The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain | Annie Murphy Paul
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A New York Times Editors' Choice
A bold new book reveals how we can tap the intelligence that exists beyond our brains—in our bodies, our surroundings, and our relationships
Use your head.
That’s what we tell ourselves when facing a tricky problem or a difficult project. But a growing body of research indicates that we’ve got it exactly backwards. What we need to do, says acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul, is think outside the brain. A host of “extra-neural” resources—the feelings and movements of our bodies, the physical spaces in which we learn and work, and the minds of those around us— can help us focus more intently, comprehend more deeply, and create more imaginatively.
The Extended Mind outlines the research behind this exciting new vision of human ability, exploring the findings of neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, and examining the practices of educators, managers, and leaders who are already reaping the benefits of thinking outside the brain. She excavates the untold history of how artists, scientists, and authors—from Jackson Pollock to Jonas Salk to Robert Caro—have used mental extensions to solve problems, make discoveries, and create new works. In the tradition of Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind or Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, The Extended Mind offers a dramatic new view of how our minds work, full of practical advice on how we can all think better.
"An acclaimed science journalist demystifies how our most important thinking often happens outside our heads."—Adam Grant, author of Think Again and Originals, on LinkedIn as "The 12 New Leadership Books to Read This Summer"
“In The Extended Mind, author Annie Murphy Paul explains why the key to thinking better sometimes lies in using our brains less. By extending our minds through our bodies, physical surroundings, and relationships, we can work more productively and solve problems more creatively. The Extended Mind uses stories and science to show us how it’s done.”—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better
"Fascinating, sure-footed and wide-ranging"—The Wall Street Journal
"In The Extended Mind, science writer Annie Murphy Paul shows us how we can 'think outside the brain'—that is, draw the stuff of the world into our trains of thought. We limit ourselves when we think only with our heads. Extending our minds opens up a host of new possibilities, allowing us to become more focused, more productive, more creative—in a word, smarter."—Susan Cain, author of Quiet
"The Extended Mind argues that our creativity, our intelligence, and even our memories are embodied not just in the wet matter of our brains, but in the world all around us. This is a profoundly interesting book that invites us to radically change how we think about thinking."—Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein
“Packed with cutting-edge research, compelling real-world examples, and deep insight, The Extended Mind provides a revolutionary framework to help us understand how our brains work. It’s one of those rare books that I found so interesting that I couldn’t put it down, and the minute I finished, I started making changes in my life.”—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
"Just when I thought I was stuck with the brain I have, Annie Murphy Paul reveals that I can do better! Much better! This fascinating tour of the latest science reveals all the ways we can get smarter by changing our physical spaces, moving our hands and bodies and thinking together, with other humans. An inspiring guide to living fuller lives by getting outside our own heads."—Amanda Ripley, author of High Conflict and The Smartest Kids in the World
"Powerful, actionable, and whip-smart, this book is proof that when you rethink how thinking works, you open the door to a world of new possibilities. I guarantee that Annie Murphy Paul's concepts, case studies, and research-based tips will help you and your group connect, create, and perform in new ways."—Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code and The Culture Code
"When it comes to your identity, there is no clear line where your brain ends and your body, your environment, and your culture begin. In this tour de force, Annie Murphy Paul unmasks the larger story of who we are."—David Eagleman, Stanford University neuroscientist and author of Incognito and Livewired
"The very smartest people know how to draw upon the wisdom of their entire world, including their environment and also their whole body, not just their brain. The Extended Mind is the very best guide on how to do this and an entertaining read as well."—Tyler Cowen, George Mason University economist and co-author of the "Marginal Revolution" blog
"Anyone who wants to think better, more creatively, or more collaboratively—and who doesn’t?—must read this book. It has the potential to revolutionize classroom design, office practices, parenting techniques, and even exercise habits. Annie Murphy Paul has done the hard work of distilling and synthesizing twenty years of research in multiple fields, all so that we can apply brain science to getting outside our brains. A fascinating read!"—Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America and author of Unfinished Business
"Annie Murphy Paul has written a very illuminating book; it made me think more capaciously about the mind and brain."—Howard Gardner, Harvard University professor of education and author of Frames of Mind
“What if we don’t just think with our heads? In this delightful book—clear and provocative and filled with vivid examples and wise advice—Annie Murphy Paul explores the radical idea that our mental processes extend outward from our brains and into our bodies and our physical spaces and the people around us. This ambitious work by one of the best science writers alive will change how you think about thinking.”—Paul Bloom, Yale University psychologist and author of How Pleasure Works
"Annie Murphy Paul has written a book that will help teachers and parents to get the most out of school. The Extended Mind is not just a fascinating read, firmly grounded in science—it will help you, and your students and your children, to think better."—Daniel Willingham, University of Virginia psychologist and author of Why Don't Students Like School?
"Genuine revolutions in thought are few and far between, but this is the real deal. Minds reside in bodies, and our bodies do things in a surrounding world, making use of implements that extend and transform our natural capacities. How do we grasp reality? Not, it turns out, according to the story we have been telling about the mind for about 400 years. In The Extended Mind, we learn that modern society is built on some premises that simply don’t hold up, and are making us miserable. With grace, clarity and a humane eye for the truly significant, Annie Murphy Paul brings this revolution to bear on the challenge of living well. This is stuff you can use."—Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft
"Annie Murphy Paul expands our notion of where thinking takes place, and even what thinking means. She moves thinking out of our individual brains, and into a relationship with outside spaces and other people. The Extended Mind is a truly revolutionary book."—Scott Barry Kaufman, host of The Psychology Podcast and author of Transcend
“Our minds shape our perception of the world and our position in it. This is almost too obvious to mention. The idea that the converse is true takes some getting used to, however, but that’s where Annie Murphy Paul comes in. Her investigation of this unexpected idea brings it suddenly to life, first connecting you to the secret constellation of beliefs you already hold on the topic—that a walk will clear your head; that a spot at the table by the window will bring your thinking to life; that writing it out by hand and physically shaping the words will alter what you write and your memory of it. Then it will take you on a journey to a hundred deeper applications of the emerging science that suggests that the mind thinks within, with and through the body. One could almost say that for every action of brain on the body there is an equal and opposite action of body on brain. Mapping those actions will change your thinking forever.”—Doug Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools and author of Teach Like a Champion
"Annie Murphy Paul has written one of those rare and revelatory books that will change the way you see—and use—your brain. What a relief to learn you don’t have to be smarter to be smarter. You just have to stop relying so hard on your dumb head and look more to the inspirational spaces and people outside it."—Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix
"The Extended Mind is a thrilling account of the true nature of the human mind. Annie Murphy Paul makes the provocative argument that the mind is more than just a brain trapped inside a skull—and shows how our best thinking occurs outside the brain, in the ways that we interact with the larger world and the larger world interacts with us. Packed with fascinating research in cognitive science and the gripping stories of some of the brightest luminaries of history, The Extended Mind will change the way you understand yourself and may even change how you live your life. I couldn’t put it down."—Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning
“Like Thinking Fast and Slow, this riveting book both transforms our understanding of thought and shows us how to think better. It is not just fascinating but thrilling and liberating, to realize our minds are not trapped in the dark inside our skulls but always reaching outside for tools and movement and other minds to think with.”—Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning
“After decades of books narrowly focused on the brain, Annie Murphy Paul's book reveals that
to be truly alive, we actually need to be fully embodied. The Extended Mind is a brilliant, deeply research-backed guide to living life at our greatest potential."—Emma Seppälä, Ph.D., author of The Happiness Track
“In The Extended Mind, Annie Murphy Paul makes the fascinating and convincing argument that our minds continue beyond our heads. Our thoughts reside in our brains, but they're influenced by how our bodies move, the surroundings we inhabit, and the relationships we pursue. A beautifully written, insightful book rich with cutting-edge science and fascinating case studies.”—Adam Alter, associate professor of marketing at New York University and author of Drunk Tank Pink and Irresistible
"Lucid, entertaining, challenging—and very, very important. But be warned: to extract the juice from this book, don't just read with your intellect. You'll need to resonate with your breath and your belly. Then you'll really get it.”—Guy Claxton, author of Intelligence in the Flesh
“Annie Murphy masterfully fits together the parts of an exciting new science, technology, and practice of extending the human mind behind the brain. The Extended Mind weaves together strong evidence that we use artifacts, from pencils (try multiplying two 6 digit numbers without something to write with) to search engines, to multiply our brain’s biological capacities. Besides tools, we shape our environments and rely on our social networks to think in ways that our brains alone could not think.”—Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and Tools for Thought
"Paul’s knack for finding real-world scenarios to illustrate scientific ideas makes this pop and lends much credence to the theory that an isolated mind isn’t the sole source of intelligence and creativity. Her fresh approach hits the mark."—Publishers Weekly
"Paul does a good job of drawing together the many extensions of mind that surround us . . . It helps to have a brain to think with, but Paul capably shows that there’s much more to the process than all that."—Kirkus Reviews
"A practical and mind-expanding guide for writers, artists, teachers, and anyone who wants to increase their brain power and help others do the same."—Library Journal
"In this enthralling book, Annie Murphy Paul shows in practical detail just why mind is not 'all in the head.' Stressing the body, and the social and material context in which we act, this book should alter how we think about ourselves and how we value our worlds. Despite being a longtime proponent of the extended mind, I learned new things on every page. Highly recommended—make it part of your mind today!"—Andy Clark, Professor of Cognitive Philosophy, University of Sussex; author of Natural-Born Cyborgs and Supersizing the Mind
About the Author
ANNIE MURPHY PAUL is an acclaimed science writer and book author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Scientific American, Slate, Time magazine, and The Best American Science Writing, among many other publications. She is the author of Origins, chosen as a Notable Book by the New York Times Book Review, and The Cult of Personality, hailed by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker as a "fascinating new book." She has held the Bernard Schwartz Fellowship and the Future Tense Fellowship at New America; currently, she is a fellow in the Learning Sciences Exchange, a program administered by New America in partnership with the International Congress of Infant Studies and the Jacobs Foundation. She has also received the Spencer Education Reporting Fellowship and the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship. Paul has spoken to audiences around the world about learning and cognition; her TED talk has been viewed by more than 2.6 million people. A graduate of Yale University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she has served as a lecturer at Yale University and as a senior advisor at the Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. She lives in New Haven with her two sons.