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new book – ‘The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters’ by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray

March 22, 2016

The Mind Club

The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray (Viking, 2016)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

From dogs to gods, dive into the science of mysterious minds–including your own.   

Nothing seems more real than the minds of other people. When you consider what your boss is thinking or whether your spouse is happy, you are admitting them into the “mind club.” It’s easy to assume other humans can think and feel, but what about a cow, a computer, a corporation? What kinds of mind do they have? Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray are award-winning psychologists who have discovered that minds–while incredibly important–are a matter of perception. Their research opens a trove of new findings, with insights into human behavior that are fascinating, frightening and funny. The Mind Club explains why we love some animals and eat others, why people debate the existence of God so intensely, how good people can be so cruel, and why robots make such poor lovers. By investigating the mind perception of extraordinary targets–animals, machines, comatose people, god–Wegner and Gray explain what it means to have a mind, and why it matters so much.  Fusing cutting-edge research and personal anecdotes, The Mind Club explores the moral dimensions of mind perception with wit and compassion, revealing the surprisingly simple basis for what compels us to love and hate, to harm and to protect.

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new book – ‘The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness’ by David Gelernter

February 22, 2016

Tides of Mind

The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness by David Gelernter (Liveright, 2016)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

A “rock star” (New York Times) of the computing world provides a radical new work on the meaning of human consciousness.

The holy grail of psychologists and scientists for nearly a century has been to understand and replicate both human thought and the human mind. In fact, it’s what attracted the now-legendary computer scientist and AI authority David Gelernter to the discipline in the first place. As a student and young researcher in the 1980s, Gelernter hoped to build a program with a dial marked “focus.” At maximum “focus,” the program would “think” rationally, formally, reasonably. As the dial was turned down and “focus” diminished, its “mind” would start to wander, and as you dialed even lower, this artificial mind would start to free-associate, eventually ignoring the user completely as it cruised off into the mental adventures we know as sleep.

While the program was a only a partial success, it laid the foundation for The Tides of Mind, a groundbreaking new exploration of the human psyche that shows us how the very purpose of the mind changes throughout the day. Indeed, as Gelernter explains, when we are at our most alert, when reasoning and creating new memories is our main mental business, the mind is a computer-like machine that keeps emotion on a short leash and attention on our surroundings. As we gradually tire, however, and descend the “mental spectrum,” reasoning comes unglued. Memory ranges more freely, the mind wanders, and daydreams grow more insistent. Self-awareness fades, reflection blinks out, and at last we are completely immersed in our own minds.

With far-reaching implications, Gelernter’s landmark “Spectrum of Consciousness” finally helps decode some of the most mysterious wonders of the human mind, such as the numinous light of early childhood, why dreams are so often predictive, and why sadism and masochism underpin some of our greatest artistic achievements. It’s a theory that also challenges the very notion of the mind as a machine?and not through empirical studies or “hard science” but by listening to our great poets and novelists, who have proven themselves as humanity’s most trusted guides to the subjective mind and inner self.

In the great introspective tradition of Wilhelm Wundt and René Descartes, David Gelernter promises to not only revolutionize our understanding of what it means to be human but also to help answer many of our most fundamental questions about the origins of creativity, thought, and consciousness.

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new book – ‘Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body’ by Jo Marchant

January 19, 2016


Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant (Crown, 2016)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

A rigorous, skeptical, deeply reported look at the new science behind the mind’s surprising ability to heal the body

Have you ever felt a surge of adrenaline after narrowly avoiding an accident? Salivated at the sight (or thought) of a sour lemon? Felt turned on just from hearing your partner’s voice? If so, then you’ve experienced how dramatically the workings of your mind can affect your body.

Yet while we accept that stress or anxiety can damage our health, the idea of “healing thoughts” was long ago hijacked by New Age gurus and spiritual healers. Recently, however, serious scientists from a range of fields have been uncovering evidence that our thoughts, emotions and beliefs can ease pain, heal wounds, fend off infection and heart disease and even slow the progression of AIDS and some cancers.

In Cure, award-winning science writer Jo Marchant travels the world to meet the physicians, patients and researchers on the cutting edge of this new world of medicine. We learn how meditation protects against depression and dementia, how social connections increase life expectancy and how patients who feel cared for recover from surgery faster. We meet Iraq war veterans who are using a virtual arctic world to treat their burns and children whose ADHD is kept under control with half the normal dose of medication. We watch as a transplant patient uses the smell of lavender to calm his hostile immune system and an Olympic runner shaves vital seconds off his time through mind-power alone.

Drawing on the very latest research, Marchant explores the vast potential of the mind’s ability to heal, lays out its limitations and explains how we can make use of the findings in our own lives. With clarity and compassion, Cure points the way towards a system of medicine that treats us not simply as bodies but as human beings.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind’ by George Makari

November 29, 2015

Soul Machine

Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind by George Makari (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

A brilliant and comprehensive history of the creation of the modern Western mind.

Soul Machine takes us back to the origins of modernity, a time when a crisis in religious authority and the scientific revolution led to searching questions about the nature of human inner life. This is the story of how a new concept?the mind?emerged as a potential solution, one that was part soul and part machine, but fully neither.

In this groundbreaking work, award-winning historian George Makari shows how writers, philosophers, physicians, and anatomists worked to construct notions of the mind as not an ethereal thing, but a natural one. From the ascent of Oliver Cromwell to the fall of Napoleon, seminal thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, Diderot, and Kant worked alongside often-forgotten brain specialists, physiologists, and alienists in the hopes of mapping the inner world. Conducted in a cauldron of political turmoil, these frequently shocking, always embattled efforts would give rise to psychiatry, mind sciences such as phrenology, and radically new visions of the self. Further, they would be crucial to the establishment of secular ethics and political liberalism. Boldly original, wide-ranging, and brilliantly synthetic, Soul Machine gives us a masterful, new account of the making of the modern Western mind.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘Rethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists’ by Laura Otis

November 11, 2015

Rethinking Thought

Rethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists (Explorations in Narrative Psychology) by Laura Otis (Oxford University Press, 2015)


Book description from the publisher:

Rethinking Thought takes readers into the minds of 30 creative thinkers to show how greatly the experience of thought can vary. It is dedicated to anyone who has ever been told, “You’re not thinking!”, because his or her way of thinking differs so much from a spouse’s, employer’s, or teacher’s. The book focuses on individual experiences with visual mental images and verbal language that are used in planning, problem-solving, reflecting, remembering, and forging new ideas. It approaches the question of what thinking is by analyzing variations in the way thinking feels.

Written by neuroscientist-turned-literary scholar Laura Otis, Rethinking Thought juxtaposes creative thinkers’ insights with recent neuroscientific discoveries about visual mental imagery, verbal language, and thought. Presenting the results of new, interview-based research, it offers verbal portraits of novelist Salman Rushdie, engineer Temple Grandin, American Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, and Nobel prize-winning biologist Elizabeth Blackburn. It also depicts the unique mental worlds of two award-winning painters, a flamenco dancer, a game designer, a cartoonist, a lawyer-novelist, a theoretical physicist, and a creator of multi-agent software. Treating scientists and artists with equal respect, it creates a dialogue in which neuroscientific findings and the introspections of creative thinkers engage each other as equal partners.

The interviews presented in this book indicate that many creative people enter fields requiring skills that don’t come naturally. Instead, they choose professions that demand the hardest work and the greatest mental growth. Instead of classifying people as “visual” or “verbal,” educators and managers need to consider how thinkers combine visual and verbal skills and how those abilities can be further developed. By showing how greatly individual experiences of thought can vary, this book aims to help readers in all professions better understand and respect the diverse people with whom they work.

Google Books preview:

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