The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind
By Gary Marcus
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618879649, 224pp.)
Publication Date: April 2008
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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.
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.