cover image 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

Mariano Sigman. Little, Brown, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-54962-2

Hidden, behind-the-scenes mechanics of thought are revealed in this scintillating ramble through brain science. Cognitive neuroscientist Sigman expands his celebrated TED talk to show the unexpected inner workings of a raft of mental phenomena: the sophisticated innate theories of mind and moral philosophy that infants use to parse social life and the complex statistical analyses they deploy to learn language; the subconscious calculations that underlie hunches, which turn out to be surprisingly accurate and which determine our decisions many seconds before we are consciously aware of them; the active mental lives of patients in a “vegetative state”; the genetic endowment of champion athletes, seen less in physical talent than in mental determination and “fighting spirit”; astronomer Carl Sagan’s marijuana epiphanies; and the author’s own mysterious ability to control the temperature of his fingertips. Calling on authors from Plato to Freud and on a trove of cute experiments on brainy babies, some of his own devising, Sigman’s lucid exposition probes and unsettles our intuitions about how we think in the light of new science that makes the machinery transparent. The loosely organized text meanders at times, but readers will find it a fascinating browse packed with arresting insights at every turn. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc. (July)