Forks, Phonographs, and Hot Air Balloons: A Field Guide to Inventive Thinking

Hardcover | February 1, 1993

byRobert J. Weber

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How do inventions take shape? How did the inventors of the sewing needle, the hammer, or the wheel find their ideas? Are these creations the result of random events, or are hidden principles at work? Using everyday objects most of us take for granted--from forks and Velcro to safety pins anddoorknobs--noted cognitive psychologist Robert Weber takes a fascinating look at how our world of inventions came into being, and how the mind's problem-solving abilities gave them the forms they have. As an archaeologist studies shards of pottery for clues about an ancient culture, Weber examines the many forms of inventions, from stone knives to genetically engineered mice, and finds a rich record of the work of many minds over time--a record of human creativity and problem-solving handeddown through the centuries. He offers various methods for analyzing what mental paths might have been taken by these inventive minds. In the test for design, for example, he ponders how an item would work if various components were shuffled or constructed differently, revealing how the optimalshape of the invention was discovered. He challenges the reader to engage in thought experiments to explore how the horse-drawn cart, the waterscrew, or the fork might have taken shape over many years, through the efforts of successive inventors and adapters. In stripping these simple artifacts tothe bone, Weber finds a hidden intelligence at work in everyday objects as well as recurrent heuristics (basic principles or rules of thumb) that are common among many of our most successful inventions--heuristics powerful enough to generate endless new ideas. Weber ranges across the work ofArchimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, the Wright brothers, as well as grade-school children who have won national awards for their inventions, revealing that the same principles are at work in the discoveries of all of them. Basic principles of invention, he writes, govern how we think, solve, andmanipulate ideas, whether mechanical or mental, real or mythological. Weber's playful, original, and insightful look at the inventions around us reveals a hidden intelligence in everything from screws to tea bags to synthesizers--an intelligence based on principles of creativity and problem-solving. His fascinating account sheds light on how the mind hones itsmost original thoughts and products, and provides a field guide for how we can tap into our own creativity.

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From Our Editors

A renowned cognitive psychologist explores how the mind invents, focusing on a variety of inventions--from screws, to tea bags, to synthesizers--revealing what they tell us about the mind's problem-solving abilities.

From the Publisher

How do inventions take shape? How did the inventors of the sewing needle, the hammer, or the wheel find their ideas? Are these creations the result of random events, or are hidden principles at work? Using everyday objects most of us take for granted--from forks and Velcro to safety pins anddoorknobs--noted cognitive psychologist Rob...

From the Jacket

How do inventions take shape? How did the inventors of the sewing needle, the hammer, or the wheel find their ideas? Are these creations the result of random events, or are hidden principles at work? Using everyday objects most of us take for granted - from forks and Velcro to safety pins and doorknobs - noted cognitive psychologist Ro...

About the Author: Robert J. Weber is Professor of Psychology at Oklahoma State University. He is the coeditor with David Perkins of Inventive Minds: Creativity in Technology.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:296 pages, 9.49 × 6.38 × 1.1 inPublished:February 1, 1993Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019506402X

ISBN - 13:9780195064025

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From Our Editors

A renowned cognitive psychologist explores how the mind invents, focusing on a variety of inventions--from screws, to tea bags, to synthesizers--revealing what they tell us about the mind's problem-solving abilities.

Editorial Reviews

"Grippingly written book....Weber...offers example inventions to make his arguments; this analysis is at times compelling, and because of its specificity, is likely amenable to future experimental testing....Weber demystifies the subject, giving researchers a way to conceptualize and toinvestigate cognitive mechanisms of creativity, but he does not remove the creativity itself because the research approach retains a role for subjective judgment in recognizing creativity." --Psychological Science