Thursday, April 14, 2005

Books that did not tickle my fancy

Today, like everyday, I went to the student union library during my break between lectures. The library is completely independent of the university’s academic libraries. Here, the focus is not on academic material. Instead, the collection boasts novels, videos and DVDs, music CDs and records (only for listening from designated listening stations only though), comics, magazines and a large variety of non-academic books.

I usually like to sit in the silent room’s comfy chairs, with illumination provided by a skylight sized just nice to give wonderful natural light but not enough to scald the skin. Here, I can revise my lecture notes, read up on my research documents or browse through magazines. New Scientist remains my favourite; Scientific America used to be a hard core science magazine that I had trouble understanding back in the late 1990s. Now, it appears to be shifting towards the pop-science end of business, where the money is. Can’t blame them really, my father terminated our subscription because it was too hard core and was more of a chore rather a pleasure to read. I wonder if we still have any of those past issues.

As I sat myself down on a chair within range of the skylight, I noticed several books stacked on a side table, unattended. Curious, I examined the top book.

Sex Secrets: ways to satisfy your partner
Brian Chichester, Kenton Robinson and the editors of the Men’s Health magazine
1996, Rodale Books, USA

The back page proceeds to tell us more about the book-

Inside Sex Secrets you’ll find:
Your love map
The ultimate quickie
Steamy flicks
The right size
Hot spots
Multiple orgasms
Sex toys

The next book proved to be more intense than the first:

Anal Pleasures and Health: a guide for men and women
Jack Morin, Ph.D.
Yes Press, San Fransisco

Not really my kind of reading material, I quickly picked up the last unexplored book.

The New Joy of Gay Sex
Dr. Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano
1992, Harper Collins, New York

Urgh! This time, I did not even bother to read the table of contents. The image of 2 cuddling men on the front cover was enough to do the trick.

Common to these books are the fact that they advertise the author’s credentials on the front cover. In the first book, they deliberately made use of the Men’s Health magazine’s credits for their own use. How much did these unnamed editors contribute anyway? This is probably a case where the marketing gurus decided to take capitalise on the (presumed) success of the Men’s Health magazine.

In all probability, this is an attempt to take advantage of referent power. If Men’s Health is a useful and authoritative publication, anything associated with the publication should not be too bad.

"Referent power refers to admiration or respect. When we look up to people because of their accomplishments, their attitude, or any other personal attribute, we tend to give them more power over us. Imagine being asked to do something by your "hero" or your favourite movie star; we are very likely to comply out of admiration or respect."
-AllPsych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom

In contrast, most successful books do not need to rely on trumpeting the author’s credentials. In books that are doing well, the author’s name is sufficient to prove that this book is the one you are looking for. In where I am studying, “Callister” will refer to the text book “Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction” by William Callister Jr., usually the 6th edition. William Callister has already made a name for himself as a reliable source of information in the field of materials science, and has an expert power aura about him.

"Expert power results from experience or education. Those individuals with more knowledge tend to have more power in situations where that knowledge is important. For instance, the physician will have more power in a medical emergency than the plumber. But, when the pipes explode and the house is being flooded, the physician is not the person to call."
-AllPsych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom

Ok, enough nonsense for today. I’ll be off to work on my research project, among many other things.

AllPsych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom- Psychology 101- Chapter 8: Social Psychology- Section 3: Obedience and Power