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Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mindby Gary Marcus
Synopses & Reviews
Are we noble in reason? Perfect, in God's image? Far from it, says New York University psychologist Gary Marcus. In this lucid and revealing book, Marcus argues that the mind is not an elegantly designed organ but rather a kluge, a clumsy, cobbled-together contraption. He unveils a fundamentally new way of looking at the human mind — think duct tape, not supercomputer — that sheds light on some of the most mysterious aspects of human nature.
Taking us on a tour of the fundamental areas of human experience — memory, belief, decision-making, language, and happiness — Marcus reveals the myriad ways our minds fall short. He examines why people often vote against their own interests, why money can't buy happiness, why leaders often stick to bad decisions, and why a sentence like people people left left ties us in knots even though it's only four words long.
Marcus also offers surprisingly effective ways to outwit our inner kluge, for the betterment of ourselves and society. Throughout, he shows how only evolution — haphazard and undirected — could have produced the minds we humans have, while making a brilliant case for the power and usefulness of imperfection.
How is it that we can recognize photos from our high school yearbook decades later, but cannot remember what we ate for breakfast yesterday? And why are we inclined to buy more cans of soup if the sign says "LIMIT 12 PER CUSTOMER" rather than "LIMIT 4 PER CUSTOMER?" In Kluge, Gary Marcus argues convincingly that our minds are not as elegantly designed as we may believe. The imperfections result from a haphazard evolutionary process that often proceeds by piling new systems on top of old ones—and those systems dont always work well together. The end product is a "kluge," a clumsy, cobbled-together contraption. Taking us on a tour of the essential areas of human experience—memory, belief, decision making, language, and happiness—Marcus unveils a fundamentally new way of looking at the evolution of the human mind and simultaneously sheds light on some of the most mysterious aspects of human nature.
About the Author
Gary Marcus is a professor of psychology at New York University and director of the NYU Infant Language Learning Center. Marcus received his Ph.D. at age twenty-three from MIT, where he was mentored by Steven Pinker. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, and other major publications. He lives in New York.
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