A Very Short Tour of the Mind: 21 Short Walks Around the Human Brain

Overview

Why do we remember faces but not names? If your brain were cut in half would you suffer more than a splitting headache? How does your dog remember where it buried its bone but you can't find your keys? And do we really only use ten percent of our brains? In A Very Short Tour of the Mind, Michael C. Corballis answers these questions and more. The human mind is arguably the most complex organ in the universe.

Modern computers might be faster, and whales might have larger brains, ...

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Overview

Why do we remember faces but not names? If your brain were cut in half would you suffer more than a splitting headache? How does your dog remember where it buried its bone but you can't find your keys? And do we really only use ten percent of our brains? In A Very Short Tour of the Mind, Michael C. Corballis answers these questions and more. The human mind is arguably the most complex organ in the universe.

Modern computers might be faster, and whales might have larger brains, but neither can match the sheer intellect or capacity for creativity that we humans enjoy. In this gem of a book, Corballis introduces us to what we've learned about the intricacies of the human brain over the last fifty years. Leading us through behavioral experiments and neuroscience, cognitive theory and Darwinian evolution with his trademark wit and wisdom, Corballis punctures a few hot-air balloons; "Unleash the creativity of your right brain!") and explains just what we know—and don't know—about our own minds.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Corballis (The Recursive Mind) goes for a long shot but falls far short: in attempting to pack nearly half a century of research on the human mind into just over a hundred pages, he gives each subject short shrift. The author, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Auckland, dives right into his discussion of some of the brain’s most interesting features and functions, addressing topics as far-ranging as left-handedness, “lies and bullshit,” the interstices of language and music, facial recognition, and the synesthetic title of a Nabokov novel (Ada). Each gets a two-to-four-page treatment—some accompanied by illustrations—and every entry is interesting. But Corballis isn’t kidding when he calls these “short walks.” Many chapters feel conspicuously incomplete; one entitled “Why Italians Gesticulate,” for example, suffers from a glaring lack of, well, Italians. Add another demerit for no discernible guiding principle. At the end, readers will fell less like tourists in the hands of a well-informed guide, and more like sheep behind a lost shepherd. Illus. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
A wise old psychologist collects a lifetime of neurological pearls. Corballis (Psychology, Emeritus/Univ. of Auckland; The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization, 2011) writes a column for New Zealand Geographic: short, ingenious, four to five page essays on his specialty. Is our brain the largest? No; larger animals have larger brains. Is it the largest in relation to body size? No; mice and small birds do better. Corballis turns up measurements that place the human brain at No. 1 but admits that the most impressive fact is that we are the only species investigating the problem. The usual myths fall by the wayside. No one knows who first claimed that we use only 10 percent of our brain, but no imaging study detects areas that remain silent as if waiting to perform. The belief that our right brain governs creativity while the left sticks to boring rationality is not likely to disappear, despite Corballis' skepticism. He explains why humans are skilled at recognizing faces but not shoulders, feet or names. As for our vaunted memory, the author points out that nature designed it to plan future actions, not to record the past (which has no evolutionary value). As a result, accuracy has a low priority, and human memory is wildly unreliable. Swearing is more common in extroverts and the uneducated, less so in introverts and religious people. Often a mark of coolness today, religious, excretory and sexual obscenities have lost their impact; racial epithets remain the only major taboo. A thoroughly enjoyable exploration of questions even astute readers may not have thought worth asking.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781468306620
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover
  • Publication date: 7/11/2013
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 531,576
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 7.85 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael C. Coraballis is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Auckland. An outstanding science communicator, he is the author of From Hand to Mouth: The Origins of Language(2003) and most recently The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization(2011).

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