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How the Mind Worksby Steven Pinker
Synopses & Reviews
If weand#8217;ve done our job welland#151;and, letand#8217;s be honest, if we're luckyand#151;youand#8217;ll read to the end of this description. Most likely, however, you wonand#8217;t. Somewhere in the middle of the next paragraph, your mind will wander off. Minds wander. Thatand#8217;s just how it is.
That may be bad news for me, but is it bad news for people in general? Does the fact that as much as fifty percent of our waking hours find us failing to focus on the task at hand represent a problem? Michael Corballis doesnand#8217;t think so, and with The Wandering Mind, he shows us why, rehabilitating woolgathering and revealing its incredibly useful effects. Drawing on the latest research from cognitive science and evolutionary biology, Corballis shows us how mind-wandering not only frees us from moment-to-moment drudgery, but also from the limitations of our immediate selves. Mind-wandering strengthens our imagination, fueling the flights of invention, storytelling, and empathy that underlie our shared humanity; furthermore, he explains, our tendency to wander back and forth through the timeline of our lives is fundamental to our very sense of ourselves as coherent, continuing personalities.
Full of unusual examples and surprising discoveries, The Wandering Mind mounts a vigorous defense of inattentionand#173;and#151;even as it never fails to hold the readerand#8217;s.
"A model of scientific writing: erudite, witty, and clear." --
"[How the Mind Works] marks out the territory on which the coming century's debate about human nature will be held."'"Oliver Morton, The New Yorker
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Parents, teachers, bosses spend hours asking their constituencies to pay attention, to focus.and#160; Yet wandering minds are common--even in the best of us.and#160; In fact, for a full 50% of our waking hours, our minds are not focused on tasks at hand.and#160; And rest assured, this is actually a good thing.and#160;and#160; We are biologically disposed to alternate between paying attention and thinking about something else. Do these lapses provide the rest and relaxation our brains need to recover from periods of concentration?and#160; Or are these neurological interludes purely for pleasure?
In The Wandering Mind, Corballis argues that mind-wandering has many constructive and adaptive features.and#160; These range fromand#160; mental time traveland#151;the wandering back and forth through time, not only to plan our futures based on past experience, but also to generate a continuous sense of who we are--to the ability to inhabit the minds of others, increasing empathy and social understanding. Through mind-wandering, we invent, tell stories, and expand our mental horizons. Mind wandering , hardly the sign of a faulty network or aimless distraction, actually underwrites creativity, whether as a Wordsworth wandering lonely as a cloud, or an Einstein imagining himself travelling on a beam of light.and#160; Corballis takes readers on a mental journey in chapters that can be savored piecemeal, as the minds of readers wander in different ways, and sometimes have limited attentional capacity.and#160;
Rooted in neuroscience, psychology and evolutionary biology, but written with Corballisand#8217; signature wit and wisdom, The Wandering Mind illuminates those murky regions of the brain where dreams and religion, fiction and fantasy lurk.
In this Pulitzer Prize finalist and national bestseller, one of the world's leading cognitive scientists tackles the workings of the human mind. What makes us rational--and why are we so often irrational? How do we see in three dimensions? What makes us happy, afraid, angry, disgusted, or sexually aroused? Why do we fall in love? And how do we grapple with the imponderables of morality, religion, and consciousness? ? synthesizes the most satisfying explanations of our mental life from cognitive science, evolutionary biology, and other fields to explain what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and contemplate the mysteries of life. This new edition of Pinker's bold and buoyant classic is updated with a new foreword by the author.
In this extraordinary bestseller, Steven Pinker, one of the world's leading cognitive scientists, does for the rest of the mind what he did for language in his 1994 book, The Language Instinct. He explains what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and ponder the mysteries of life. And he does it with the wit that prompted Mark Ridley to write in the New York Times Book Review, "No other science writer makes me laugh so much. . . . [Pinker] deserves the superlatives that are lavished on him."The arguments in the book are as bold as its title. Pinker rehabilitates some unfashionable ideas, such as that the mind is a computer and that human nature was shaped by natural selection, and challenges fashionable ones, such as that passionate emotions are irrational, that parents socialize their children, and that nature is good and modern society corrupting.
About the Author
Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.
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