“Smart Thinking” book signing events in Austin and San Antonio

art“Science shows clearly that smart thinking is not an innate quality,” says Art Markman, psychology professor and director of the Human Dimensions of Organizations program at The University of Texas at Austin. He claims that the ability to think like the great innovators of our time is a skill that can actually be developed. “Each of the components of being smart is already part of your mental toolbox,” Markman says.

How, you ask?

Here’s the formula: “Smart Thinking” requires developing Smart Habits to acquire High Quality Knowledge, and to Apply Your Knowledge to achieve your goals.” In his upcoming book “Smart Thinking,” (Perigee Books, January 2012) Markman teaches readers how to do just that. He will be at book signing events in Austin at 7  p.m., Wed., Jan. 4 at BookPeople and in San Antonio at 5 p.m., Thurs., Jan 5 at The Twig Book Shop.

He recently sat down with ShelfLife@Texas to discuss the book and some of his most exciting findings.markman-art-SmartThinking

In the introduction to your book, Chief Learning Officer for Procter and Gamble Craig Wynett and Dr. Mehmet Oz praise you for developing a unique mix of “leading edge science” and “news you can use.” Why do you think so few books like yours are being published?

This kind of book is a tough one to get right.  There are a lot of great scientists who know the research on thinking, but few of them have spent time working with people outside of the research community that would provide experience to guide practical recommendations. In addition, most researchers focus on a narrow area of study. Books like this require drawing from across the discipline of psychology. There are also a number of books by people who have worked in business and executive education settings. These books provide recommendations for more effective thinking, but they are not rooted in the underlying science.  As a result, the recommendations are brittle. They work in some cases, but when they fail, it is not clear why.

You are adamant that “smart thinking” and intelligence are not the same thing. What is the difference?

There are lots of tests out there that aim to measure intelligence and aptitude. These tests often focus on abstract reasoning abilities. But, being smart is really about solving problems effectively in real situations. That kind of problem solving requires knowing a lot about the way the world works and having good strategies for applying that knowledge when you need it. Those abilities are just not tested by intelligence tests. As a result, we all know people who “test well” but are not successful in life, and others who are not “book smart” but always seem to find a way to do something interesting.

How and when did you start developing your ideas for “Smart Thinking” and what research did you draw upon to develop the “smart thinking” techniques?

I have always had an interest in how to bridge the gap between research and the application of that research in the world.  About seven years ago, I started working with companies to help them bring research into their businesses. For the past six years, I have worked with the people of Procter & Gamble.  They asked me to teach some classes to their employees to help them be more effective problem solvers. The information in this book emerged from those classes.

I had to synthesize research from many different areas.  One core component of this book draws from work on habits and habit change. You cannot be smart without developing good habits. The second core element comes from work on learning and knowledge. A key to smart thinking is understanding how things in the world function. There is a lot of important work exploring the difficulties of acquiring this functional knowledge and examining ways to improve this type of learning. Finally, many solutions to difficult problems arise as the result of analogies between a problem and a solution from another area of expertise. The book draws extensively on research on how analogies are formed and used.

You have a wonderful anecdote in the book in which you use these techniques to help your son figure out an answer to a tough question on his homework using his own existing knowledge. Have your children begun to embrace these smart thinking techniques? How do you try to incorporate your advice into your own life?

I certainly hope my kids have started to use some of these techniques for themselves, though I’m not qualified to write a book on parenting. I do try to use these techniques myself. I talk a lot in the book about ways to redescribe problems to improve your ability to find good analogies. I spend a lot of time using those techniques in my work as a scientist.  In addition, I have used a number of the suggestions for developing and changing habits for aspects of my life including learning to play the saxophone as an adult and changing the way I eat.

In “Smart Thinking,” you emphasize the fact that “smart habits enable us to perform desirable behaviors automatically.” What do you mean by this and why is it important that we perform our daily tasks without much thought?

It is hard to have to think about your behavior all the time. Most of the time, when you are thinking about your behavior it is because there is one thing you would like to do, but you have to fight against your habits to do it, which is exhausting. It is much more effective to structure your world in a consistent way so that the things you want to do happen automatically. After all, who wants to think about the route they take home from work, where to find the trash can in the office or how to flick on the light switch in the kitchen?  The more things you can compile away as habits, the more you can focus on what interests you.

Throughout the book you have written little interjections called Instantly Smarter, which are tips that readers can begin employing immediately. What are some of your favorites?

I like the tips on remembering names, because so many of us have difficulty with names. We have trouble with names because they are completely disconnected from every other aspect about a person. We want to learn facts that are connected to the person rather than independent ones. So, our difficulty with names reflects something important about the psychology of memory. There are two other sets of Instantly Smarter tips I really like:  One focuses on the importance of sleep in being smart.  The other examines ways to help you pay attention when you feel like you’re losing it in a meeting or class.

What is one habit of smart thinkers that you think will most surprise readers?

Most people think that smart thinkers think differently than they do. That message was even brought out explicitly in Apple’s great ad campaign “Think Different.” In fact, even the smartest thinkers are using the same procedures that everyone has. Where they differ is in the range of things they know about and in their ability to find descriptions of problems that enable them to use the knowledge they have when they need it.

What is the primary piece of advice you hope readers take away from “Smart Thinking”?

The main piece of advice is that you can become smarter.  A musician improves her skills through dedicated practice and an understanding of music theory. Likewise, by understanding the way you use knowledge to solve problems, you can develop smarter habits to learn more about the way the world works and to describe problems effectively.

Do Your Holiday Shopping this Saturday at the Humanities Texas Book Fair

flyer_email-copyBooks make great gifts, especially for those “hard to buy for” people on your list. So take a break from the mall and head on over to the Humanities Texas annual Holiday Book Fair this Saturday, Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the historic Byrne-Reed House.

Twenty-one authors will be available to visit with the public and sign copies of their latest books, which Humanities Texas will offer for purchase at a discounted price. Proceeds will go to the Bastrop Public Library, which suffered losses to its collection during the September wildfires.

The lineup includes:

H.W. Brands, the Raymond Dickson, Alton C. Allen and Dillon Anderson Centennial Professor

1Brands_GreenbackPlanetIn “Greenback Planet,” Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. In The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield, Brands traces the downfall of a notorious New York City figure and brings to life New York’s Gilded Age. More…

Oscar Casares, associate professor of English

1Casares_Amigoland“Amigoland,” set on the South Texas border with Mexico, is the story of estranged brothers Don Fidencio Rosales—querulous, nearly 92 years old, and living in a nursing home—and Don Celestino, twenty years his junior and newly widowed, who finds himself somewhat ambivalently involved with his young cleaning woman, Socorro. The housekeeper is a catalyst for the brothers reconnecting, and the improbable trio takes off on a bus trip into Mexico, where the siblings hope to settle a long-standing dispute about how their grandfather arrived in the U.S. and Socorro hopes to find clarity in her unlikely romance. The trip stirs up powerful issues of family and pride and about how we care for the people we love. More…

Don Graham, the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature

1Graham_StateofMindsIn “State of Minds,” Graham brings together and updates essays he published between 1999 and 2009 to paint a unique picture of Texas culture. In a strong personal voice—wry, humorous, and ironic—Graham offers his take on Texas literary giants ranging from J. Frank Dobie to Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy and on films such as “The Alamo,” “The Last Picture Show,” and “Brokeback Mountain.” More…


James Pennebaker, the Regents Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and chair of the Department of Psychology

1pennebaker_james“The Secret Life of Pronouns” examines how and why pronouns and other forgettable words reveal so much about us. Partly a research journey, the book traces the discovery of the links between function words and social and psychological states. Written for a general audience, the book takes the reader on a remarkable and often unexpected journey into the minds of authors, poets, lyricists, politicians, and everyday people through their use of words. More…

Jeremi Suri, the Mack Brown Distinguished Professor for Global Leadership, History, and Public Policy

1Suri_JeremyNation-building is in America’s DNA. It dates back to the days of the American Revolution, when the founding fathers invented the concept of popular sovereignty—the idea that you cannot have a national government without a collective will. The framers of the Constitution initiated a policy of cautious nation-building, hoping not to conquer other countries, but to build a world of stable, self-governed societies that would support America’s way of life. In “Liberty’s Surest Guardian,” Suri looks to America’s history to see both what it has to offer to failed states around the world and what the nation should avoid. More…

L. Michael White, the Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins and the director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins

1White_ScriptingJesusIn “Scripting Jesus,” White challenges us to read the gospels as they were originally intended—as performed stories of faith rather than factual histories. White demonstrates that each of the four gospel writers had a specific audience in mind and a specific theological agenda to push, and consequently wrote and rewrote their lives of Jesus accordingly—in effect, scripting Jesus to get a particular point across and to achieve the desired audience reaction. More…

Park for free in the St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church’s large lot on the northwest corner of 15th and Rio Grande Streets, and enjoy coffee and a bake sale of donated and homemade treats. Go to this website for more information about the authors and their books!

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Faculty Authors Showcase their Works at the 16th Annual Texas Book Festival

tbf_logo_brownBook lovers, foodies, artists and scholars will partake in an annual rite of fall here in Austin: The Texas Book Festival. The 16th annual Texas Book Festival will take place in and around the Texas State Capitol and nearby venues on Oct. 22-23.

The lineup includes more than 250 authors, an eclectic mix of top literary names, bestselling novelists, political and nonfiction notables, cookbook superstars, Texas writers, children’s authors and promising newcomers.

The talent pool also includes University of Texas at Austin faculty authors. Here are just a handful of professors who will be presenting their books this weekend:

H.W. Brands, the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History

0292723415“Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It”
Saturday, Oct. 22, C-SPAN/Book TV Tent

In “Greenback Planet” (University of Texas Press, Oct. 2011), Brands recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power – and the enormous risks – of the dollar’s worldwide reign.

030774325X“The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age”
Sunday, Oct. 23, Lone Star Tent

In “The Murder of Jim Fisk” (Anchor, May 2011), Brands traces Fisk’s extraordinary downfall, bringing to life New York’s Gilded Age and some of its legendary players, including Boss William Tweed, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary of both books.

0820340375“A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food,” by Elizabeth Engelhardt, associate professor of American Studies
Saturday, October 22, Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.030

Engelhardt’s “A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food” (University of Georgia Press, Sept. 2011) offers a different perspective, taking into account industrialization, environmental degradation, and women’s increased role in the work force, all of which caused massive economic and social changes. Engelhardt reveals a broad middle of Southerners that included poor whites, farm families, and middle- and working-class African Americans, for whom the stakes of what counted as Southern food were very high. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary.

1608194809“The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,” by James Pennebaker, professor and chair, Department of Psychology
Saturday, October 22, Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.016

What do Quentin Tarantino and William Shakespeare have in common? They both write their men like men and their women like men. How can you tell when someone’s being straight with you? They use more verbs, more details (numbers, dates, figures) and more personal pronouns (I, me, etc.). And for the liars: more positive emotion words. These are only a few of the insights found in “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us” (Bloombsbury, Aug. 2011), James W. Pennebaker’s far-ranging work on the use of life’s “forgettable words” and their many hidden meanings. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary.

Check out the official book festival website for a complete schedule of book signings, panel discussions, author interviews, cooking demonstrations and more.

“The Secret Life of Pronouns” Book Signing, Sept. 1

Pennebaker, Jamie 2010The words people use are like fingerprints, revealing amazing insight into their personalities, emotional health, thinking style, group status and relationships. Social psychologist James W. Pennebaker, uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics to analyze pronouns, articles, prepositions, and a handful of other small function words in his latest book “The Secret Life of Pronouns:  What Our Words Say About Us” (Bloomsbury Press, August 2011).

“On their own, function words have very little meaning,” says Pennebaker, the Liberal Arts Foundation Centennial Professor and Psychology Department chair. “In English, there are fewer than 500 function words yet they account for more than half of the words we speak, hear and read every day. Who would have guessed that words like I, you, the, to, but, and and could say so much about us.”

Pennebaker has been able to detect everything from when a person is lying to how well his or her relationship is going. He even delves into politics, discovering why President Barack Obama uses “I” less than any modern president of the United States.pronounsjacketSL

“People across the board think that Obama uses the word ‘I’ at incredibly high rates, but if you do an analysis he uses the word ‘I’ at lower rates than any modern president, by a lot,” Pennebaker says.

Comparably, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush used “I” at very high rates. Pennebaker finds that people who use “I” at higher rates tend to come across as more personal, warm and honest. While people who use “I” at lower rates come across as more self-confident. He attributes people thinking of Obama using “I” at such high rates, due to his self confidence and the misconception that confident people must use “I” all the time. He also finds that the highest status person in a relationship tends to use “I” the least, and the person who is the lowest status tends to use the word “I” the most.

Don’t miss the book signing at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1, at BookPeople located at the corner of Lamar and 6th Street in Austin.

Winners of the Hamilton Book Awards Announced

MCGBENThomas McGarity and Wendy Wagner won the $10,000 grand prize at the Hamilton Book Awards for their book, “Bending Science: How Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research” on Oct. 28 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin.

McGarity is the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long Endowed Chair in Administrative Law, and Wagner, is the Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor in Law at The University of Texas at Austin. Their book was published by Harvard University Press.

The awards are the highest honor of literary achievement given to published authors at The University of Texas at Austin. They are sponsored by the University Co-operative Society.

Michael Granof, chairperson of the Co-operative Society, hosted the event and announced the winners. Victoria Rodriguez, vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, presented the awards.

Four faculty members received $3,000 prizes for their books. They were:

• Jacqueline Jones, the Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas and Mastin Gentry White Professor in Southern History, “Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War” (A. A. Knopf, 2008).

• Peter MacNeilage, professor of psychology, “The Origin of Speech” (Oxford University Press, 2008).

• Tracie Matysik, associate professor of history, “Reforming the Moral Subject: Ethics and Sexuality in Central Europe, 1890-1930” (Cornell University Press, 2009).

• Karen Rascati, the Stewart Turley/Eckerd Corporation Centennial Endowed Professor in Pharmacy, “Essentials of Pharmacoeconomics” (Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2008).

The University Co-op is a not-for-profit corporation owned by the students, faculty and staff of The University of Texas at Austin. Since the year 2000, the University Co-op has given more than $28 million in gifts and rebates.

A Q&A with the Authors of “Why Women Have Sex”

9780805088342Why women have sex has long been a vexing question. In hopes of providing new insight into this provocative topic, psychologists Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss collected candid stories from more than 1,000 women from 46 states, eight Canadian provinces, three European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and China. The findings, detailed in their new book “Why Women Have Sex,” reveal a shocking array of reasons – from boredom to self-loathing to painful headaches to jealousy. We sat down with the authors to gather more insight into the mystery of women’s sexual behavior.

How can women benefit from this research?

Buss: Why women have sex is important from several different perspectives. One is a deeper understanding of the paths to personal happiness. Women’s sexual experiences can create soaring heights of ecstasy and deep fulfillment (becoming “one” with another person; transcendental spiritual experiences such as feeling closer to God). Others can lead to the depths of despair. Some women in our studies had sex in order to assuage their loneliness, which works in some cases, but in other cases leads women to feel a sense of self-loathing and social rejection that is truly heart breaking. So understanding why women have sex has many practical advantages for women and their partners.

Meston
: I don’t think women, in general, spend a lot of time thinking about why they have sex. By reading all the experiences of different women, I believe it may lead some women to think more about the consequences of their own sexual choices. They might think “when I have sex for x, I feel really good afterward; when I have sex because of y, I feel crappy.” In other words, it might help women to become more informed “consumers” of sex.

What findings surprised you the most?

Meston: We knew motivations were more complex than it feeling good, or trying to have a baby. But we were still astonished by the amazing diversity of sexual motivations – from the mundane to a sense of adventure to borderline evil. It was also interesting to discover how the same sexual motivation could have vastly different consequences for different women – having “revenge sex” led some women to feel less cheated, like the score was now evened. For other women it made them feel cheap and regretful. The outcome of the sexual choice is obviously related to each woman’s unique personal past as well as her current moral, religious and cultural beliefs.

Buss: One thing that surprised me was what I refer to as the “darker” aspects of women’s sexual motivation. Some women had sex to get revenge. For example, revenge against a best friend who had slept with the woman’s boyfriend or husband, or revenge against a partner who had cheated on her. A few women even had sex in order to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease!

Aside from an emotional connection or physical attraction, what are some other reasons for why women have sex?

Meston: So many women responded by saying they were forced into having sex, or that they had no choice, so we thought it was an important topic to cover. It’s important to study women who have experienced sexual abuse because it could have consequences on their sexual satisfaction and functioning into adulthood.

Buss:
Another set of findings that surprised me centered on the intensity of women’s sexual competition with other women. Sometimes it’s a battlefield out there, and I think men are largely unaware of the intensity of women’s sexual competition!

In comparison to men, do women have more complex reasons for having sex?


Buss:
Women’s sexual psychology is complex, far more complex that I envisioned when Cindy and I first embarked on this project. What turns women on physiologically in terms of sexual arousal, for example, is not necessarily the same as what turns women on psychologically. For men, in contrast, there’s a closer connection between psychological and physiological sexual arousal. This is just one example of how a deeper understanding of women’s sexual psychology, and how it differs from men, can lead to deeper sexual and romantic relationships between women and men.

What sets your research apart from other sexual health studies?

Meston: There has been a lot of research on how people are having sex and how often they’re doing it. But the more important question is why they’re doing it. If we’re going to have any impact on reinforcing sexual behaviors or techniques that will enhance sexual satisfaction, we need to investigate why women are having sex in the first place. For example, if a woman is having frequent unprotected sex, telling her to use a condom is not going to be an effective intervention if her motivation to do so is to punish herself. We need to understand the underlying sexual motivation if we are to make positive behavioral change.

Do you think this book could help strengthen relationships between men and women, both emotionally and physically?

Meston: Good sex in a relationship isn’t talked about that much. But bad sex or low sex drives are the key reasons why people have extramarital affairs – and ultimately for the demise of relationships and marriages. Sex and money are the two top reasons why people get divorced, so this book is a very good resource for married couples.

Buss: Women’s sexual motivations, which lead to sexual experiences, touch so many other domains of their lives. They affect women’s social relationships with men and with other women; they influence women’s social and sexual reputations; they influence women’s sense of identity and self-esteem. It’s difficult to think of a domain that has more far-reaching consequences than women’s sexual experiences, which are driven in large part by their sexual motivations.

Could men benefit from this book too?

Meston: I think by reading this book, men will truly get into the sexual psychology of women. Understanding why women have sex and what makes it a gratifying experience and what doesn’t is going to help men become more empathic and good sexual partners in their relationships. A lot of women and men have a hard time communicating about their sexuality, especially for couples in long-term relationships. I think it would be much easier to read a book and gain some insight into some of those mysteries.

Buss: I think it should be required reading for all men. Our book illuminates women’s sexuality, ranging from the physiology of sexual orgasm and “sexual healing” to the complexities of women’s sexual psychology. It will help men to become better lovers and better partners. The book will also help women to understand their own sexuality, as well as the sexuality of their friends, sisters and other women they care about.

How can this book help women learn more about themselves?

Buss: Some women think that they are alone in the sexual experiences they’ve had, and in some ways, each sexual experience is unique. But we think that many women will be able to identify with the women in our book, since they too have had similar sexual experiences. Women will also learn a lot about the circumstances that lead to positive sexual outcomes, and just as important, the circumstances that can lead to sexual disasters, which can cause some women to suffer years of sexual regret. Although we did not write the book as a self-help book, we believe that women will learn a great deal of useful information about their own sexuality from reading our book.

About the Authors
Cindy M. Meston is one of the world’s leading researchers on women’s sexuality and a professor of clinical psychology. She is also the director of the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory, a cutting-edge lab on women’s sexual experience.

David M. Buss, one of the founders of the field of evolutionary psychology, is a professor of psychology and the author of several books, including “The Evolution of Desire” and “The Dangerous Passion.” Their jointly authored article, “Why Humans Have Sex,” garnered international attention when it was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

A Q&A with the Authors of "Why Women Have Sex"

9780805088342Why women have sex has long been a vexing question. In hopes of providing new insight into this provocative topic, psychologists Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss collected candid stories from more than 1,000 women from 46 states, eight Canadian provinces, three European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and China. The findings, detailed in their new book “Why Women Have Sex,” reveal a shocking array of reasons – from boredom to self-loathing to painful headaches to jealousy. We sat down with the authors to gather more insight into the mystery of women’s sexual behavior.

How can women benefit from this research?

Buss: Why women have sex is important from several different perspectives. One is a deeper understanding of the paths to personal happiness. Women’s sexual experiences can create soaring heights of ecstasy and deep fulfillment (becoming “one” with another person; transcendental spiritual experiences such as feeling closer to God). Others can lead to the depths of despair. Some women in our studies had sex in order to assuage their loneliness, which works in some cases, but in other cases leads women to feel a sense of self-loathing and social rejection that is truly heart breaking. So understanding why women have sex has many practical advantages for women and their partners.

Meston
: I don’t think women, in general, spend a lot of time thinking about why they have sex. By reading all the experiences of different women, I believe it may lead some women to think more about the consequences of their own sexual choices. They might think “when I have sex for x, I feel really good afterward; when I have sex because of y, I feel crappy.” In other words, it might help women to become more informed “consumers” of sex.

What findings surprised you the most?

Meston: We knew motivations were more complex than it feeling good, or trying to have a baby. But we were still astonished by the amazing diversity of sexual motivations – from the mundane to a sense of adventure to borderline evil. It was also interesting to discover how the same sexual motivation could have vastly different consequences for different women – having “revenge sex” led some women to feel less cheated, like the score was now evened. For other women it made them feel cheap and regretful. The outcome of the sexual choice is obviously related to each woman’s unique personal past as well as her current moral, religious and cultural beliefs.

Buss: One thing that surprised me was what I refer to as the “darker” aspects of women’s sexual motivation. Some women had sex to get revenge. For example, revenge against a best friend who had slept with the woman’s boyfriend or husband, or revenge against a partner who had cheated on her. A few women even had sex in order to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease!

Aside from an emotional connection or physical attraction, what are some other reasons for why women have sex?

Meston: So many women responded by saying they were forced into having sex, or that they had no choice, so we thought it was an important topic to cover. It’s important to study women who have experienced sexual abuse because it could have consequences on their sexual satisfaction and functioning into adulthood.

Buss:
Another set of findings that surprised me centered on the intensity of women’s sexual competition with other women. Sometimes it’s a battlefield out there, and I think men are largely unaware of the intensity of women’s sexual competition!

In comparison to men, do women have more complex reasons for having sex?


Buss:
Women’s sexual psychology is complex, far more complex that I envisioned when Cindy and I first embarked on this project. What turns women on physiologically in terms of sexual arousal, for example, is not necessarily the same as what turns women on psychologically. For men, in contrast, there’s a closer connection between psychological and physiological sexual arousal. This is just one example of how a deeper understanding of women’s sexual psychology, and how it differs from men, can lead to deeper sexual and romantic relationships between women and men.

What sets your research apart from other sexual health studies?

Meston: There has been a lot of research on how people are having sex and how often they’re doing it. But the more important question is why they’re doing it. If we’re going to have any impact on reinforcing sexual behaviors or techniques that will enhance sexual satisfaction, we need to investigate why women are having sex in the first place. For example, if a woman is having frequent unprotected sex, telling her to use a condom is not going to be an effective intervention if her motivation to do so is to punish herself. We need to understand the underlying sexual motivation if we are to make positive behavioral change.

Do you think this book could help strengthen relationships between men and women, both emotionally and physically?

Meston: Good sex in a relationship isn’t talked about that much. But bad sex or low sex drives are the key reasons why people have extramarital affairs – and ultimately for the demise of relationships and marriages. Sex and money are the two top reasons why people get divorced, so this book is a very good resource for married couples.

Buss: Women’s sexual motivations, which lead to sexual experiences, touch so many other domains of their lives. They affect women’s social relationships with men and with other women; they influence women’s social and sexual reputations; they influence women’s sense of identity and self-esteem. It’s difficult to think of a domain that has more far-reaching consequences than women’s sexual experiences, which are driven in large part by their sexual motivations.

Could men benefit from this book too?

Meston: I think by reading this book, men will truly get into the sexual psychology of women. Understanding why women have sex and what makes it a gratifying experience and what doesn’t is going to help men become more empathic and good sexual partners in their relationships. A lot of women and men have a hard time communicating about their sexuality, especially for couples in long-term relationships. I think it would be much easier to read a book and gain some insight into some of those mysteries.

Buss: I think it should be required reading for all men. Our book illuminates women’s sexuality, ranging from the physiology of sexual orgasm and “sexual healing” to the complexities of women’s sexual psychology. It will help men to become better lovers and better partners. The book will also help women to understand their own sexuality, as well as the sexuality of their friends, sisters and other women they care about.

How can this book help women learn more about themselves?

Buss: Some women think that they are alone in the sexual experiences they’ve had, and in some ways, each sexual experience is unique. But we think that many women will be able to identify with the women in our book, since they too have had similar sexual experiences. Women will also learn a lot about the circumstances that lead to positive sexual outcomes, and just as important, the circumstances that can lead to sexual disasters, which can cause some women to suffer years of sexual regret. Although we did not write the book as a self-help book, we believe that women will learn a great deal of useful information about their own sexuality from reading our book.

About the Authors
Cindy M. Meston is one of the world’s leading researchers on women’s sexuality and a professor of clinical psychology. She is also the director of the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory, a cutting-edge lab on women’s sexual experience.

David M. Buss, one of the founders of the field of evolutionary psychology, is a professor of psychology and the author of several books, including “The Evolution of Desire” and “The Dangerous Passion.” Their jointly authored article, “Why Humans Have Sex,” garnered international attention when it was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The Dark Side of Love

Each year, Valentine’s Day offers the opportunity for couples to celebrate their love with lush red roses, candlelit dinners and heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate confections.

However, the commercialized celebration of romantic love doesn’t often acknowledge the darker side of many relationships, which may include obsession, jealousy and even murder.

In his recent research, David Buss, UT professor of psychology and leading researcher in the field of evolutionary psychology, delves into the underbelly of romantic relationships to shed light on the psychology of love, desire, passion and sex.

Keep reading to learn more about his three recent books: “The Murderer Next Door,” “The Evolution of Desire” and “The Dangerous Passion.”

Sleeping with the Enemy
Based on the largest homicidal fantasy study ever conducted, Buss explains why we are all wired to kill, and what might push us over the edge in “The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind is Designed to Kill” (Penguin, 2005). Using evolutionary psychology, he explains how the human mind developed adaptations to kill throughout human evolution, when murder was a necessity in the brutal game of reproductive competition.

Investigating the motives and circumstances of homicides—from demented serial killers to the seemingly harmless next-door neighbor—Buss conducts a detailed study of more than 400,000 FBI files, in which 13,670 of those cases involved a man killing his wife. Taking readers on a journey into the mind of a killer with harrowing stories of homicide cases and quotes from survey participants about the murders they fantasized about committing, he explains when they are most at risk for being murdered, or becoming the murderer.

Unearthing the Roots of Desire
Can women and men just be friends? What do women really want? Are men more promiscuous than women? In “The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating” (Basic Books, 2003), Buss offers evolutionary explanations to some of the most baffling questions about sexual desire and attachment.

Based on a global survey of 10,047 respondents in 37 cultures, he revealed that much of our romantic behavior is hard-wired from our evolutionary origins. Drawing from the study, he explains why men prefer attractive, faithful young women, and women gravitate toward men with money, social status and power. With a focus on gender differences in sexual agendas, Buss reveals how mating strategies have remained the same since the dawn of time.

Jealousy on Mars and Venus
Refuting the belief that jealousy is a sign of insecurity, Buss reveals that men and women are genetically designed for the green-eyed monster in “The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love and Sex” (Free Press, 2000). Drawing from experiments, surveys and interviews conducted in 37 countries on six continents, as well as insights from scientific discoveries, he explains how jealousy was adapted through human evolutions as an early detection system for reproductive threats.

Delving deep into the evolutionary past of the human species, Buss reveals how jealousy can not only destroy a relationship, but strengthen the bond as well. Taking readers on a journey through various cultures, from prehistoric times to present day, he also shows how women may elicit jealousy to increase their partner’s commitment and test the strength of a relationship.

“Snoop” in Smithsonian Magazine

Do your books, knick-knacks, music and wall décor reveal the essential makeup of your character? University of Texas at Austin psychologist Sam Gosling, who has studied the psychology of personal space for more than 10 years, says they do.

In his new book “Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You” (Basic Books, 2008), Gosling reveals some of the key findings from his research, a special brand of voyeurism he calls “snoopology.”

Smithsonian Magazine recently wrote about Gosling’s work in the Oct. 21 story “How to Be a Snoop.” Check it out and tell us what you think. Are you a snoop?

"Snoop" in Smithsonian Magazine

Do your books, knick-knacks, music and wall décor reveal the essential makeup of your character? University of Texas at Austin psychologist Sam Gosling, who has studied the psychology of personal space for more than 10 years, says they do.

In his new book “Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You” (Basic Books, 2008), Gosling reveals some of the key findings from his research, a special brand of voyeurism he calls “snoopology.”

Smithsonian Magazine recently wrote about Gosling’s work in the Oct. 21 story “How to Be a Snoop.” Check it out and tell us what you think. Are you a snoop?