The Secret Life of the Mind: How Your Brain Thinks, Feels, and Decides

The Secret Life of the Mind: How Your Brain Thinks, Feels, and Decides

by Mariano Sigman


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From a world-renowned leader in neuroscience, a provocative, enthralling journey into the depths of the human mind.

Where do our thoughts come from? How do we make choices and trust our judgments? What is the role of the unconscious? Can we manipulate our dreams? In this mind-bending international bestseller, award-winning neuroscientist Mariano Sigman explores the complex answers to these and many other age-old questions.

Over the course of his 20-year career investigating the inner workings of the human brain, Dr. Sigman has cultivated a remarkable interdisciplinary vision. He draws on research in physics, linguistics, psychology, education, and beyond to explain why people who speak more than one language are less prone to dementia; how infants can recognize by sight objects they've previously only touched; how babies, even before they utter their first word, have an innate sense of right and wrong; and how we can "read" the thoughts of vegetative patients by decoding patterns in their brain activity.

Building on the author's awe-inspiring TED talk, the cutting-edge research presented in The Secret Life of the Mind revolutionizes how we understand the role that neuroscience plays in our lives, unlocking the mysterious cerebral processes that control the ways in which we learn, reason, feel, think, and dream.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316549622
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/27/2017
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 757,360
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Mariano Sigman, PhD, a physicist by training, is a leading international figure in the cognitive neuroscience of learning and decision-making. His awards include a Human Frontiers Career Development Award, the National Prize of Physics, the Pius XI medal from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Young Investigator Prize of "College de France," and the IBM Scalable Data Analytics Award.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The origin of thought: How do babies think and communicate, and how can we understand them better? 5

The genesis of concepts 6

Atrophied and persistent synaesthesias 8

The mirror between perception and action 11

Piaget's mistake! 13

The executive system 15

The secret in their eyes 16

Development of attention 18

The language instinct 20

Mother tongue 22

The children of Babel 25

A conjecturing machine 28

The good, the bad and the ugly 31

He who robs a thief … 33

The colour of a jersey, strawberry or chocolate 34

Émile and Minerva's owl 38

I, me, mine and other permutations by George 40

Transactions in the playground, or the origin of commerce and theft 41

Jacques, innatism, genes, biology, culture and an image 44

2 The fuzzy borders of identity: What defines our choices and allows us to trust other people and our own decisions? 47

Churchill, Turing and his labyrinth 48

Turing's brain 49

Turing in the supermarket 53

The tell-tale heart 55

The body in the casino and at the chessboard 57

Rational deliberation or hunches? 59

Sniffing out love 60

Believing, knowing, trusting 63

Confidence: flaws and signatures 64

The nature of optimists 65

Odysseus and the consortium we belong to 69

Flaws in confidence 72

Others' gazes 75

The inner battles that make us who we are 78

The chemistry and culture of confidence 85

The seeds of corruption 91

The persistence of social trust 95

To sum up … 97

3 The machine that constructs reality: How does consciousness emerge in the brain and how are we governed by our unconscious? 99

Lavoisier, the heat of consciousness 99

Pyschology in the prehistory of neuroscience 100

Freud working in the dark 102

Free will gets up off the couch 104

The interpreter of consciousness 108

'Performiments': freedom of expression 109

The prelude to consciousness 112

In short: the circle of consciousness 115

The physiology of awareness 117

Reading consciousness 120

Observing the imagination 121

Shades of consciousness 123

Do babies have consciousness? 126

4 Voyages of consciousness (or consciousness tripping): What happens in the brain as we dream; is it possible for us to decipher, control and manipulate our dreams? 129

Altered states of consciousness 129

Nocturnal elephants 131

The uroboros plot 134

Deciphering dreams 137

Daydreams 138

Lucid dreaming 141

Voyages of consciousness 143

The factory of beatitude 143

The cannabic frontier 147

Towards a positive pharmacology 149

The consciousness of Mr X 150

The lysergic repertoire 153

Hoffman's dream 155

The past and the future of consciousness 159

The future of consciousness: is there a limit to mind-reading? 165

5 The brain is constantly transforming: What makes our brain more or less predisposed to change? 169

Virtue, oblivion, learning, and memory 169

The universals of human thought 170

The illusion of discovery 173

Learning through scaffolding 175

Effort and talent 177

Ways of learning 178

The OK threshold 179

The history of human virtue 180

Fighting spirit and talent: Galton's two errors 181

The fluorescent carrot 185

The geniuses of the future 187

Memory palace 190

The morphology of form 193

A monster with slow processors 194

Our inner cartographers 197

Fluorescent triangles 198

The parallel brain and the serial brain 199

Learning: a bridge between two pathways in the brain 200

The repertoire of functions: learning is compiling 200

Automatizing reading 202

The ecology of alphabets 203

The morphology of the word 204

The two brains of reading 206

The temperature of the brain 206

6 Educated brains: How can we use what we have learned about the brain and human thought to improve education? 211

The sound of the letters 212

Word-tied 214

What we have to unlearn 217

The framework of thought 219

Parallelawhat? 222

Gestures and words 224

Good, bad, yes, no, OK 227

The teaching instinct 228

Spikes of culture 236

Docendo discimus 238

Epilogue 243

Appendix 245

Bibliography 247

Acknowledgements 264

Index 267

What People are Saying About This

author of The Tell-Tale Brain - V. S. Ramachandran

“Every year 20,000 papers are presented at the annual meeting of the society for neuroscience yet we don't have tentative answers to even ‘simple’ questions, such as why we sing, laugh, dance, or cry - let alone the lofty question of how a pack of neurons gives rise to consciousness and sense of self. Amidst the din and chaos of empirical data that threatens to deluge us, it is refreshing to see a ‘big picture’ book that attempts to tackle such issues. In attempting this the author takes us on grand tour covering an extraordinarily diverse range of topics that are of interest to the common people and specialists alike.”

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