Why Do Experts Trash This Bestseller Ep 687

A photograph of a chimpanzee.  Tune in to challenge your English listening abilities while exploring thought-provoking topics like psychology!

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 4048 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 21 min

📥 Download MP3 & PDF 13.1 Mb ▪️ 👓 Read Transcript ▪️ 🎧 Listen to Lesson

Level Up Your British English Listening Skills With Great English Listening Practice

Looking for a fresh twist on learning English? Welcome to Adept English's latest lesson! We don't just teach English—Today, we delve into the very fabric of human behaviour! 🧠 This isn't your average English lesson. Imagine expanding your English vocabulary while critiquing a bestselling book. Yes, we're talking about "The Chimp Paradox" by Steve Peters. 📚

Here's why you can't miss this episode:

  • Vocabulary Mastery: Learn words you won't find in your average lesson.
  • British English Focus: Immerse yourself in the nuances of British culture and language.
  • Exam-Ready: Preparing for a test? We've got you covered.
  • Engage Your Brain: This isn't just English. This is a look at the psychology of human emotions.
  • Levels for Everyone: Whether you're a beginner or advanced, there's something for you.

✔Lesson transcript: https://adeptenglish.com/lessons/english-listening-practice-lesson-unpacking-the-chimp-paradox/

You are not your emotions; you are experiencing your emotions.
⭐ Eckhart Tolle

Skyrocket Your Speaking & Listening Skills 🚀 Don't just study English. Live it, breathe it, and understand the psychology behind human behaviour while you're at it. Nail that conversation, ace that exam, and debate like a Brit! 🇬🇧

Ever felt like psychology books are just fluff? Here's one that has our psychotherapist Hilary riled up—The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters. People rave about it, but Hilary has an entirely different take, one that questions not just the book's theories but its impact on human behaviour. Intrigued?

Listen to our eye-opening lesson that exposes the cracks in this popular theory, while brushing up your English skills at the same time. Dive in and discover a more realistic understanding of emotions and human behaviour—and let's get you talking English like a native!

It's very hard to grow, because it's difficult to let go of the models of ourselves in which we've invested so heavily.
⭐ Maya Angelou

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More About This Lesson

Get ready for an English lesson like no other! At Adept English, we're diving deep into the world of psychology with a critical look at the popular yet controversial book, "The Chimp Paradox." You'll not only tune your English listening skills but also get a fresh take on human emotions and behaviour. Plus, we’re keeping it all British—accents, idioms, and culture!

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.
⭐ Albert Einstein

Things you will gain in today's English listening lesson:

  1. Real-world Vocabulary: Learn everyday words and phrases used in a natural, conversational setting.
  2. British Accent Exposure: Tune your ears to British English by listening to a native speaker.
  3. Complex Ideas: Build comprehension skills by following a nuanced discussion on psychology.
  4. Multiple Topics: Enhance vocabulary and understanding by encountering psychology terms and real-world examples.
  5. Sentence Structure: Hear how native speakers use different sentence structures, making your own speech more varied.
  6. Reiteration: Benefit from repeated exposure to key points, aiding memory retention.
  7. Context Clues: Develop the ability to understand meaning through context, an important skill for language mastery.
  8. Critical Thinking: The podcast challenges common beliefs, helping you engage deeply in English.
  9. Listening Skills: Improve listening comprehension, a key component in learning a new language.
  10. Cultural Insights: Get a glimpse into British perspectives on psychology, enriching your cultural understanding. These aspects can help you become more proficient and comfortable in speaking and understanding English.

Benefits of our listen & learn approach to learning

The lesson is so layered, you'll want to listen more than once. And the more you listen, the more you understand!

  • Learn British English: Master the nuances of British English.
  • Explore Real-world Topics: Engage with critical debates on human behaviour and emotions.
  • Beat the Boredom: Say goodbye to dull lessons. We keep it exciting!
  • Lesson's Dual Focus: This isn’t just an English lesson; it's also a deep dive into psychology.
  • Tackle Fears: Whether you're worried about the accent or find lessons boring, we've got you covered.
  • Rich Cultural Context: Pick up phrases and ideas that Brits actually use.
Emotions can provide us with important information, even if they are not always easy to understand or control.
⭐ Daniel Goleman

Boost Your English Listening Skills: Hone your understanding of spoken British English by tuning in. Don't miss this chance to make your English learning journey exciting and smart. Hit that subscribe button and tune in to Adept English now!

Questions You Might Have...

Diving into this British English lesson is like embarking on a dual expedition: one that navigates the jagged cliffs of critical thought and another that meanders through the labyrinth of the English language, all wrapped in the warmth of British culture. As we dissect the divisive views on "The Chimp Paradox," we're sharpening our mental machetes to clear the under-brush of confusing English idioms and colloquialisms. It's a journey through the Amazon rainforest of psychology and English language, where each turn is an epiphany and each step a lesson. Strap in; it's a roller-coaster of intellectual and linguistic revelations!

  1. What is the main focus of this English lesson? This podcast dives deep into a critical discussion of the controversial book "The Chimp Paradox" by Steve Peters. The lesson offers a unique viewpoint on human emotions and behaviour. While you're engaged in this gripping topic, you're also fine-tuning your English listening skills, specifically in British English.
  2. How does this lesson help in learning British English? As you listen to the podcast, you'll be exposed to a variety of British English expressions, idioms, and accents. This immersive experience enhances your comprehension skills and gets you closer to speaking English fluently, just like a native British speaker.
  3. What is "The Chimp Paradox," and why is it considered controversial? "The Chimp Paradox" is a book that tries to simplify human psychology into three components: the Human, the Chimp, and the Computer. Hilary, the host, argues that the book could be misleading and potentially harmful. While some find it useful, the critique presented in this podcast encourages you to consider alternative viewpoints.
  4. How do I get the most out of this lesson? Listen to the podcast multiple times to ensure you grasp all the details. You can also purchase Adept English podcast bundles for offline listening, enabling you to revisit the lessons whenever you like. This iterative listening will cement your understanding and improve your British English proficiency.
  5. How does this lesson relate to real-world psychological concepts? The lesson not only scrutinizes the book's theory but also connects it to broader psychological theories like Freud's Superego and Transactional Analysis. This opens up a world of English vocabulary related to psychology that you may not encounter elsewhere, enriching both your language skills and your understanding of human behaviour.

Most Unusual Words:

  • Controversial: Causes a lot of disagreements or strong opinions.
  • Whopping: Very large.
  • Alternative: Another choice or option.
  • Realistic: Close to real life; practical.
  • Amused: Mildly entertained or made to smile.
  • Misleading: Giving the wrong idea or impression.
  • Vehemently: Strongly and with a lot of emotion.
  • Reductive: Making something overly simple and less valuable.
  • Erroneous: Wrong or mistaken.
  • Constraint: Limit or control on what you can do.

Most Frequently Used Words:


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Transcript: Why Do Experts Trash This Bestseller

Hilary's Review of The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters

Hi there. Have you ever read a book and wanted to throw it out of the window? Today we're looking at a book that's pretty controversial, especially for a psychotherapist like me. And guess what? While we're doing that, we'll also help you refine your English listening skills with a particular focus on British English. So, let's get started.

I haven't done a podcast on psychology as a topic for a while, but we know that you like these ones. And I think that this might be a two parter. Do you know the book The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters? It's got over 17, 000 reviews just on the UK version of Amazon and a whopping 73 percent of those are five stars.

But I'm not a fan, and I know lots of people who aren't either! Stick around for an alternative viewpoint on this book. And what I think is a more realistic take on human emotions and behaviour. And all the while, you'll be improving your English at the same time.

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

Have you ever thrown a book away?

The Chimp Paradox by Professor Tim Peters is a book I've disliked for years. I was amused to read a therapist's comment on Reddit, who said, "It's the only book I've ever thrown away!" I feel similarly about this book.

It may help people who have certain problems, but on the whole, I think the book is misleading and may actually be doing people a lot of damage. I have clients that quote from it all the time, and I find that once they've read this book, it's really quite difficult to move them on from this way of thinking and its damaging effects.


I'll explain in this podcast what The Chimp Paradox says, its theory and why I think it's harmful. And I may later on do another podcast which goes through a similar model of human beings, but which I think is much more positive and encouraging, and really rather wonderful!

Don't forget this is an English language podcast

Don't forget meanwhile that this is an English language podcast. The interesting topic is just to keep you listening. So don't forget to listen to it a number of times until you understand all of it. Also, don't forget you can easily buy Adept English podcast bundles online on our Courses page at our website adeptenglish.com. This is good news if you want to be able to listen to podcasts when you're offline or you want to have them in your own reference library on your phone.

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'Keep your friends close, you enemies closer'!

So, The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters. This book is on my shelf because a client who was convinced by it actually bought it for me. Unlike the therapist on Reddit, I haven't actually thrown it away. It's something like the saying, 'Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer', I think. That's the way I feel about it. But given its positive ratings and its popularity, you're probably surprised to find that a psychotherapist like me really doesn't like this book. But actually I reread parts of it to make this podcast, and I was surprised once again by just how much I dislike it, just how vehemently I dislike it.

What are the main ideas of the book, then?


A photo of a paper art impression of a brain and nice emotions. Immerse yourself in British English and culture as Hilary, your trusty guide, walks you through complex discussions made easy to understand.

©️ Adept English 2023

The Human, the Chimp and the Computer

Steve Peters talks about three different parts of the brain. That's B R A I N.

The Human, which he says 'is you' and lives in your frontal lobes. So it's the most intelligent and evolved part of our brain in other words. The Human is logic-based and it will attempt to establish the truth and the logical version of any situation.

He talks also about The Chimp. That's C H I M P. That's short for 'chimpanzee', genetically our closest animal relative of course. Your Chimp lives in your limbic system. That's L I M B I C. And the limbic system is the part of the brain loosely associated with emotions.

Steve Peters says, your Chimp is 'given to you at birth'. ' It comes from your genes and it cannot change'. The Chimp interprets things with feelings and impressions. using 'emotional thinking'. And 'emotional thinking' is based on hunches, paranoid feelings, or defensive thoughts.

Confusingly throughout the book, Peters makes statements that 'the Chimp is neither good or bad' and can have 'healthy processes'. But he constantly characterises the Chimp and emotions as 'negative, unstable, and unpredictable'. It's as though those are the only types of emotions that we have!

And the Chimp is based on drives, like the sex drive, the survival instinct, drives that want to attract a mate, establish territory, find food and find shelter. The Chimp is there, in other words, to take care of our basic needs.

The third part of the brain is the Computer and this stores information from the Chimp or the Human. And the Computer uses this information to act automatically. It can serve as a reference point. So the Computer tends to be our 'map for life'. And it contains negative and positive elements. This part seems to me to be the closest to Freud's Superego or the 'Parental Ego State' in Transactional Analysis, if you know that. I have less problem with the Computer in his model than I do with the other two parts, the Human and the Chimp. But I do find it rather reductive. That's R E D U C T I V E. And that word means 'overly simplified', therefore having less value.

My critique of The Chimp Paradox

So my critique concerns mainly the other two parts of Professor Peters's model.

It could be a lot shorter!

First of all, the Chimp Paradox could be a lot shorter. The main ideas are described in the first few pages and the rest is a repetition of this, with different examples. It is the fault of many 'pop psychology' books - there is a basic idea, which is interesting. But the writer has clearly, agreed to a certain number of pages for the publisher, so there's a lot of repetition. And most readers probably abandon the book halfway through, having already received its message many, many times.

The author encourages a negative attitude to our own emotions, while claiming it's neutral - which influences readers to do the same!

Secondly, Professor Peters says when talking about the Human and the Chimp parts of the brain

" It is important to grasp that only one of these beings is you - the Human. The Chimp is an emotional machine that thinks independently from us. It's not good, it's not bad, it is just a Chimp".

How are your emotions not you? I'll come back to that one in a minute.

He goes on to say 'the Chimp is not good or bad' throughout the book, and yet the Chimp is characterised negatively throughout. He says that the core characteristics of the Chimp are that 'it jumps to an opinion, it thinks in black and white, it's paranoid, it's catastrophic, it's irrational and it uses emotive judgments'. Well, those core characteristics don't seem neutral, 'not good, not bad' to me. And the negative descriptions of the Chimp continue throughout the book. And pretty much all of the example scenarios of the Chimp are negative ones.

And the very name. I feel it's unfair on chimpanzees, our closest relatives, genetically, of course. I like chimpanzees, but if someone called me 'a chimp', I would be offended. And I imagine you would be too.

So the effect of this name is that the emotions are necessarily characterised as negative things, even though the writer doesn't admit that. Negative things which we can only hope to control or squash. Emotions are not seen as something that has any value or which can guide us through life.

Are our emotions 'genetically determined at birth'? Psychology, Psychotherapy and Neuroscience would disagree

Thirdly, Professor Peter says, "The Chimp is given to you at birth. It comes from your genes and it cannot change". I cannot tell you how much I disagree with this statement. Absolutely 'No!'. Our emotional reactions are very much coloured by our experiences growing up and throughout our lives. And it's quite possible to link someone's over-reaction emotionally to a [current] situation to an incident in the past. We carry our emotional experiences with us and our emotional selves evolve through our lives, often in the most wonderful ways and that's what shapes us as human beings. We are influenced by our positive, warm experience with other human beings, just as we're influenced by trauma and horrible experiences can change us too. That's very evident.

Our emotional world is not fixed at birth, nor is it genetically determined. This is a completely erroneous idea, and it goes against everything in Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Neuroscience as well. And it goes against common sense for most people.

'Positive emotions are located in our logical brain' - surely spurious?!

Fourthly, Peters talks about the Human living in our frontal lobes being 'logic-based'. And yet he talks about the emotions that he regards as 'positive' as residing here. They're based in the Human. He calls it 'The Humanity Centre'. So in here, he puts guilt, that's G U I L T, and empathy, E M P A T H Y.

Presumably, he sees those two emotions always as positives, because they hold us back, constrain us, perhaps. Though I would say they can have negative effects too, of course. But they most certainly are emotions. He also puts in there compassion, a sense of purpose or achievement. So he puts those in the logical brain. I don't think that makes sense at all.

I think what he's done here is package up what he considers to be the few positive emotions and he's decided that these must live in the logical part of us. This doesn't work for me at all. I think empathy, guilt, compassion, sense of purpose, sense of achievement, are deeply emotional human functions.

Are emotions only 'irrational and knee-jerk' with little instrinsic value?

Fifthly, Peters constantly seems to equate 'emotional' with 'irrational', that's I R R A T I O N A L, meaning that it 'makes no sense'. He talks as though emotions do not have any value or justification.

I completely dispute this. For example, I've worked with certain people on anti-depressant medication and one of the effects of this is that your emotions are blunted. You can't feel your feelings as deeply.

And often these people say that they cannot trust themselves to make good decisions because they don't have access to their emotions which would guide them. Indeed, it's hard to make decisions that might make you happy or satisfied in life if you don't have access to your feelings.

And our emotional selves are very much what make us human, as well as our frontal lobes and our capacity to think and be logical.

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Can there be 'a positive emotional life'? Who'd benefit from this book - and who is likely to like this book?

Lastly, those traits of the Chimp which Peters lists - ' It jumps to an opinion. It thinks in black and white. It's paranoid. It's catastrophic. It's irrational and it uses emotive judgement'. And apparently, this represents everybody's 'emotional life'.

I agree that there are people whose emotional side can be like that. And perhaps these are the ones who would benefit from reading this book and learning to operate more constraint.

I think the group of people who probably like this book are those who value thinking and logic above feeling and who are largely uncomfortable with feelings and find them difficult to manage. If you're already like that, I don't really see how this book helps you. It just strengthens your idea that emotions are irrational and negative and not to be trusted and have no intrinsic value.

In most evolved adults, emotions don't just happen randomly, selfishly. They occur as a spontaneous and genuine reaction to something. Emotions can be calm, quiet, valuable, dignified, meaningful, and very human. They're not always some un-thought through, knee-jerk reaction that gets the better of us and damages other people. They can be that, of course. But my belief is that human beings, even unevolved ones like children, are better than that!

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The Chimp Paradox - useful only if you struggle to control your impulses!

I could go on and on. I think this book is potentially deeply damaging and the only people who might benefit are those who struggle to control their impulses.

If you're interested, I'll give you another model of personality, which is similar, it has certain similarities, but which I think is much closer to human functioning, much more positive and much more useful.


However, let us know your opinion, especially if you found The Chimp Paradox useful.

Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to us again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com




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