The brain is an absolute marvel—the seat of our consciousness, the pinnacle (so far) of evolutionary progress, and the engine of human experience. But it’s also messy, fallible, and about 50,000 years out of date. We cling to superstitions, remember faces but not names, miss things sitting right in front of us, and lie awake at night while our brains endlessly replay our greatest fears. Idiot Brain is for anyone who has ever wondered why their brain appears to be sabotaging their life—and what on earth it is really up to.
A Library Journal Science Bestseller and a Finalist for the Goodreads Choice Award in Science & Technology.
Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist and research associate at the Centre for Medical Education at Cardiff University. He writes a popular science blog called Brain Yapping for the Cosmic Shambles Network and dabbles in stand-up comedy. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.
In Invisible Mind, Lasana Harris takes a social neuroscience approach to explaining the worst of human behavior. How can a person take part in racially motivated violence and then tenderly cradle a baby or lovingly pet a puppy? Harris argues that our social cognition—the ability to infer the mental states of another agent—is flexible. That is, we can either engage or withhold social cognition. If we withhold social cognition, we dehumanize the other person. Integrating theory from a range of disciplines—social, developmental, and cognitive psychology, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, economics, and law—with neuroscience data, Harris explores how and why we engage or withhold social cognition. He examines research in these different disciplines and describes biological processes that underlie flexible social cognition, including brain, genetic, hormonal, and physiological mechanisms.
After laying out the philosophical and theoretical terrain, Harris explores examples of social cognitive ability in nonhumans and explains the evolutionary staying power of this trait. He addresses two motives for social cognition—prediction and explanation—and reviews cases of anthropomorphism (extending social cognition to entities without mental states) and dehumanization (withholding it from people with mental states). He discusses the relation of social cognition to the human/nonhuman distinction and to the evolution of sociality. He considers the importance of social context and, finally, he speculates about the implications of flexible social cognition in such arenas for human interaction as athletic competition and international disputes.
The contributors to this volume all share a fascination with the new perspectives for understanding how the mind works that have arisen from the study of impaired cognition. Yet, and this was very characteristic of the state of the art in cognitive neuropsychology at the time, they disagreed on many important issues, even those pertaining to the most basic assumptions of their discipline. Therefore, the first part of this book is devoted to an attempt to define and clarify these basic issues and to the confrontation of alternative views. The remaining parts present original studies on several topics of particular interest in cognitive neuropsychology.
The pursuit of happiness is one of the most enduring quests of human life. But where does happiness come from, why do we need it, and what does it have to do with the brain? In this delightful sequel to Idiot Brain, Dean Burnett combines cutting-edge theories of the science of emotions with interviews and contributions from relationship experts, psychology professors, comedy writers, celebrities, and pretty much anyone else involved in bringing about happiness in others. Witty and perceptive, humorous and enlightening, Happy Brain explores a fascinating aspect of modern neuroscience, and in the process discovers something about what it means to be human.
In Your Brain Is a Time Machine, leading neuroscientist Dean Buonomano embarks on an "immensely engaging" exploration of how time works inside the brain (Barbara Kiser, Nature). The human brain, he argues, is a complex system that not only tells time, but creates it; it constructs our sense of chronological movement and enables "mental time travel"—simulations of future and past events. These functions are essential not only to our daily lives but to the evolution of the human race: without the ability to anticipate the future, mankind would never have crafted tools or invented agriculture. This virtuosic work of popular science will lead you to a revelation as strange as it is true: your brain is, at its core, a time machine.
Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition—in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos—to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal’s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal—and human—intelligence.