The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You)

The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You)

The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You)

Pride, lust, gluttony, greed, envy, sloth, and anger.

They’re considered “deadly” because of their capacity to generate other evils.  The truth is, we all sin and we do it all the time—in fact, usually several times over before breakfast!  But human behavior, argues social psychologist Simon Laham, is more complex than “good” or “evil.”  In psychology, these sins aren’t considered morally wrong or even uniformly bad, but are treated rather as complex and interesting psychological states that if, indulged wisely, can be functional, adaptive, and lead to a range of positive effects.  
 
The Science of Sin takes on these so-called sins one by one and through psychological research shows that being bad can be oh-so-good for you.  Did you know that:
 
·         Being slow and lazy can help you win the race?
·         Anger makes you more open-minded?
·         Coveting what others have not only makes you more creative but bolsters self- esteem?
 
So go ahead, eat that last cookie and kick back on the couch for a day of TV with your neighbor’s boyfriend—from gluttony to greed, envy to lust, Laham shows how even the deadliest, most decadent of vices can make you smart, successful, and happy.

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3 Comments so far »

  1. The Book Reporter said,

    Wrote on March 3, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

    8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    A Brief Summary and Review, February 12, 2012
    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You) (Paperback)

    * A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

    Lust, greed, gluttony, anger, sloth, envy and pride. The seven deadly sins are recognized as an integral part of the Christian (and especially the Catholic) belief system, but their influence in Western culture extends well beyond these realms. Indeed, even the atheistic among us are likely to regard the seven characteristics perhaps not as sins, but at the very least as vices, or character flaws.

    Nevertheless, despite the near universal acknowledgement of the reproachfulness of the seven deadly sins, the psychologist Simon Laham takes a very different approach to these so-called sins in his new book “The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good for You)”. Indeed, as the title suggests, Laham maintains that the seven deadly sins are not nearly as bad as they are cracked up to be, and in fact the author argues that much good can come of them, so long as they are approached in the right way.

    Laham tackles each sin in order, awarding each a separate chapter. As a general rule, each chapter begins with an explanation of the sin as it was originally conceived, and why it was considered to be a sin (though there are chapters where the author stints in this regard, or leaves such a discussion out altogether, and in these cases it is sorely missed). Following this, we are apprised of how the characteristic, or, in some cases the emotion, that is represented by each sin is regarded by modern psychology. Included here is an account of why each characteristic is thought to have evolved in our species in the first place (though again, the author is sometimes remiss in providing such an explanation, much to the chagrin of the interested reader).

    From here, Laham takes the reader through numerous lab and field experiments to demonstrate that the characteristic or emotion in question can indeed lead to positive consequences. For instance, lust can trigger us to be more helpful and brave; gluttony can help us focus on the aesthetic experience of eating (which can lead to an enhancement of the culinary experience itself); greed can make us more persistent and self-sufficient; anger can motivate us to overcome the obstacles that we face, and also prompt us to confront moral transgressors (to the betterment of society); envy can motivate us to better ourselves; sloth can allow us think more efficiently and also prompt us to be more helpful towards others; pride can make us more competent and work harder, and also give us more self-esteem.

    Though the author’s main point is to outline the positive aspects of the seven deadly sins, he does acknowledge that, when approached in the wrong kind of way, they can indeed backfire on us (though again, the author could afford to go into much more detail here than he does on many occasions).

    Despite the shortcomings mentioned above, there is much of interest to be learned here, and the book is well worth the read. A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

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  2. Hanne Mwa said,

    Wrote on March 3, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Do you want guilt-free icecream? Read this., February 24, 2012
    By 

    This review is from: The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You) (Paperback)

    In The Science of Sin, Dr Laham argues that what are known as the seven deadly sins can in fact be good for you.

    I was skeptical to the idea when I first started reading it, but Dr Laham does a great job of outlining a number of scientific studies that show how what would traditionally be referred to as a sin – be it lust, greed, envy, gluttony, anger, pride or sloth – can in fact be beneficial, both for the individual and for society. Complex concepts are clearly explained, and the book also provides a fascinating insight into how social psychologists run experiments and answer questions about human nature more generally.

    My favourite chapter (though it’s hard to pick just one!) was Gluttony – and now I am going to go and eat some icecream.

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  3. manhattanreader said,

    Wrote on March 3, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Enlightening read, February 23, 2012
    By 

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You) (Paperback)

    I am a big fan of books in this genre and I got this book the other day and got through it very quickly. Laham’s knowledge of the subject in conjunction with his vast awareness of related psychological studies is quite remarkable. He traces through the sins and enlightens the reader to both the reasons why the sins can be so beneficial as well as doing a great job discussing and explaining certain methods used by researchers in studies today

    I definitely recommend this book to anyone considering it, an entertaining read, Laham certainly has written a witty page turning look into the age old condemned seven “deadly” sins.

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