are experiencing during the moment clouds our judgments of past and future experiences. Gilbert reviews the basic research on foresight from a variety of subfields in relatable detail. Understanding the biases that can cloud your thinking about your future is invaluable when making practical decisions about it. This book offers a great application of the science of decision-making.

Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Brian Wansink

Mindless Eating highlights how many things other than hunger and taste affect our food choices. Things like proximity, container size, and linguistic descriptions matter at least as much as hunger and taste when we are deciding what, when, and how much we eat. Big food companies know this stuff—why shouldn’t we? Food researcher Wansink has been working for years both in academia and for various companies and governmental organizations. He walks the reader through this research with a bit of advice at the end on ways to take the “mindless” out of our eating. As a result, I started using smaller dishes during breakfast.

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Humans are convinced that we see and remember everything that happens to us, but our cognitive system simply doesn’t work that way. The Invisible Gorilla expounds on the illusory ways we think we have command over our mental lives, from perception to memory. In reality, we may not notice something that changes right in front of us, we may forget something important, or we may even add something to our memory that never happened. I find that understanding my own cognitive limitations helps me combat them and forgive flaws in others. Now my favorite line while arguing with my husband is “I’m not saying it’s not how it happened. I’m just saying it’s not how I remember it.” It is impossible to argue with that now that he has read this book.

However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph

Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before

Jean Twenge

Young people aren’t what they used to be, right? I’ve taught them for over a decade now, and the changes in that short time are striking. Twenge studies differences from The Greatest Generation to millennials by mining published research. Since behavioral scientists have used the same tools over time, she reasonably compares generations on a variety of constructs from narcissism to depression. Generation Me then considers the historical context that surrounds those currently in their 20s and 30s, determining that while their grandparents may not have had Barney to teach them about self-esteem and individualism, they did have a strong community to prevent them from feeling lonely and isolated. After reading the book, I am struck by the similarities of the human condition that defy time.

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits

Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience

Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld

Satel and Lilienfeld bring to light how the general public and some researchers have become obsessed with neuroscience. While it is true that the technology available to study the brain has advanced by light-years in the last few decades, people occasionally lose sight of what it can actually tell us. The most useful explanations of why we think and act like we do (especially at the macro level) may not come from studying the brain. Brainwashed reminds us that while neuroscience is important, it is probably not the universal answer that many have proclaimed.