Mind Hacks: Tips & Tricks for Using Your Brain Paperback – Dec 2 2004
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The authors have compiled a fascinating ?collection of probes into the moment-by-moment works of the brain?. From getting to know the structure of your brain to learning how we see, hear and recall events, Mind Hacks allows you to test the theories of neuroscience on your own grey matter. If you?ve always wanted to get closer to your cerebellum but never plucked up the courage to take that DIY neurosurgery course, this is the book for you.? ? PD Smith, The Guardian, 15 Jan 2005
About the Author
Tom Stafford has a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and is currently a research associate in the Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield. He is also an associate editor of the Psychologist magazine and has previously worked as a freelance writer and researcher for the BBC.
Matt Webb's background is in new media. His freelance activities include an IM interface to Google, which predated the Google API and is included in O Reilly s Google Hacks. He launched a project to find the Web's favorite color that was featured on BBC News Online and national newspapers in the UK. His current job in R&D at the BBC involves these kinds of projects internally, and gives him experience at addressing abstract social and technological ideas to mixed audiences. He was a popular speaker at O Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference in 2004.
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If you are interested in neuroscience, or the function of the brain. And little games of tweaking your perception that you probably learned in Psych 101 and hen forgot. You will probably like this book.
Though I should also mention On Intelligence (0805074562) from Times Books. That book explains the nature and function of intelligence as a coherent story, and doesn't suffer from being shoeboxed into a Hacks series form like this book does.
If you want traditional "hacks" the book "Mind Performance Hacks" just came out, and is chock full of those sorts of experiments, while less informative, does do things like memory tricks, meath calculation, creativity enhancement and so on.
I view "Mind Hacks" as more informative, though, so would recommend this as the first one to get, though the next purchase in this should be the "Mind Performance Hacks."
This book sets out in layman's terms the enormous developments in the brain sciences in the last two decades, which have lead to an apparent debunking of the metaphor of the brain as a logical, linear, information processor and has elevated the role of biological, emotional, and psychological elements in the understanding of perception. The book asks the reader to explore the architecture of his own brain by sampling the exercises in perception in the book. The intent is to foster a new appreciation of the way the brain (now differently conceived) shapes the reality one perceives.
The impetus for this examination and reevaluation comes from the world of technology, especially because of those tools which test, measure, and scan the brain during experimental acts of perception and behavior. Tools such as electroencephalograms, positron emission tomography, and functional magnetic resonance imaging now allow scientists to see the biological bases of perception via real-time brain scans. Examples of such studies are contained in the various "hacks" in this book, as distinct illustrations of the brain's hidden (biologically-based) logic. The authors emphasize that perception is far from straightforward and the brain in some ways has a life of its own.
Author Tom Stafford is a cognitive neuroscientist. The other primary co-author, Matt Webb, is an engineer and designer. Many of the "hacks" have been contributed by a large handful of others, mostly from the world of natural science research. Each hack is a probe, so to speak, into the works of the brain in its many aspects of perception - seeing, hearing, touch, attention, reasoning, memory, and more. Most of these hacks are structured into a template - introductory material on the latest science in that topic area, real-life illustrations of the topic, and suggestions for the reader to experiment with his own brain facilities. For example, have you ever thought why you can't normally tickle yourself? Hack #65 explains why and provides a work around. Many of the hacks are illustrated with graphics and others indicate links to websites where one can find text, graphics, video, and sound illustrations. Although these links are quite helpful and illuminating, it can be annoying to have to drop the book, log-on to a computer, and pull up a website before going back to the book to complete that segment.
This book is popular science about significant research and technology advances in the brain sciences. It will appeal to the many readers who like to keep up on important science matters without having to study for a college graduate program. The best chapters are those on Reasoning (Chapter 7) and Togetherness (Chapter 8) which include evidence puncturing the supposed rationality of human activities. Hack #70, for example, shows how the mere arrangement of a list can influence people's selection choices and why marking down a unit price from $20.00 to $19.99 is so significant. Hack #73 discusses the placebo effect and #75 delves lightly into Gestalt phenomenology.
The subject material seems a bit far afield for the publisher, O'Reilly Media, Inc., which has carved out a niche as a purveyor of computer-related books, many of which cover esoteric subjects. This volume of popular science seems to have been shoehorned into the structure of the popular O'Reilly "Hacks" series, but doesn't quite fit the template of compiling relatively separate clever solutions to discrete computer software problems. Rather than discrete and relatively independent segments, many of the individual hacks here really are just captions or headings separating subject matter.
The book is totally at variance with the other O'Reilly Hacks books. Those concern various hardware and software. Whereas Stafford and Webb discuss the wetware of your brain. Much of the text should be familiar to biology and psychology students. But not to programmers. The authors summarise what they consider salient concepts about the brain, in general language. Along with references to research papers in journals and websites. All this is shoehorned into the format of a Hacks book. Which is quite unlike a standard biology text layout. So the book is unconventional in several ways.
One of the hacks is famous in maths. There are three doors. Behind one is a prize, while the other two have goats [i.e. no prize]. You pick a door. Then the umpire looks behind the other 2 doors and opens one that has a goat. So do you switch doors or not, in order to maximise your chances of getting the prize?
You may well find the book unsatisfying. The authors make it plain that much remains unknown about the brain. A conceptual incompleteness that cannot be avoided in any text. Other Hacks books might have a solution to a hack that is code, say. Well, either it works or it does not. And if it works [the usual case], then that is that. Whereas in this book, an answer to a hack does give more information, but may often beg for deeper clarification that no one can furnish.
Each article also has a list of End Notes that give you further reading on each topic, which was really nice. Each "hack" is also cross-referenced very well with the other similar hacks, so you can bounce all over the book reading about various aspects of brain function. My favorite article discusses the "Hypnagogic State" - the sometimes brief period between wakefulness and sleep... I seem to find myself in that state quite a bit - now I have a name for it. =) =) =)
If you're interested in psychology or curious about the how and why, this could be a fun book to check out. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
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