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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (edition 2012)

by Susan Cain

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,9222341,312 (4.05)231
JerryColonna's review
Gorgeous book. I didn't realize I was an introvert. But it's very clear, after reading this, that I am.
My only complaint is that Cain is a little biased (in a sense) towards introverts...which I enjoyed emotionally but intellectually found a little less satisfying. It creates a tilt in the book that left me with a number of questions about extroverts. I found myself, though, really wondering if this lens (introvert/extrovert) could be a useful filter for analyzing the leadership strengths and weaknesses. ( )
  JerryColonna | Apr 5, 2012 |
All member reviews
Showing 1-25 of 238 (next | show all)
Not the most entertaining read (for some reason I expected a Malcolm Gladwell style) but very informative, insightful and powerfully written. ( )
  rockinghorsedreams | Nov 13, 2014 |
I heard a number of interviews with Susan Cain and watched her TED Talk a couple of years ago. I liked what she had to say so much that I pre-ordered her book, something I rarely do,

...and then I left it on the shelf until this month.

I don't know why I waited so long to read this book, but I'm glad I finally picked it up. It's much broader in scope than I expected. Sure, it's all about introversion (and extroversion), but Cain looks at this temperament from all different angles---how it affects relationships, our experiences in school and at work, cultural expectations, career paths, and even how a cultural preference for extroversion affects our religious lives.

I loved that Cain explored all of this from a place of research, touching upon her own experience throughout but not basing her conclusions on her personal experience. I also loved that she maintained a sense of neutrality. It's not a book about how awesome introverts are and how sucky extroverts are; it's a book about the strengths and weaknesses inherent in people all over the introversion/extroversion spectrum and how to make the most of what's ours naturally.

This book has given me insight into how I parent, the troubles I have with choosing a career, the discomfort I sometimes feel at church (the book talks about extroversion-preference in evangelical Christian churches, but I've seen similar things in my Unitarian Universalist congregations), why I seek out leadership positions in areas in which I'm passionate and then get scared and burned out, why my daughter feels more comfortable playing softball than playing soccer, and even why I spent hours making up awesome mix CDs for labor and birth with my first and then didn't want to have anything to do with them while I was actually in labor. (I joke that I'm like a cat in the sense that I prefer to give birth alone in a dark cupboard. That's an exaggeration, but not by much.)

I'm already using Cain's suggestions as I figure out where to place my energy and how to spend my time outside of the full-time job of parenting and homeschooling. I can see many other places where this new perspective on introversion will help me in the future.

Now I'm working on getting my spouse to read Quiet. He's closer to the "extrovert" side of the spectrum than I am, but I think Cain's book would be helpful to him, too, both in understanding himself and in understanding me and our introverted kids. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Nov 6, 2014 |
Couldn't be a better book for introverts and the people who love them. ( )
1 vote adriennefriend | Nov 3, 2014 |
Although the book offered some insight on being an introvert and at times I could recognize myself from the description, the overall feeling after finishing it is irritation. First, I know the book is not about extroverts, but the very narrow description it gives on them, makes me doubt there are any extroverts in this world. At least I don't know anyone who's so energetic and unable to be alone for so long that they cannot sit down and read a book or do research unless they create an introverted "social self" (sorry, I read this in Finnish so I don't know the correct term in English).

As I consider myself as an introvert with an extroverted social self (or several selves) that I keep up so well that no one believes I'm an introvert, I was delighted on the section describing this. However, I would have liked a discussion on the contradictions it creates for social life: there was an example that introverted single person should wear this "mask" in order to get him/herself out there looking for a potential date. But: what if the person feels like this mask hides his/hers true self and cannot, after initial rituals, reveal it? Doesn't the distance between the introvert and the surroundings grow? In the end, the author marks that the social self can make a person physically ill, but there's no real discussion on this anywhere. What also irritates me, is that later in the book, the "social self" is called "fake self" although most (all?) of the examples given described how people had benefited from these selves and didn't consider them to be a problem.

There were also several contradictions in the book. For example, once the book referred to research indicating how not expressing negative feelings was related to negative view on world. Later, on discussion with Emily and his spouse's dinner parties, other research was brought up, telling Emily's spouse that there would be no harm in suffocating his anger. Maybe anger is not negative feeling? Or do extroverts need to endanger their mental well-being for not upsetting the sensitive introverts?

I have to admit though that by irritating me the book was probably more thought-provoking than it would have been without these "negative" feelings. It still should have digged a lot deeper and keep in mind that if the aim was for extroverts to better understand introverts, the extroverts should first recognize themselves in the book. ( )
  Lady_Lazarus | Oct 5, 2014 |
A lot of this made me nod and blush and think about how I react to people and how I behave and makes a lot of sense to me. She also gives a lot of examples about how introverts are not valued by society but should be and that they should be accepted and helped as kids to find how to use their voice but respected for their skills.

If you want to understand introverts you could do worse than this book. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Oct 1, 2014 |
Everyone should read this book. ( )
1 vote arrwa | Sep 29, 2014 |
I would love to see this as a documentary. The book itself gets a little long. But it's comprehensive, that's for sure. Like a Beethoven symphony, it covers all the possible ideas.

Now for those people who think this book will help with their introversion, well... the best thing the author does is tell you that your introversion is normal. You are not doing something wrong, you just have a different way of thinking. There are strengths and faults to introversion, just as there are strengths and faults to extroversion. The problem is that some time after WWII, society got in its head that a forceful personality was more desirable than someone who got things done with integrity and character. That's not to say it has no good advice -- it does. And it wraps up with a great summary. Plus the anecdotes it uses are spot-on, plus the data points are valuable and easy to understand.

I wish this book was read by extroverts, especially bosses and managers, so that they can better understand their employees and why they might not be thriving in an environment full of open spaces and pods and wasteful small talk. ( )
1 vote theWallflower | Sep 19, 2014 |
Throughout history introverts have been treated as a lesser-than class. Introversion was seen as something to be overcome, not embraced. Susan dispels this worldview by showing how the world needs introverts. She plumbs the depths of what makes someone an introvert or an extrovert and discusses variations in these classifications. A wonderful read full of insight on what to do if you're an introvert and need to survive in an extrovert career, or if you're an introvert raising an extroverted child or vice versa. ( )
  catturtle | Aug 26, 2014 |
This book, although interesting, greatly irritated me. The Author was very one sided when it came to her arguments, usually using a quick blurb saying "extroverts are cool too". Every point she makes is strictly speaking to the introvert and not a person who exhibits both traits (which seems to me, the majority of the population).The idea of personality being either extrovert or introvert is a failure, just as someone isn't completely left or right brain dominant. The Author could have built more upon the benefits of introversion itself instead of creating arguments and statistics on whom wins in the race of life.

I'll admit, this was an audio book for me which could have played a part in my aversion to the Author. Sometimes when you listen to a book and the voice actor gets under your skin, this can be a death sign for the book itself. I've heard many people adore this book, so I won't say don't read it... It just wasn't my cup of tea. ( )
1 vote yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
I did feel at times that Cain associates quietness with introversion too much, in the sense that lots of introverts are very loud and talkative people (when talking about something relevant to them, that is, she did get it right that 'small talk' is not our forte), this is something I find rather confuses people, who, even knowing I hardly ever socialize, have a hard time believing I am really an introvert because I'm not shy. Ironically enough, I'm pretty sure the reason I get asked to please lower my voice pretty frequently is that I get so lost in what I'm excited about, I forget, not because I'm loud all the time. Anyway, I rather think the amount of quotes I've pulled speak for my high opinion of this book.

http://readingz.livejournal.com/339608.html ( )
  Evalangui | Aug 22, 2014 |
Susan Cain is a disillusioned Wall Street lawyer, now author, promoting her book. Publishing is an industry dominated by liberal thinkers. Is it small wonder that a book that demonizes Wall Street and other aggressive type industries/corporations would be championed by those same liberal devotees, thereby providing the book with wildly positive reviews, making it a best seller, while appealing to those of like minds? Susan Cain interviewed many introverts and did an enormous amount of research in preparation for the book, but most of us know that statistics can pretty well be manipulated to prove anything the researcher wishes. She shows her political stripes with the mention of three particular persons in her book, quoting them or acknowledging their superiority in some way, i.e., former Vice President Al Gore, Former President Bill Clinton and present President Barack Obama. I think I can reasonably draw the conclusion that since she chose to only use representatives from the Democrats, that she falls very comfortably into the category of those in the publishing industry who rarely, or barely, tolerate views from the right. Surely, there must be someone on the right side of the government who has said or done something she appreciated as much and could have included and quoted positively, but she chose not to do so.
Cain analyzed those in relationships with introverts, parents of an introvert, those who work with introverts, those married to introverts, Asians vs Americans, essentially, those whose own personalities were in conflict with the people with whom they were interacting. She also interviewed and drew conclusions about those married to or involved with someone with the same personality proclivity, introvert to introvert, extrovert to extrovert, etc. She chose anecdotal references to prove her specific points. The audio’s reader spoke in a confident, authoritative voice, making the listener believe the explanations offered were credible, although after exploring the comments from other introverts, some of their feelings would belie her results. It felt like even as she was apologizing and attempting to present extroverts and introverts equally, she seemed to be indicting extroverts as bullies and extolling introverts as compromisers contributing to the world more meaningfully. Extroverts were risk taking and warlike while introverts were peace-loving and docile. As she wrote, introverts were interested in substance and extroverts were interested in style. I am not sure that is a positive statement for both sides of the spectrum. It feels like a left-handed compliment. In my opinion, according to her theories, the introverts are the thinkers and everyone else is simply a noisemaker.
The book was not what I expected. I thought it would be more about the achievements of both introverts and extroverts rather than an explanation of how one betters the other, most of the time. I thought it would be about the appreciation of silence, at times, of living in a world without the silent scream of the social media scene, in which everyone is capable of excessively sharing! Basically, Cain, who is a person who prefers individuality and privacy, explored the workings of our world today which is governed by group think, open workspace and online sharing of all aspects of our lives. She cited many influential people, from all walks of life, past and present, as examples of introvert and extrovert behavior. Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Alfred Adler, Malcolm Gladwell, Pastor Rick Warren, Steve Wozniak, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner are only some of those mentioned.
Does she have the proper credentials to write a book offering and supporting theories that can’t really be proven? I had the feeling that she chose a premise before putting pen to paper, and then, she set about to prove it. Admittedly, she declares herself an introvert, so she might have put a thumb on the scale on her own behalf, since I thought that introverts came off far more positively, in the book, than extroverts, who were accused of being only the stimulus for innovations, while the introverts were the ones who thought more deliberately and made wiser, more thoughtful, and more often, correct decisions to carry out those innovations.
From the comments I read from other readers, who declared themselves introverts, I was not alone in my wariness about the book. Most people are all over the spectrum, with few being a pure introvert, extrovert or ambivert. The author declares that she is using the everyday spelling of extrovert, rather than the scientific, extravert, but then proceeds to present the book in a very cerebral way. Some of the studies she cites seem to be conclusive, but I feel certain there are others that declare the exact opposite and are also conclusive, but are not included. She infers that the old brain spurs us on, often to act foolishly, and it resides in the Limbic system and governs the extrovert. The new brain is in the Cortex and it is responsible for our sensible decisions; it governs the introvert. She talks about the amygdala and the frontal lobe and the cerebellum. These terms are not on the tips of most people’s tongues. She declares that there may be a genetic connection between dopamine and serotonin with dopamine leading to risk taking and serotonin to risk avoidance. Some of her theories seemed to simply be her own conjectures, some felt like they were made up out of whole cloth.
The book offers pat explanations about the difference between extroverts, introverts and everything in between. I felt that her conclusions were basically “one size might fit all”. Because the audio’s reader was excellent, the book was tolerable. Otherwise, I would have closed it and left it unread which is something I rarely do. However, the reader used just the right amount of expression and tone to make it a manageable experience and keep me involved until the end. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Aug 19, 2014 |
Well researched and written, Quiet is a book about the one-third to half of the population who’s introverted. Introversion and extroversion are two ends of a personality spectrum. Introverts tend to be quiet and introspective, and they need time to “recharge” after social situations. Extroverts, on the other hand, are gregarious and outgoing, and social interaction energizes them.

Quiet does a good job of debunking the myth that introversion means “anti-social.” Drawing upon research studies, personal experiences, and interviews, Cain shows how introverts benefit from social connections as much as extroverts, but prefer to interact with smaller groups of people and talk about weightier matters. It’s the quality, not the quantity, of the relationships that count.

Quiet is divided into four sections. The first is about extroversion being the current ideal in America and how many of our systems are set up to benefit and promote extroversion. For instance, the rise of the open floor plan office and the prominence of group work in schools.

The second section deals with the science behind the personality spectrum, how introverts and extroverts process dopamine differently, why both characteristics likely evolved, ect. I was particularly interested in how introverts are more sensitive to stimuli – what feels just right for an extrovert is an information overload for an introvert.

Section three is the shortest and looks at how introversion and extroversion vary between cultures, namely America and East Asia.

The last section is advice for living as an introvert and those living with introverts. The last chapter contains specific advice for parents and teachers of introverted children.

Throughout Quiet, Cain stresses that one type is not more beneficial than the other and that both have qualities that make them valuable. What is really needed is a greater cultural balance between the two, and for both types to be able to communicate with and understand the other.

I didn’t find any of the information mind blowing – I’d figured out that I was an introvert years ago, and I’ve already learned how to become what Cain calls a “pseudo-extrovert” when I need to be. However, Quiet was consistently informative and interesting, and I was glad that I’d read it. I would recommend it to any introvert interested in learning more about their personality or to someone who’s a parent or spouse of an introvert and wants to understand their loved one better. ( )
  pwaites | Aug 18, 2014 |
I just finished the audiobook and it is brilliant. I've read a lot about introversion and the information uncovered in her research revealed topics I had not considered. The sections about high social monitoring was insightful personally as it helped me understand behaviors in my life. The free trait theory also explained why I manifest certain traits related to tasks I love that do not manifest at all in similar tasks with different goals. It does provide some insight about the extrovert species that should help introverts and extroverts understand one another. I could have done without the little climate change mini-sermon (ignore Gore and we'll "drown") but similar tangents were few and short and didn't distract from the core topic. Her articulation of the impact of Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, and the culture of personality shaping of the American extrovert culture was enlightening. The brief mention of the extrovert focused culture on religion with megachurches and trends towards overstimulated worship was interesting and she did a hand off to Adam McHugh and his work on introversion in religion. I highly recommend it especially if you have just recently discovered your introverted characteristics. ( )
  RhodesDavis | Aug 11, 2014 |
Susan Cain is officially one of my heroes. A self-described "shy introvert" who has managed to excel in both a profession (law) and a country (the US) that covet the "Extrovert Ideal," Cain has written a book that is part Introvert Empowerment, part self-help guide, and part psychological history. What's not to love about that?
For the introverts, this book will have you saying "ah-HA!" every few pages. For extroverts, it will serve as a valuable guide to understanding "those weird, quiet people" in your life. And for everyone in between, it will encourage further awareness of the beauty that is cerebral diversity. ( )
  TRWhittier | Aug 4, 2014 |
In a world that values extroversion and the character traits that embody it, the capabilities and benefits of an introverted personality are lost. This, argues Susan Cain, is to the detriment of society. Starting with an outline of the Extrovert Ideal and its influence on Western, and especially American, culture, Cain traces how the history of the United States led to a personality-driven culture that favors extroverts. She moves on to describe the characteristics of an introvert and how one’s placement on the introvert-extrovert spectrum impacts everything in life from the friends made to the careers preferred. Cain also studies many of the ways introverts struggle to cultivate a “pseudo-extrovert” persona to cope with others, and the ways this both benefits and hurts them at home, at work, and in the world. The final sections of the book largely focus on children and the way introversion impacts their development and growth, and how parents can help them fully realize their potential.

I’ve always figured that I must be pretty far over on the introvert spectrum, because I find other people extremely draining and prefer to work by myself when possible, so I wasn’t surprised to recognize myself in a lot of Cain’s stories. But this book is far more than a cheerleader shouting, “It’s OK to be quiet and introverted!” It’s actually a very clinical book packed with case studies that study every aspect of introverted life. I was fascinated to learn that babies who are more sensitive to external stimulation tend to become introverts, almost as if the world is too overwhelming so they have to shut it out, yet introverts also appear to be less responsive to dopamine, which makes them more cautious. Another study disproved the popular belief that open office plans, so popular in the offices of the tech companies here in Silicon Valley, are not any more effective than traditional cubicles and in some cases may even be less effective when it comes to problem solving and creative solutions.

There isn’t a lot of practical advice for introverts, but there are a few useful examples. In one chapter, Cain dissects the interactions of a couple where the husband is an extrovert and the wife is an introvert, looking at some of the problems that come up consistently in their relationship and offering proposals to help them manage. She also devotes a few pages to raising children, offering tips for both introverted and extroverted parents to help raise their kids, whether introverts or extroverts, in ways that will accept and even promote their natural talents, wherever the fall on the spectrum. ( )
  makaiju | Aug 1, 2014 |
This is definitely a book that all introverts (or parents/friends/teachers) of someone who is introverted should pick up. Lots of great studies and inspiring information in here.
  Musefall | Jul 29, 2014 |
I had a long, lovely review written for this one, but the computer stopped computing. Bah.

Anyway, this book could not be more relevant to my interests, speaking as somebody who's at the extreme end of the "I" scale. I'd been enjoying Cain's blog posts over at Psychology Today, and I was excited to hear she'd written a book.

There's so much to love here: the engaging writing, the solid research reporting, the illustrative examples, the listings of references works and additional readings. But what really earns the fifth star for me is the fact that she doesn't frame introversion as a defect, a problem, an abnormality to overcome. We simply have a different way of being, despite the best efforts of misguided people to paint us as antisocial, arrogant, shy, dull, and any number of other projected negative characteristics.

In fact, I'm wondering whether this might be a bit of a "preaching to the choir" situation--we introverts already know the value of solitude, reflection, focusing alone on a problem, and letting each person talk. The trick is getting it across to the societal infrastructure at large: schools (group work), companies (team projects; cube farms; open bullpens), and even home designers (open floor plans). As another GR reviewer said, "Introverts living in the Extrovert Ideal are like women living in a man's world." It's ill-fitting at best and downright hostile in some cases.

I recommend this book to introverts everywhere, people who think they might be introverts, and sympathetic/curious extroverts. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
In a world that seems to value the outgoing personality, constant sharing, brainstorming, and the open concept at work and school, this book is a wonderful antidote. It praises the value that comes from an individual, alone, thinking and creating. It describes and advises about ways an introvert copes with being out there in the world. Sometimes I felt there were a few too many arcane psychological studies, perhaps stretching a good idea out past it's natural perimeters. But a good read it is, affirming the natural instincts of the 30% of the people who would self-identify as introverts. ( )
  gbelik | Jul 12, 2014 |
It took a long time to read this since I didn't finish it the first time I got it from the library and the list for it is just insane. The book is great for introverts letting you know that you are not bad even if our society is set up to love extroverts. The book is full of anecdotes about the writer and other people that she has had contact with dealing with different things while being introverted. There are several studies quoted as well and overall it is a good book for positive affirmation that is ok to be an introvert. ( )
  Glennis.LeBlanc | Jul 8, 2014 |
I was looking forward to reading this book for months. I listened to podcast review it and tell me how awesome it was. I watched the author's Ted Talk and thought it was brilliant. I would look for author interviews and reviews on the book--all good. But when I started to read the actual book I realized, it just wasnt that good. Maybe it was the hype I built for it. Maybe it was that I'd heard a lot of what she talked about before I read the book and didn't find it any better presented in the book.

But I consistently felt reading the book that it consisted of generalizations which she said were supported by research, but never makes the effort to help the reader figure out which source she gets her information from. There are pages and pages of references in the back--but I want end notes next to each sentence that makes some broad claim that I can actually investigate. She says repeatedly, "this is what an introvert is" but I didn't feel like she was talking about me.

I'm deeply disappointed in this book.... ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
I was looking forward to reading this book for months. I listened to podcast review it and tell me how awesome it was. I watched the author's Ted Talk and thought it was brilliant. I would look for author interviews and reviews on the book--all good. But when I started to read the actual book I realized, it just wasnt that good. Maybe it was the hype I built for it. Maybe it was that I'd heard a lot of what she talked about before I read the book and didn't find it any better presented in the book.

But I consistently felt reading the book that it consisted of generalizations which she said were supported by research, but never makes the effort to help the reader figure out which source she gets her information from. There are pages and pages of references in the back--but I want end notes next to each sentence that makes some broad claim that I can actually investigate. She says repeatedly, "this is what an introvert is" but I didn't feel like she was talking about me.

I'm deeply disappointed in this book.... ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
I mostly enjoyed the concept of this book more than the execution. It was not quite what I was expecting.

What I thought was going to be a sort of guide, filled with advice and alternate perceptions for the introvert designed to help him navigate more successfully in "a world that can't stop talking", was in fact mostly a collection of case study anecdotes. Granted, some of the studies were interesting in their own right, and I did identify with some of the personal subjects of any given chapter, but taking as a whole "Quiet" turns a little dry to me. Valuable, but dry.

Only in the last chapter, which focuses exclusively on children, do we get what I was expecting from the whole book. But as I have no children, the advise for how to raise little introverts, though of some interest, really did little to make the book more personally useful to me.

I applaud the writing of this book, and the research that went into doing same. But I think it is better for those of a scientific mind, or those who literally have been introverted their entire life, without realizing that there are many in-built reasons why they are so.

I have always known of the biological aspect of being introverted, however, and after a while, grew ever so slightly impatient with reading about my cerebral cortex. ( )
  TyUnglebower | Jun 28, 2014 |
In non-fiction novel Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we undervalue introvert personality type and how much we lose by doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert type (the culture of personality) throughout the 20th century and explores how deeply it has come to be the “ideal” our culture. The Extrovert Ideal, Cain believes, is so pervasive that influences our work performance, educational policies, political choices, and even the country's financial health. But the main focus of "Quiet" is to expose the myths and misunderstandings that were born when we as a culture embraced the Extrovert Ideal and turned introversion into a malady needs to be avoided. Ms. Cain traces both the biological and cultural basis for introversion and extroversion and their role as evolutionary survival strategies in animals and humans. The insights gleaned from these studies can help introverts take advantage of their special traits and thrive on their own terms in an extroverted world. Amid the research and the advice, Ms. Cain calls attention to those introverts who have made a difference in the world like Rosa Parks and Ghandi. They showed that empathy, thoughtfulness, persistence, compassion, focus and conscientiousness, all characteristics ascribed to introversion, are leadership attributes too. As a life-long introvert (I spent most social functions as a child in a chair reading a book) I really enjoyed this book—easy to read but at the same time well researched and thorough. The book is not an “introverts are superior” rant but rather an explanation of how we can leverage personality types most effectively. There is no right or best personality type but like life in general, we need to understand each other for more harmonious relationships. 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Jun 19, 2014 |
Book Description
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
The book that started the Quiet Revolution

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves. ( )
  camtb | Jun 18, 2014 |
It's not every day you read something that rings true with every aspect of your personality, and addresses many of the nagging and deep-set questions you've wrestled with all your life. Kudos to Ms. Cain for researching and writing this brave and important book. Even if you don't consider yourself an introvert, this book still deserves your attention. ( )
  emilyingreen | May 28, 2014 |
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