How the accidents of evolution created our quirky,
imperfect minds-and what we can do about it.
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 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 into knots even though it’s only four words long. He also offers surprisingly effective ways to outwit our inner kluge —for example, always consider alternative explanations, make contingency plans, and beware the vivid, personal anecdote. 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. A high school dropout, Marcus received his Ph.D. at age twenty-three from MIT, where he was mentored by Steven Pinker. He was a tenured professor by age thirty. The author of the "'Norton Psychology Reader"', he has been a fellow at the prestigious Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. His writing has appeared in the "'New York Times"', the "'Phladelphia Inquirer"', "'Newsday"', the "'Los Angeles Times"', and other major publications. He resides in New York, N.Y.