ASSOCIATES (vol. 6, no. 3, March 2000) -

You’re Smarter Than They Make You Feel

Paula J. Caplan
New York: The Free Press of Macmillan
Hardbound: $19.95

A review by

Bob Farnsworth
Senior Library Technical Assistant
Serials Department
University of North Florida Library’s a new year (century, millennium, etc.)—and you would like to feel a bit better about yourself? You’d like to feel that you’re taking more control of things than you did in the past? You may be very interested, then in this book.

     No, this is not going to be a review of a weight-loss book. Nor is it a review of a pie-in-the-sky reward book.

     Rather, this is a review of a practical book that explains its purpose in the subtitle: "How the Experts Intimidate Us, and What We Can Do about It."

     The author, Paula J. Caplan is a professor of psychology. She is also the former Head of the Centre for Women’s Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She has written this book for "anyone who has sought help from a doctor, lawyer, teacher, auto mechanic, or other expert and ended up feeling stupid or powerless in the process."

     Her aim in this book is to teach us to stop assuming that we lack education or intelligence when dealing with so-called experts. And, when you think about it, in our various positions in libraries—we are hardly lacking in necessary "smarts". Rather, we need to learn to ask ourselves the very important question: "Is it really all my fault that I didn’t get the help that I sought, or is something else happening?"

     The various chapters in the book are quick and easy to read—but they do incorporate useful points. All of a sudden, you may start to recognize some of the techniques some "experts" use on you—either knowingly or unconsciously to cause the gulf between themselves and "lay people".

     Some examples include: Use of jargon and "mystifying technical language," presenting ideas and opinions as unarguable truths, blaming you for what isn’t your fault, intimidation, etc.

     And there are a host of other such techniques that any consumer, patient, or information-seeker will recognize when they are explained.

     One section is full of very worthwhile warnings...everything from warning about being given blame instead of professional help, to warning about feeling you are not smart enough to question what is being told to you.

     As consumers—and as employees in information situations, we can definitely benefit from many of the ideas that Caplan shows us. All in all, this is a book that can indeed open your eyes to situations involving your self-esteem in 2000 and beyond.

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