THE UNIVERSE WITHIN: A New Science Explores the Human Mind by Morton Hunt
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THE UNIVERSE WITHIN: A New Science Explores the Human Mind

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Hunt, no stranger to applied psychology (The Divorce Experience, etc.), has now taken on the challenging task of letting the layperson know that something new is happening in academic psychology. We are emerging from the realm of rats-rewarded-for-right-responses to studies of how the human mind develops, learns, remembers, creates. The new ""cognitive science"" had its pioneers in the Gestalt school of KÖhler and Wertheimer, in Piaget, and in a prophet or two like Ulric Neisser, who described the formation of a ""new paradigm"" over a decade ago. But it is always risky to write about an emerging field when its leaders are still determining boundaries, terminology (some eschew the word ""thinking""), and goals; and here Hunt shows himself to be a first-class reporter. He has interviewed the principals at Carnegie-Mellon, MIT, or Stanford and traced the necessary history to present neat summaries of new work on memory, logic, reasoning, psycholinguistics, and other topics grouped together as human information-processing--a coinage that resonates with the sophisticated work of computer scientists and artificial-intelligence modelers. Hunt has also dotted the chapters with do-it-yourself examples of just how illogical most human thinking is (from the hoary missionaries-and-cannibals teaser to would be syllogisms). What's refreshing about all this is that cognitive psychologists are getting a better handle on the really interesting questions: What goes on in problem-solving? What kind of selectivity operates in remembering and forgetting? Some surprises turn up. Cognitive scientists treat the unconscious with great respect--not as the home of the Id, but perhaps as the site of parallel processing that in time engenders conscious ideas. During the course of the text, Hunt has a good time refuting behaviorism (with due homage to Noam Chomsky, who did it notably at age 31), and also places Piaget in perspective (though wrong in important ways, he revolutionized a field by asking the right questions). Hunt's own opinions emerge in his heroic defense of human intelligence over Artificial Intelligence, and in his general respect for human mentality (as against chimps, dolphins, etc.). Thanks to Hunt's personal information-processing abilities, a fine job indeed.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1981
Publisher: Simon & Schuster