It's a Jungle in There: How Competition & Cooperation in the Brain Shape the Mind


The saying "It's a jungle out there" refers to a competitive environment in which you'd better hone your skills if you hope to survive. And you'd better do what you can to keep a roof over your head, food in your belly, a leaf on your loins, and a mate who'll help pass on your genes to the next generation of jungle Jims and Janes.
Distinguished professor and cognitive psychologist David Rosenbaum takes this metaphor of surviving in the wild and applies it to the competitive ...

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It's a Jungle in There: How Competition and Cooperation in the Brain Shape the Mind

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The saying "It's a jungle out there" refers to a competitive environment in which you'd better hone your skills if you hope to survive. And you'd better do what you can to keep a roof over your head, food in your belly, a leaf on your loins, and a mate who'll help pass on your genes to the next generation of jungle Jims and Janes.
Distinguished professor and cognitive psychologist David Rosenbaum takes this metaphor of surviving in the wild and applies it to the competitive arena within the brain. He argues that the overarching theory of biology, Darwin's theory, should be the overarching theory of cognitive psychology, the science of mental functioning. He explores this new and intriguing idea by showing how neural elements compete and cooperate in a kind of inner jungle, where only the fittest survive. Competition within your brain does as much to shape who you are as the physical and figurative competition you face externally.
Just as the jungle night seethes with noisy creatures beckoning their mates, issuing their warnings, and settling their arguments, you might have trouble falling asleep at night because the thoughts in your head are fighting for their chance at survival. Rosenbaum's pursuit of this bold idea explains why we are shaped into who we are, for better or worse, because we are the hosts of inner battlefields.
Written in a light-hearted tone and with reference to hypothetical neural "creatures" making their way in a tough environment, Rosenbaum makes cognitive psychology and his theory easy to understand and exciting to ponder. Rather than rely on the series of disconnected phenomena and collection of curiosities that often constitute cognitive psychology, It's a Jungle in There provides a fascinating way to place all cognitive phenomena under one flourishing tree.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Darwinism can explain cognitive psychology, says Penn State cognitive psychologist Rosenbaum, but our brains are not mere hubs of ancient neural modules, formed to meet Pleistocene needs and slow to adapt. Evolutionary psychology, Rosenbaum notes, too often draws conclusions from weak evidence, like the idea that bee-stung lips attract men because they imply fertility. Rather, he more narrowly contends that Darwin’s selectionism reigns in the brain. “I believe Darwin’s theory or... a theory that adopts a selectionist (survival-of-the-fittest) perspective, provides a way to place all cognitive phenomena under one tree.” Regarding attention, he states that “it’s impossible to have more than one thought at a time.” Brain regions cooperate and compete to ensure that a neural dominance occurs, which allows us to focus. Many neural mechanisms involve competition and cooperation—“the ultimate mediators of all experience”—they are at the heart of Darwinian selectionism. Rosenbaum was inspired, he says in a footnote, by the “Neural Darwinism” of Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman, who applied natural selection to neural organization in neurophysiology—if not psychology. Tying the vicissitudes of psychology to any one principle, even loosely, is bold, but Rosenbaum’s careful prose will ignite thoughtful debate, not the heated arguments evolutionary psychology often arouses. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Rosenbaum, a psychology professor at Pennsylvania State University, asserts that the entire cognitive world operates along Darwinian lines-that competition among the neural circuits underlying motor behavior, thinking, memory and perception accounts for everything we think, say and do. It's a Jungle in There deserves to be selected. It presents a bold idea that puts human cognition squarely onto the shoulders of giants in the natural sciences, Darwin among them." -Robert Epstein, Scientific American
Library Journal
★ 04/15/2014
Cognitive psychology—the study of internal mental states and processes such as attention, memory, decision making, and metacognition (thinking about thinking)—has been rather splintered since the recent recognition that the information systems model (brains as computers) is inadequate. (See Daniel Kahneman's best-selling Thinking, Fast and Slow for examples of how brains are most definitely not like computers.) Rosenbaum (psychology, Pennsylvania State Univ.) proposes a model of mental function that is based on Darwinian principles. In his framework, neurons, either individually or in groups, compete to grow and survive. While, as he says, we don't understand for what and how the nerve cells are competing, the author rightly points out that Darwin didn't know about genes or DNA but still argued cogently for competition on the level of the individual. Rosenbaum shows how this model can account for a number of odd findings about reaction time, perception, motor control, and learning. VERDICT An important work and quite accessible to the general reader who enjoyed the above mentioned Kahneman book and similar titles.—Mary Ann Hughes, Shelton, WA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199829774
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/20/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 302,772
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David A. Rosenbaum is Professor of Psychology at the Pennsylvania State University. He is an award-winning researcher and teacher in the field of cognitive psychology. His research on the cognitive psychology of motor control has helped bridge these two fields. His teaching of cognitive psychology has led him to the theory offered here.

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Table of Contents

1. Welcome To The Jungle
2. Darwin And The Boss
3. Fighting Neurons, Friendly Neurons
4. Pay Attention!
5. Ready, Set, Go!
6. Look Out!
7. Move It!
8. Learn The Ropes!
9. Aha!
10. Onward!

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