cover image Imagination: The Science of Your Mind’s Greatest Power

Imagination: The Science of Your Mind’s Greatest Power

Jim Davies. Pegasus, $28.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-64313-203-7

Davies (Riveted), a professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Cognitive Science, explains what imagination is and how it works in this spirited overview of one of neuroscience’s most complex topics. The imagination is challenging to study, Davies explains, because “you can’t always know (let alone control) what people are or are not doing in their heads.” To acquaint readers with the field, he introduces various recent concepts, such as “threat simulation theory”—that nightmares and other anxiety-inducing dreams allow the brain to practice dealing with pressure. Provocatively, the theory holds that dreams can involve, in addition to recent stresses, “ancestral” memories from the evolutionarily pivotal Pleistocene epoch. Explaining that the imagination is dependent on the brain’s systems for perception and memory, Davies devotes a good deal of text to laying out how both systems operate. He also suggests that simply picturing oneself doing a physically demanding activity can improve one’s actual ability, as “much of the mind can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined”; for the same reason, computer-generated simulations can also help. Davies’s knack for translating the abstract into the tangible—while also doing justice to the original ideas—will make this scientific take on imagination appealing to generalists and specialists alike. Agent: Don Fehr, Trident Media Group. (Nov.)