A cloud of stolen and invented facts

The New Jonah Lehrer: More Honest, More Boring, Still Spreading Bunk By Daniel Engber

ICYMI: Lehrer fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan as well as other people; he embellished stories and distorted facts; he plagiarized a lot. Of his three best-selling books, two—Imagine and How We Decide—were deemed so flawed as to be taken out of print. But now he’s back, a better man. Lehrer’s new book has been double-checked, with references for every detail. Where possible, he says, he ran the scientific findings he describes by the researchers who made them. “A few simple procedures,” his introduction promises, will “prevent these mistakes from happening again.”

So, what’s a Jonah Lehrer book without the fibs and cheats? It’s just like every other Jonah Lehrer book, but less fun to read.

A Book About Love doesn’t waver from its author’s standard blueprint. First ask a straw-man question (“is love really make-believe?”), then tell a famous story (“a boy goes to a party … his name is Romeo”), relate it to some data from an aging academic (“a spry 80-year-old” who “talks slowly, always pausing thoughtfully”), and finish with a platitude (“our lives become the sum of everyone we have loved”). Repeat, repeat, repeat.

In the bad old days of Evil Jonah Lehrer, this template sometimes had a bit of buoyancy. A cloud of stolen and invented facts would float around a gripping anecdote—like Tom Brady’s final scoring drive in the 2002 Super Bowl—and imbue the scene with unearned drama. Now his method’s made of lead. Good Jonah Lehrer wants to soar again, but without recourse to his former, irresponsible panache, the book remains a dull concatenation of research studies and the bromides they inspire.


Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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