The Mind is Flat
A radical reinterpretation of how your mind works – and why it could change your life
‘An astonishing achievement. Nick Chater has blown my mind’ Tim Harford
‘A total assault on all lingering psychiatric and psychoanalytic notions of mental depths … Light the touchpaper and stand well back’ New Scientist
We all like to think we have a hidden inner life. Most of us assume that our beliefs and desires arise from the murky depths of our minds, and, if only we could work out how to access this mysterious world, we could truly understand ourselves. For more than a century, psychologists and psychiatrists have struggled to discover what lies below our mental surface.
In The Mind Is Flat, pre-eminent behavioural scientist Nick Chater reveals that this entire enterprise is utterly misguided. Drawing on startling new research in neuroscience, behavioural psychology and perception, he shows that we have no hidden depths to plumb, and unconscious thought is a myth. Instead, we generate our ideas, motives and thoughts in the moment. This revelation explains many of the quirks of human behaviour – for example why our supposedly firm political beliefs, personal preferences and even our romantic attractions are routinely proven to be inconsistent and changeable.
As the reader discovers, through mind-bending visual examples and counterintuitive experiments, we are all characters of our own creation, constantly improvising our behaviour based on our past experiences. And, as Chater shows us, recognising this can be liberating.
Launched with what may be the most engaging prologue of any work of nonfiction, the reader of The Mind is Flat is taken on a fascinating intellectual journey. Chater first compels us to leave behind widely-accepted views about the depth of the mind, abandoning the cherished idea that thinking is rooted in the depths of unconscious thought. But far from depriving the life of the mind of its charm, magic or meaning, Chater introduces us to a new appreciation of the brain's remarkable propensity and capacity to make sense of experience. While the mind may indeed be flat in the sense it is devoid of unconscious ruminations, reading this book leaves us with a much deeper, transformed, understanding of our own thoughts and feelings and of how we perceive the definitively non-flat world in which we live -- George Loewenstein * author of Exotic Preferences: Behavioral Economics and Human Motivation * A total assault on all lingering psychiatric and psychoanalytic notions of mental depths to be plumbed. For Chater, surface is everything ... Light the touchpaper and stand well back -- 'The ideas driving 2018' * New Scientist * The mind may be flat but this book is a fascinating, rounded and radical approach to understanding how we think and act. The implications for understanding human decision making are profound. Everyone who enjoyed Thinking, Fast and Slow must read this book -- Gus O'Donnell, former Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the Behavioural Insights Team Advisory Board This is a remarkable book. Every other book about the mind will tell you either why we're so dumb, or why we're so smart. Chater offers a single elegant theory to explain both: why our minds so often let us down and confound us, at the same time that they far surpass our current attempts to build intelligence in machines -- Josh Tenenbaum, Professor of Cognitive Science and Computation at MIT It's a triumph in itself that Chater has written a book about cognition that is as gripping as a thriller. In fact, I would go even further. If you can measure a book by how often you find yourself bringing it up in conversation, then The Mind is Flat is one of the best I've ever read . . . Brilliant . . . beautifully written . . . you'll be able to bored your relatives rigid with your new theories of cognition over the Christmas turkey -- Thomas W. Hodgkinson * The Spectator * A superb exposition of scientific findings -- Steven Poole * Guardian * An astonishing achievement. Nick Chater has blown my mind - as well as assuring me that my brain just doesn't work the way I think it does. I haven't been able to stop talking about the ideas in this book -- Tim Harford * author of Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy and The Undercover Economist *
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