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The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending And The Mind's Hidden Complexities Hardcover – April 2, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0465087853 ISBN-10: 046508785X

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046508785X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465087853
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Conceptual blending, a process that operates below the level of consciousness and involves connecting two concepts to create new meaning, can be used to explain abstract thought, creativity, and language. It is, according to the authors, "at the heart of imagination." This theory, an outcome of a 1992 project led by Fauconnier (chair, cognitive science, Univ. of California, San Diego) and Turner (chair, English, Univ. of Maryland), describes a basic mental operation that is unique to the human species. Numerous examples are offered to illustrate conceptual blending and to demonstrate how it may play out in different "conceptual niches." Blends, which occur constantly without our awareness, are critical for the creation of emergent meanings and "global insight." The authors further argue that language surfaced naturally once the capacity for blending had developed to a critical level about 50,000 years ago. This theory requires a language of its own, generating such terms as counterfactual thinking, compression, projection, and vital relations. While skillfully written, the text, like the human mind, is rather complex. Recommended for cognitive science collections in academic libraries. Laurie Bartolini, Illinois State Lib., Springfield
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


An absorbing read for any nonscience person. The authors support their claims with hundreds of field cases. -- Wired Magazine, April 2002

Any student of thought and language will learn a great deal from this fascinating book. -- The American Scientist, December 2002

What they have done is to uncover a function of the brain and show its remarkable richness and complexity. -- The Atlantic Monthly, December 2002.

Customer Reviews

A highly recommended read for technical oriented people.
Harold McFarland
It is a didactical book because it goes and returns with examples which help us understand its terminology and content.
Helena Magalhes
With that said, this is a book best read slow and considered carefully.
Taylor Ellwood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 101 people found the following review helpful By D. Austin on June 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I think at some level this is a book that wants to live in two worlds, Academia, and the New York Times Bestseller List. But to live on the NYTBL, the text must understandable to the lay-reader, and this book is not "Cognitive Science for Dummies." Instead, the majority of this book is an exhaustive taxonomy of conceptual blending and its many parts in dry technical language. As an academic work, it may be brilliant, but I am not qualified to render that judgment. I only wished that while reading it, I had an instructor to go to for clarification. I did not have the background necessary to fully enjoy the intricacies of the subject matter. That said, I am still glad that I read it.
Blending is the capacity to take two mental spaces, and connect them in certain ways such that a blended mental space emerges. What the reader finds in this book is that this sub-conscious mental facility is always at work, and that it is humans' advanced blending operations that in effect separate us from any other species on the planet. It is our heightened ability to blend that gave rise to art, science, and language.
The best thing I took away from this read was a fascinating theory of the origin of language. It is well written and defended with rigorous logic.
It is important to consider who should really read it though. It has potentially profound implications to the poet, the painter, the AI researcher, the philosopher, the teacher, and the parent, but I think one should also consider if they have the basis necessary to really "dig" what is being said here. I didn't, although I reiterate, I am glad I read it. So I guess the prerequisites are one three credit class in Cognitive Studies or Philosophy of Language.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Conceptual blending, the basis of this book, is basically the ability of the mind to take two different concepts, form a cognitive link between them and produce a third new concept that is a blending together of the first two (very similar to the thesis, antithesis and synthesis concepts). This ability is what has allowed the human species to move beyond simple logic into creative thinking. It is what has allowed us to excel in arts, develop religious thought, create a language and engage in many other activities that required insight and intuitive thinking. "The Way We Think" provides detailed analysis of this blending and how it not only has affected our past but also how it affects us today.
Filled with numerous examples to help the reader understand the nuances of conceptual blending and how it works in various scenarios, it is a fascinating read. This is not easy reading for those who are not at least somewhat knowledgeable in the area of cognitive sciences. I would consider it a very valuable academic text but not for the average lay reader. There are less complex books available on this subject that would make easier reading for the novice but this is one of the best academic level books available if you want a more complete understanding of conceptual blending and how we are able to blend concepts to create new levels of knowledge. A highly recommended read for technical oriented people.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on December 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Fauconnier and Turner argue that in the recent human past, e.g. 50,000 years ago, humans developed the capability to think in new ways, what they call double scope blending. This then led to both a cultural explosion, and speech. In writing a book like this, the authors face a dilemma: in arguing for their theories they would like to show the weaknesses of competing theories, but if they are writing for the general reader, this may mean devoting lots of time to first explaining the competitive theories. In discussing the origins of speech, they were able to accomplish this reasonably well, but elsewhere the book had brief allusions to other theories which I found of little value, as a layman reader The authors mostly do a nice job illustrating their concepts, although some of the examples do require some math background, and one small example even requires a knowledge of French (no interpretation given), and this all could have been avoided. My major problem with the book is that I think the authors are trying to make more of their ideas than is really there: what they have shown is that blending seems to be ONE insightful way of imaging how higher level thought proceeds. Had they been content with this, and less breathless in their account, they could have written a shorter, more focused, better book. Nor have they convinced me that primitive speech, based on the "simplex" network, using their terminology, wouldn't have been useful, and not required the capability to do double scope blending: thus speech could have evolved more slowly, along with the capability of physically making a variety of sounds, and mental capacities. Furthermore, the authors seems to look at the historical record and see what they want to, stating points of view as facts: for example, I believe there are still reputable scientists who believe that the Neanderthals might have had religious/artistic capabilities.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By GD on March 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an academic treatise. That's unclear from the popsci-like title and subtitle. Nonetheless, it's a very fulfilling work, once you digest it. The authors present their theory of the process by which creative thought operates, called Conceptual Blending. The process is subconscious and pervasive in everyday thought. Essentially, you metaphorically reapply concepts and relationships from the source domain onto a target domain. You're looking right now at a classic example: your computer desktop, where the source is a paper office ("folders", "files", "trash"). There are multiple and flexible ways in how the process operates. And this book deals with its theory, taxonomy, analysis and application. With the awareness obtained after reading this book, you can try to examine your own learning processes. If done with skill, it will aid your learning and imagination. And for the lay reader, that's the best reason to endure this academic work.
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