Description: How do our brains go about producing our mind or the experience of thoughts and mind we have? If that sounds like an odd restatement of Descartes’s statement of thinking therefore being you are not far off. How do those of us who do not have specific training in neuroscience learn about how our brains work? Well we can read what neuroscientists have to say on the subject. The problem is that much of what neuroscientists write they write for one another and not for us and reading enough of the scientific research literature to develop a big picture view of how the brain works would be an onerous and time consuming task, assuming it would be doable at all without post-graduate training. Luckily many neuroscientists have come to the realization that some knowledge translation work aimed at assisting the rest of us in building a big picture understanding of how our brains (minds) work would be greatly appreciated, if done well and accessibly. The review linked below looks at 4 books written by neuroscience researchers but aimed at us in the “lay” (non-expert) community. Usefully, the reviewer not only provides a brief overview of what the author of ach book seemed to him to be trying to accomplish but also some comments on the extent to which the authors succeeded in their translation efforts and, in some cases, about what seemed to have been left out that might have helped us build a useful understanding of the areas of brain and mind functioning described. Critical looks and the extent to which efforts to translate expert knowledge in ways that make it usefully available to otherwise bright and well informed community members is becoming more and more necessary and the specialization of our fields of knowledge deepen. So as you read through the review linked below pay attention not just to what you might learn if you were to invest time in reading the books that were reviewed but also, reflect upon what the author of the review raises in the way of concerns about what is issuing or less than optimally handled in the books reviewed. This sort of reflective guidance will be increasing important for us as we try to engage in the important goal of life-long learning in a world of increasing esoteric knowledge specialties.
Source: How We Make Up Our Minds, Book Reviews, Christopher Chabris, The New York Times
Date: September 22, 2017
Photo Credit: John Gall
So how many of the 4 books reviewed do you now want to read (if you can find the time)?) Diverse and complex disciplines like Psychology are going to have to address questions of how they might optimally inform people (non-psychologists) about what they are up to and, most importantly, about how they can make their insights into human functioning (and fixes for human malfunctioning) genuinely available to the rest of the world. The need to properly and effectively inform others about the research done and insights gained in Psychology trough psychological research is an ethical principle advocated by both the Canadian and American Psychological Associations. Reviews of efforts to do so such as that linked above and, form that matter, blogs like this one which I post each week, are potentially important parts of Psychology’s and Psychologists’ efforts to live up to this ethical expectation.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why will the idea that we only use 10% of our brains stay around when Psychology and Psychologists have said it is not true for years now?
- How might we change general or typical behaviour (like handwashing by health workers) for the better?
- What are some key advantages of having critical reviews of these sorts of books (in this case written by neuroscientists to inform non-neuroscientists about how their own brains work?
References (Read Further):
Shtulman, A. (2017). Scienceblind: Why our intuitive theories about the world are so often wrong. Hachette UK.
Sigman, Mariano (2017) The Secret Life of the Mind, Little Brown.
Kravetz, Lee Daniel (2017) Strange Contagion: Inside the Surprising Science of Infectious Behaviors and Viral Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves, Harper Wave
Sharot, Tali (2017) The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others, Henry Holt and Co.
Levin, D. Z., & Cross, R. (2004). The strength of weak ties you can trust: The mediating role of trust in effective knowledge transfer. Management science, 50(11), 1477-1490. http://www.providersedge.com/docs/km_articles/the_strength_of_weak_ties_you_can_trust.pdf
Adler, C., Hadorn, G. H., Breu, T., Wiesmann, U., & Pohl, C. (2017). Conceptualizing the transfer of knowledge across cases in transdisciplinary research. Sustainability Science, 1-12. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11625-017-0444-2
CPA (2017) Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists. http://www.cpa.ca/aboutcpa/committees/ethics/codeofethics/#