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.
Locked in the silence and darkness of your skull, your brain fashions the rich narratives of your reality and your identity. Join renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman for a journey into the questions at the mysterious heart of our existence. What is reality? Who are “you”? How do you make decisions? Why does your brain need other people? How is technology poised to change what it means to be human? In the course of his investigations, Eagleman guides us through the world of extreme sports, criminal justice, facial expressions, genocide, brain surgery, gut feelings, robotics, and the search for immortality. Strap in for a whistle-stop tour into the inner cosmos. In the infinitely dense tangle of billions of brain cells and their trillions of connections, something emerges that you might not have expected to see in there: you.
This is the story of how your life shapes your brain, and how your brain shapes your life.
(A companion to the six-part PBS series. Color illustrations throughout.)
How is it that thoroughly physical material beings such as ourselves can think, dream, feel, create and understand ideas, theories and concepts? How does mere matter give rise to all these non-material mental states, including consciousness itself? An answer to this central question of our existence is emerging at the busy intersection of neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
In this groundbreaking work, philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark explores exciting new theories from these fields that reveal minds like ours to be prediction machines – devices that have evolved to anticipate the incoming streams of sensory stimulation before they arrive. These predictions then initiate actions that structure our worlds and alter the very things we need to engage and predict. Clark takes us on a journey in discovering the circular causal flows and the self-structuring of the environment that define “the predictive brain.” What emerges is a bold, new, cutting-edge vision that reveals the brain as our driving force in the daily surf through the waves of sensory stimulation.
The founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, Professor Dana Suskind, explains why the most important—and astoundingly simple—thing you can do for your child’s future success in life is to talk to him or her, reveals the recent science behind this truth, and outlines precisely how parents can best put it into practice.
The research is in: Academic achievement begins on the first day of life with the first word said by a cooing mother just after delivery.
A study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in 1995 found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their fourth birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.
Professor Dana Suskind, MD, learned of this thirty million word gap in the course of her work as a cochlear implant surgeon at University of Chicago Medical School and began a new research program along with her sister-in-law, Beth Suskind, to find the best ways to bridge that gap. The Thirty Million Word Initiative has developed programs for parents to show the kind of parent-child communication that enables optimal neural development and has tested the programs in and around Chicago across demographic groups. They boil down to getting parents to follow the three Ts: Tune in to what your child is doing; Talk more to your child using lots of descriptive words; and Take turns with your child as you engage in conversation. Parents are shown how to make the words they serve up more enriching. For example, instead of telling a child, “Put your shoes on,” one might say instead, “It is time to go out. What do we have to do?” The lab’s new five-year longitudinal research program has just received funding so they can further corroborate their results.
The neuroscience of brain plasticity is some of the most valuable and revolutionary medical science being done today. It enables us to think and do better. It is making a difference in the lives of both the old and young. If you care for children, this landmark book is essential reading.
A philosopher makes the case for thinking of works of art as tools for investigating ourselves
In his new book, Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, the philosopher and cognitive scientist Alva Noë raises a number of profound questions: What is art? Why do we value art as we do? What does art reveal about our nature? Drawing on philosophy, art history, and cognitive science, and making provocative use of examples from all three of these fields, Noë offers new answers to such questions. He also shows why recent efforts to frame questions about art in terms of neuroscience and evolutionary biology alone have been and will continue to be unsuccessful.