Title: Being the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are: The Science of a Better You
Author: Dr Jim Davies, PhD
Year: February, 2021
Publisher: Pegasus Press
Being The Person Your Dog Thinks You Are is Dr Davies’ third popular science book after Riveted: The Science of How Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One with the Universe, and Imagination: The Science of Your Mind’s Greatest Power.
He is a professor at Carleton University’s Department of Cognitive Science and is the director of the Science of Imagination Laboratory. He also co-hosts: Minding the Brain, a podcast dedicated to cognitive and brain sciences.
I remember a couple of years ago having dinner with Dr Davies over Zoom through an event run by Carleton’s Cognitive Science Association. We discussed a few topics that he was writing about for an upcoming book, which included ethics, differentiating pain and awfulness, and animal consciousness. I finally had the opportunity to read the final product and was not disappointed. Find out why this book could lead to a better you and why it should be your next read!
Optimizing and Learning what Matters, what Unmatters, and what Antimatters
At the start of the book Dr Davies describes himself as an optimizer – someone who actively explores alternatives to find better, more efficient ways of doing things to improve their life. Throughout the book he gets you to consider not only things that matter, but what unmatters and antimatters. If something has a negligible effect that it’s unimportant it unmatters, and if it is supposed to help but does the opposite it antimatters.
Grounded in Science, with a Caveat
What I like the most about this book is that it’s grounded in science. Dr Davies backs up what he’s saying with evidence from studies and is happy to share other methods that have worked for him with the caveat that it’s based on anecdotal success.
He is honest about his book being classified as popular science and that, often, these types of books are not peer-reviewed, unlike academic journal articles, but he nevertheless gets his colleagues to vet his manuscript because it matters to him.
I also think it’s important that he mentions that although he is presenting facts to the best of his ability at the current time of writing, facts expire, and those presented in the book might not be true in ten years.
Advice on Productivity
Did you know that what a lot of us think of as multitasking is actually rapid task switching and it can decrease our efficiency? To learn more about multitasking, listen to this podcast!
There is a lot of great advice that is offered in this book that can be easy to introduce into your own life. For example, if you have something that you should be doing but you don’t want to, try depriving yourself of something that you really like until the thing you should be doing gets accomplished. Although some methods might feel weird at first, you start to adapt to them soon enough.
I would consider myself someone who likes to experiment with finding more efficient ways to do things even when I have a method that already works. There is an entire section dedicated to “hacking your life” from breaking and replacing bad habits, to using the time you have more effectively, to becoming a better reader.
If rewards, control, and habit-formation are something you want to learn more about, check out this podcast called, Control: Why You Do What You Do.
Living a Life that is Happy & Morally Good
When you are trying to get over something bad that has happened to you, here is one thing that Dr Davies suggests.
He says, “I imagined that instead of me being me, with all my self-doubt and regret, paralyzed and overwhelmed with my life, that I was just a video game player, dropped into this terrible situation. What would that game player do? Not agonize. Just get to work.” (Davies, 2021, p. 37)
A lot of this book convinces you to take action, keeping in mind the ideas and hacks that are presented to you rather than simply reading about one person’s experience that has helped them.
If you would like to learn more about imagination check out these podcasts:
How Imagination Can Make You Happy Or Miserable
Imagining The Future
The second part of the book focuses on our moral psychology and things that are about more than just ourselves. There is a lot to unpack particularly when it comes to thinking about what we think is right and wrong versus what is actually right and wrong, or how to quantify the value of human life or animal suffering.
Overall, I like that Dr Davies presents multiple parts of an issue and different perspectives rather than just telling you what you should or shouldn’t do.
I felt called out on multiple occasions while reading this book and I’m okay with that. I enjoy a read that challenges my views, that gets me to consider re-evaluating some of my beliefs and learn how small changes to my actions and reflections can improve my life.
“Not only should you think about the effect of your actions, but you need to think about what will happen as a result of your not choosing the other options (opportunity cost)”. (Davies, 2021, p. 276).
What books have inspired and helped you become your better you? Let us know in the comments below, and join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram!