It helps to have a brain to think with, but Paul capably shows that there’s much more to the process than all that.

THE EXTENDED MIND

THE POWER OF THINKING OUTSIDE THE BRAIN

A look at the science behind the parts of our consciousness and ideation that lie outside the body.

Marshall McLuhan famously called media “the extensions of man.” Science writer Paul updates this notion to battle what researchers have called neurocentric bias “and our corresponding blind spot for all the ways cognition extends beyond the skull.” We acquire much information via the processing of the senses into mental furrows and synapses, but we also have other avenues of thinking: for instance, what Paul describes as a well-developed “interoceptive sense.” This involves teaching ourselves how to become more aware of what’s happening in our bodies through an exercise called the “body scan,” imagining that breath occurs elsewhere in the body than in the pulmonary tract. Mindfulness meditation also extends awareness of the parasympathetic nervous system, itself a source of information. Paul examines the well-known effects of walking on mind improvement and the use of gesture to both build memory and to pull words out of the air (or mental databanks, more properly) as we speak. The author uses recently deceased Zappos founder Tony Hsieh as a model for someone who strived to forge “a sense of unity and cohesion among the firm’s employees,” re-creating the as-oneness he experienced at drug-fueled raves. The mind can be expanded, and not necessarily by drugs, by compartmentalizing it so that others store information for us. Intriguingly, Paul explores an experimental learning technique in which students are divided into groups and then assigned to learn a segment of a topic, later combining the information they’ve mastered in an example of “a transactive memory system.” Though less fluent than other popular-science writers such as Malcolm Gladwell and Elizabeth Kolbert, Paul does a good job of drawing together the many extensions of mind that surround us, exhorting readers to “re-spatialize the information we think about.”

It helps to have a brain to think with, but Paul capably shows that there’s much more to the process than all that.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-544-94766-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

more