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Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less Paperback – December 8, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (December 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060955414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060955410
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Even though we all learned that "slow and steady wins the race" back in grade school, most of us tackle problems with the brute force of logic. Cognitive scientist Guy Claxton wrote Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind to show us another way. As he says, "voices of philosophy, poetry and imagery are relatively weak in a world that largely assumes that only science and reason speak with true authority." Yet that very authority suggests that there are many problems better served by slower, more intuitive thinking, rather than the linear, logical process Claxton calls the "d-mind."

Laboratory studies of subliminal perception, problem solving, and creativity point to a cacophony of intelligent voices murmuring just below our conscious levels of awareness yet influencing our behavior in subtle ways we are only just beginning to understand. Claxton argues persuasively that this unconscious intelligence is just what we need to handle complex situations, and that our culture's misplaced emphasis on logic and reason to the exclusion of all else is foolish, and even hypocritical, as most scientists will readily admit to abandoning their left-brains on occasion for bursts of nonlinear, inspired thinking. But his prose is never preachy; in fact, he sounds as warm and wise as the Buddhist monks he has studied with. If you're looking for a new way of thinking about thinking, you'll find it in Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a counterintuitive, often provocative assault on our everyday view of how our minds work, Claxton labels rational, ordinary, purposeful thinking the "d-mode" (deliberation mode or default mode). Modern Western culture, he maintains, overvalues the practical, conscious cogitation of the d-mode, which is diagnostic rather than playful, analytical and impatient instead of intuitive and relaxed. An Oxford-educated psychologist and visiting professor at Bristol University in England, Claxton draws heavily on recent research in cognitive science and studies of the human brain to argue that an "undermind" or intelligent unconscious works quietly below?and in some cases ahead of?conscious apprehension, helping us to register events, recognize patterns, make connections and be creative. A former pupil of Buddhist teachers Sogyal Rinpoche and Thich Nhat Hanh, Claxton uses descriptions of the creative process by Einstein, Mozart, Wordsworth, Ted Hughes, Henry Moore and many others to support his theory of the undermind. He includes deceptively simple puzzles and exercises, as well as anecdotes drawn from daily life, to bolster his thesis that we need to adopt slower, more meditative modes of knowing. While Claxton speaks the language of cognitive science, his ideas resonate with Freud's description of the unconscious, Buddhist concepts of the divine ground of existence and the great Romantic poets' notions of the fount of creativity.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is a very informative, highly entertaining book.
Robert Morris
It's inspired me to trust my unconscious to learn its own way, from experience, without letting my conscious mind interfere.
Peter Farrell
The above is a good description of the scientific method from a psychological framework.
Gaetan Lion

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Simeon Hein on April 13, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this wide-ranging, scholarly study, Guy Claxton does a superb job of showing the reader how complex consciousness is, and why, in our awareness, things aren't what they seem to be. You might think from the book's title that this is largely a metaphysical or philosophical discussion. That's hardly the case. Claxton presents numerous results from psychology experiments that show, unequivocally, that we are not primarily rational beings, but rationalizing ones. In other words, we invent reasons to justify doing the things that we do, but these ideas are more likely to be intellectual alibis than the real motivations for our behavior.

You may think that you consciously make moment to moment decisions about your life. But Claxton convincingly shows us that the mysterious "undermind," as he calls it, has more to do with who we are and what we do than our conscious, logical, linear mind. The "d-mode", our deliberate thinking style--the one we perfect in our years of schooling-- is the most commonly accepted model of how our minds work. However, the experimental evidence suggests that d-mode thinking has relatively little to do with how we make most of the decisions in our lives. The d-mode actually comes up with plausible reasons that justify our actions, but it isn't the source of those actions. The conscious mind's job is to focus a lot of attention on a particular problem and maintain a coherent sense of ourselves: but these processes all come after the fact of our inner decision-making. In fact, people often seem happier with their decisions in the long run, if they think less about them from the outset. It is in this sense, that "think less" makes one more intelligent.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on May 30, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author takes gutsy stands. He considers the "Left brain Right brain" concept obsolete. According to his research, the mind's skill set is a lot more fluid than that. Everything the left brain can do, the right brain can do to, and vice versa.
His theory focuses on two main thinking modes:
1) intellect (d-mode); and
2) intuition (undermind).
He believes that optimal cognition is reached through a balance between these two modes of thinking. One is not better than the other. Thinking modes can be used in effective sequences.
He indicates that many challenging problem solving situations can be tackled through four stages of thinking:
1) Preparation in D-Mode,
2) Incubation in intuitive mode,
3) Illumination in intuitive mode, and
4) Verification in the D-mode.
The above is a good description of the scientific method from a psychological framework. This approach will help you out in both school, and business situations.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Peter Farrell on January 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent, clearly-written presentation about how we really think, learn and know. Claxton challenges our cultural assumption that real thinking involves effort, strain, and our verbal self. Claxton shows that we unconsciously register patterns, and the patterns guide our action. I've read enough psychology to agree that most patterns never reach verbal consciousness, but our verbal self is great at "filling in the details" after the fact. For years I've regarded "logical, rational" thought as a comforting myth. I'm a mathematician, so I know a little about logic, and in my opinion it's just hindsight. In my experience as a student and a teacher, I know we use our well-trained intuition to solve a problem, then we look back and say, "My, wasn't that logical?" Well, it wasn't.Claxton's book is filled with psychological studies that prove that we are conscious of very little of our real thought processes. It's inspired me to trust my unconscious to learn its own way, from experience, without letting my conscious mind interfere.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chris Jaronsky TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There were more than a few times during the reading of this book where I thought "that makes total sense", or "this one idea alone is worth the cost of the book". Mr Claxton answered things that I had thought about but was never able to fully figure out or put into words.

The author talks about thinking less to understand more. I have read about that in other books, like The Breakout Principle, that talked of thinking on something, then letting it go, and the answer will come. Guy Claxton explained it better and now I understand why I constantly get answers to my questions and thoughts when I am doing mindless or simple repetitive tasks like running or driving.

This is an excellent book that answered many of my questions on how the mind works. It also answered questions I did not even realize until after I read about it.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Robert Carlberg on March 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Claxton takes a great idea -- the idea that sometimes our 'intuition' knows more than our conscious mind -- and drives it into the ground through endless repetition. After the first couple chapters nothing new is presented, just more and more (and more!) of the same.
His focus is almost exclusively Freudian, postulating a complete, functioning "undermind" which is inaccessible (or at least veiled) to consciousness. He utilizes many fascinating examples to bring together Einstein's ruminations, Heidegger's meditations, Coleridge's unconscious plagiarism, and literally hundreds more into a more-or-less coherent argument for 'unconscious knowing.' The fact that he lumps both 'flash insight' and 'extended contemplation' into the same category seems a bit strained, but after 200+ pages of wide-ranging testimony one is hard-pressed to reply.
His is a fascinating topic, touching many important areas (like the value of experiential learning over book learning) and the first couple chapters are real eye-openers. After that, unfortunately they tend to become eye-closers from the sheer volume of corroborative evidence.
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