• Kluge

  • The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind
  • By: Gary Marcus
  • Narrated by: Stephen Hoye
  • Length: 6 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 05-29-08
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • 4 out of 5 stars 3.9 (145 ratings)

Regular price: $18.19

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Publisher's Summary

Are we "noble in reason"? Perfect, in God's image? Far from it, says New York University psychologist Gary Marcus. In this lucid and revealing book, Marcus argues that the mind is not an elegantly designed organ but a "kluge", a clumsy, cobbled-together contraption. He unveils a fundamentally new way of looking at the human mind - think duct tape, not supercomputer - that sheds light on some of the most mysterious aspects of human nature. Taking us on a tour of the fundamental areas of human experience - memory, belief, decision making, language, and happiness - Marcus reveals the myriad ways our minds fall short. He examines why people often vote against their own interests, why money can't buy happiness, why leaders often stick to bad decisions, and why a sentence like "people people left left" ties us into knots even though it's only four words long.
He also offers surprisingly effective ways to outwit our inner kluge - for example, always consider alternative explanations, make contingency plans, and beware the vivid, personal anecdote. Throughout, he shows how only evolution - haphazard and undirected - could have produced the minds we humans have, while making a brilliant case for the power and usefulness of imperfection.
©2008 Gary Marcus (P)2008 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"Marcus educates the reader about mental flaws in a succinct, often enjoyable way." ( Publishers Weekly)
"The book is wholly accessible to the nonspecialist but likely to attract those already acquainted with amygdala, gyral cortex, and other landmarks in the cerebral map." ( Kirkus)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Joshua Kim on 06-10-12


Fascinating extension of the evolutionary psychology framework. Argues that our brains have evolved in often "klugy" ways, meaning that evolution favors what works (and what comes first) and not what is optimal. I learned a good deal about things like memory, emotions, and perception...and now I know why I can be so dumb sometimes. Well written....a fun read.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Gurmukh on 06-07-08

An Interesting Overview

Kluge is an interesting overview of the makeup of the human mind and how it may not always operate as we would hope.

I listened to Kluge shortly after also listening to Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck institute. I highly recommend reading them both in quick succession because they each advance arguments that conflict with the other and help put some perspective on both of them.

In Kluge, Marcus does a good job of illustrating many of the ways that our human brain, as well as the way we think falls short of perfection. Understanding our shortcomings is important, not to mention highly interesting.

But I can't help feeling that he's showing some of his own mental shortcomings in his arguments. He laments, for example, that we have an inefficient memory system, and argues that we would be better off with a "postal code" type system that would enable total recall.

However, he fails to consider the cases of people with exceptional memory and how they fit into the equation. The oversight seems to be his own case of confirmation bias, one of the examples of "kluginess" he details.

Gigerenzer's book does examine cases of such exceptional memory and illustrates that there appear to be some significant downsides - a fact that deserves to be explored in greater detail.

Kluge also lists some arguments counter to his, which are summarily dismissed. But the book doesn't address any of Gigerenzer's studies that show significant benefits to mental heuristics that rely on ignorance rather than solid data.

At times Kluge also seems a little overly critical, such as when it puts forth the notion that the species could benefit from a pill to cure procrastination.

But in general, Kluge outlines many interesting flaws in general human reasoning. I particularly enjoyed many of the tips for better decision making in the final chapter.

Overall, Kluge is a good read. I recommend it to anyone interested in human thought.

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16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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