Dimensions: 224 pages, 8.25 × 5.25 × 0.7 in
Published: March 18, 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0618879641
ISBN - 13: 9780618879649
Read from the Book
Remnants of History It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this. ?Bertrand Russell Are human beings "noble in reason" and "infinite in faculty" as William Shakespeare famously wrote? Perfect, "in God''s image," as some biblical scholars have asserted? Hardly. If mankind were the product of some intelligent, compassionate designer, our thoughts would be rational, our logic impeccable. Our memory would be robust, our recollections reliable. Our sentences would be crisp, our words precise, our languages systematic and regular, not besodden with irregular verbs (sing-sang, ring-rang, yet bring-brought) and other peculiar inconsistencies. As the language maven Richard Lederer has noted, there would be ham in hamburger, egg in eggplant. English speakers would park in parkways and drive on driveways, and not the other way around. At the same time, we humans are the only species smart enough to systematically plan for the future?yet dumb enough to ditch our most carefully made plans in favor of short-term gratification. ("Did I say I was on a diet? Mmm, but three-layer chocolate mousse is my favorite . . . Maybe I''ll start my diet tomorrow.") We happily drive across town to save $25 on a $100 microwave but refuse to drive the same distance to save exactly the same $25 on a $1,000 flat-screen TV. We can barely tell the difference between a valid syllogism, such as All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, theref
Table of Contents
Contents 1 Remnants of History 1 2 Memory 18 3 Belief 40 4 Choice 69 5 Language 95 6 Pleasure 123 7 Things Fall Apart 144 8 True Wisdom 161
Acknowledgments 177 Notes 179 References 187 Index 203
From the Publisher
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.
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.
A university psychology professor who periodically writes for mass media, Marcus here punctures the high regard humanity has for its species-distinctive qualities. Whether it''s memory, rationality, language, or free will, our noble human traits are hopelessly entangled with our baser drives, which have survived the dynamics of evolution. Blending discussion of experiments from cognitive psychology with speculation about why people are far less logical than they believe, Marcus latches onto the term kluge, which comes from the engineering world and is jargon for a fix that ain''t perfect but good enough. It''s a productive figure of speech for Marcus'' argument that deliberative thinking probably had an evolutionary advantage (save seeds to plant next season), but seems in permanent conflict with reflexive impulses having more ancient evolutionary advantage (eat seeds now). Carrying the point across a gamut of behaviors, from money to mental illnesses to talking, Marcus develops his idea of the klugelike mind, in which emotion perpetually besieges the intellect, with appealing clarity.