The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain

by: Annie Murphy Paul (0)

A New York Times Editors' Choice A Washington Post Best Nonfiction Book of 2021 A New York Times Notable Book

A bold new book reveals how we can tap the intelligence that exists beyond our brains—in our bodies, our surroundings, and our relationships


Use your head.
  That’s what we tell ourselves when facing a tricky problem or a difficult project. But a growing body of research indicates that we’ve got it exactly backwards. What we need to do, says acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul, is think 
outside the brain. A host of “extra-neural” resources—the feelings and movements of our bodies, the physical spaces in which we learn and work, and the minds of those around us— can help us focus more intently, comprehend more deeply, and create more imaginatively.
 
The Extended Mind outlines the research behind this exciting new vision of human ability, exploring the findings of neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, and examining the practices of educators, managers, and leaders who are already reaping the benefits of thinking outside the brain. She excavates the untold history of how artists, scientists, and authors—from Jackson Pollock to Jonas Salk to Robert Caro—have used mental extensions to solve problems, make discoveries, and create new works. In the tradition of Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind or Daniel Goleman’s Emotional IntelligenceThe Extended Mind offers a dramatic new view of how our minds work, full of practical advice on how we can all think better.

The Reviews

As a 70-year-old who has read well over a couple of thousand self-help and self-improvement books over the last 50 years, it has become more and more difficult to find a new book in this genre that has anything new, interesting, and useful information to share.This book has all three! Really NEW information. Really INTERESTING information. And really USEFUL information.I just finished reading it and have been taking copious notes.I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the few books I have ever read that will actually change my life - and has already changed the way I look at, and think about, life.I have no reservations at all about recommending this book to anyone who wants to see life in a new, exciting, and expanded way.

This has the feel of a book written by a journalist who gets an idea that isn't really supported by the research..... She finds a few people who pioneered the idea and quotes them stem to stern, without really recognizing that academia is full of people with ideas that are original -- partly because they're somewhat missing the point. I was really excited by the idea of this book -- but despite the fact that I know things that my conscious mind doesn't, it doesn't mean the smart thing is my knee or my hand. The unconscious is so extraordinarily large and robust -- it may be outside the brain, but it's not in some anatomical part of my limbs, etc. A stretch that doesn't click -- I am very disappointed.

This is a great book about thinking, not just a meditation on how the brain works but also a guide to thinking better yourself. I particularly loved the section on using the body to help commit something to memory. I put the book down to try doing that with a script I was trying to memorize. It definitely works. The book is also a great reminder of the value of getting away from the computer and out in the world, either with other people, to do some exercise, or to be in nature. These fun activities can feel frivolous, but they are actually incredibly important parts of clear, creative thinking.

I am excited about this book. I knew I would buy it when a friend recommended it.But I was again disappointed to discover that this author, too, narrates her own book. I listened to the sample. It was monotonous. And the monotone was, itself, flat, sure to put me to sleep, despite the content!I wish that authors - and I am one - would think more dispassionately about this, and find skilled readers to bring their work to audiences. It’s not that all authors are bad narrators. It’s that many authors are apparently not good judges of their abilities as narrators.I am more a listener than a reader, especially as my eyes age, and I really really wanted to listen to this book, partly so that I could keep moving while I did!I’m sure I will enjoy the book as a reader. But it’s much harder for me these days. I look forward to more of AMP’s work, and hope she will find others to read it aloud.

I had high hopes for this book, to the extent I considered including it as a secondary text for cognitive psychology (I am a professor). The first chapter was a pretty good read and highlighted the salience of intuition- something frequently overlooked by the cognitive community. However, as scholars of intuition point out, we almost always remember when our intuition was right; we rarely, if ever, remember the times it was wrong or nothing came of it. Things went downhill from there. The remaining chapters had some decent information, but the author included such a hodge-podge of discrete one-time (i.e., not necessarily empirical) studies, each chapter was incessantly long and felt stretched well beyond the scope of topic and evidence. I found myself skimming until the end. Although no doubt, the author is an outstanding journalist, she is not a scientific researcher herself, and it shows. Writing an article about a scientific work is one thing; writing an entire book arguing points that are limited and somewhat tenuous, is another. As another reviewer pointed out, the author tends to cherry-pick studies and data to support her points. A scientific researcher would have acknowledged alternative findings and the limitations of their own study.

As an educator I find that this book hits at just the right time! So much of the innovative research, and suggestions for thinking in more productive ways, can be used by teachers at all levels. As schools re-open, we are faced with a unique opportunity to think about how teaching and learning truly works best. This book demonstrates how an expanded view of learning, and of the human brain, can help all students maximize and enjoy their efforts. The sections about learning spaces and learning in groups in particular are immediately relevant as we return to classrooms. Full of innovative ideas and approaches, this book truly allows me rethink my work as an educator.

On the one hand, her thesis--that some of our best "thinking" occurs outside our heads--is "Well, duhhh!" But so far, we're not very good at applying what neuroscience and cognitive behavioral studies are telling us. We're getting helpful messages from our innards all the time that deserve more attention. Our built and natural environments influence our thinking. Body movement and gestures influence our thinking. On and on. This is important stuff, and Paul is very thorough. I've been recommending this book since I got it.

Captures a wide range of different research in one book with actionable steps to incorporate.Section on gestures while speaking had a lot to support both educational aspects and public speaking - with research to support it. This chapter was worth the price of the book - as a home schooling parent and to someone who presents regularly.Also, having read Thinking, Fast and Slow, this is more accessible and suggests that you can access that deeper thinking without running into limits on your focused attention.Highly recommended for your summer reading.

The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain
⭐ 4.4 💛 487
kindle: $2.39
paperback: $12.03
hardcover: $16.88
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