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on November 20, 2013
I do not regret buying this book, or listening to it. Up through Chapter 7 it provided a nice context for the reader to understand where the authors' theory comes from. And the fairly simple system of thinking "modes" probably has some value for making quick observations or decisions, perhaps for analyzing potential employees or partners.

However, I think the theory behind the book is much weaker than it could have been. It is an oversimplified approach based on a dichotomy between top and bottom brain regions -- ironic, because the authors are critical of the left-right brain dichotomy that is a favorite subject for banal observations people make about each other while engaging in small talk. They've done almost the same thing with the top-bottom dichotomy. They do emphasize that these two gross brain regions are systems, and that they work together to take in, process, and act upon the world. But the idea that there are exactly 4 "modes" of thinking comes off as preposterous. Why not simply discuss brain regions and discreet functions like they did in the early chapters?

Starting with Chapter 8, it apparently becomes unlikely that someone could be strongly specialized in *some* thought activities of the lower brain regions, and at the same time be strongly specialized in some or all of the upper brain processes. Suddenly it is all or nothing -- if you strongly prefer making lists, you will strongly show the trait of completing what is on those lists, and strongly show the trait of controlling emotional outbursts, and strongly show the trait of creating narratives to make sense of and remember large amounts of random data. That's the underlying assumption of the top-bottom theory. You might be equally proficient in both parts, but you won't be strongly proficient in only a subset of the activities native to one of those parts. Fortunately or unfortunately, that is simply not supported by research, and it doesn't hold up to anecdote.

Are there normal people who have strong goals, and accomplish those goals, yet hate making lists? How about people who are interested in fabric textures and negotiating the best prices with suppliers for the textiles they are interested in, but have a weak sense of direction and are not at all interested in 3 dimensional shapes? Brains are not so simple that they will fit into a system with only two elements. It is an interesting train of thought to start on, but I think it should have come to more than it did.
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on December 3, 2013
Bet you didn't know that your cerebral cortex has two parts. Well sort of. A kind of upper, frontish part and lower rearward part. Well, not exactly. I mean, some parts that you'd think were part of the upper part are really in the lower part, and like it's not always clear what's part of what, but the point is, they're different. They do different things, or differentish anyway; it's all a bit hazy- you know how the brain is. Now your upper brain part does space, like where and shape and things of that sort, so it handles planning- I mean because really maybe it's better to say it does 'how' more than just 'where', according to the author. But the mostly lower brain part does something different- it does what. Like such as, identifying and perhaps classifying and other related things, so it brings in a lot of emotion too. The book's not super clear on that.

Now I can already hear you thinking, how could the lower part identify what something is without analyzing it's spatial structure and relations, which is what the upper part does? And that would be an interesting and possibly profound question. So this book doesn't address that.

But guess what? It turns out that the the two parts of the brain interact. They're connected! It's true. It's all scientifically summarized by a line drawing of the brain lobes. See those swooping arrows? Dynamic, real time connectivity! (And you just know that's got to include some feedback.) I've rarely seen so much neurobiology packed so economically into to such a compact, childlike illustration. Take that, people who say the brain is constituted from functionally homogeneous disconnected domains!

So now you're thinking: distinct yet connected functional regions, upper and lower brain parts, I get that. But that has me thinking about the inevitability of cognitive modes. Well this book has got your cognitive modes right here. And not your grandpa's right and left hemisphere cognitive modes, either. No, this is much subtler and more vertical than that. Because it turns out that- and mind you this not one thing more than pure rote speculation by the authors- some people emphasize the use of their upper brain part, and others rely more on their lower(ish) brain part, while still others- oh when will it stop?- emphasize both parts equally, and finally some people don't emphasize either part, which seems sad. If the force of the pristine combinatorial logic of this scheme doesn't convince you then... well I guess you won't be convinced, because the book provides exactly no other evidence for the existence of these cognitive modes.

Now, these cognitive modes break down into a quadripartite psychological typology consisting of Mover mode, Perceiver mode, Stimulator mode and zzzzzzzzz...

Really, it is all just so trite and totally made up. By the time I reached the last third of the book- the cognitive modes part- I felt as though I was being repeatedly hit with a new model of Taser, powered by banality rather than electricity. Remember when you and your friends would watch lousy movies just to crack up at how unbelievably bad they were? Well it got to that point for me.

In fact, I actually returned this audiobook for a refund of my credit (you knew Audible has a return policy, didn't you?) But then I un-returned it so I could write a review. So you see it is something of a mission with me to prevent you from wasting your credit and your time on this book. Because I love brains, and can't bear to see this book happen to them.
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on November 24, 2013
If the left-brain-right-brain psychology is guilty of over-simplification by attributing complex cognitive functions simply to a handful of different brain regions, I do not see how the authors can avoid the same of accusation. If the personality types of the left-right brain folks are far cry from Sperry's controlled scientific observation, I wonder why the authors think they are not making the same kind of exaggeration when they derive the "four cognitive modes" from the narrow claim on perception of shapes and location by Mishkin and Ungerleider. If their conjecture is thought to have any heuristic value, probably the same is with the conjecture of the logical/creative type of dyadic categorization. Whether the heuristic value is derived from common matches observed in everyday experiences or the reflection of some neuroanatomical myth is still yet to be seen.
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on November 6, 2013
This book succeeds where most books on neuroscience fail. It is readable and useful. It is also based on extensive research. Kosslyn previously taught psychology at Harvard and has since moved on to other projects. The short quiz in the 13th chapter of the book will help you understand how you process information. One of the best books on the subject where others promise much but typically fall short.
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on December 5, 2014
There are a ton of books out there exploring left/right brain dichotomy. Among them one finds decent science based books, as well as books filled with pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. With this book I get the sense that the authors have observed that people like to be able to categorize people according to which part of the brain they appear to use the most, and then tried to come up with a novel divide. To their credit the authors do provide arguments for why the top/bottom brain perspective is better than the left/right brain perspective, but I am not convinced. Indeed I was a bit disappointed because when I bought the book I thought that the bottom brain referred to sub-cortical brain regions, such as the limbic system, brain stem, cerebellum etc, but no. One could read this book and not even realize that the brain consists of more than the cerebral cortex (full disclosure: I am a scientist studying the cerebellum).

The story that Stephen Kosslyn is trying to sell is that the dorsal (top) and ventral (bottom) part of the cerebral cortex (the top brain), are to some extent discrete systems performing different tasks, although he is also quick to point out that they constantly work together. There is definitely some truth to the top brain, bottom brain dichotomy. For instance, when we see something we typically use the dorsal stream to analyse movement whereas the ventral stream is used for identification. Still, this book goes way way beyond the evidence.

For example, the authors claim that people rely more heavily on one or both of these systems and depending on which parts of the brain someone uses, he or she is categorized as a mover (top+bottom), stimulator (top), perceiver (bottom), or adapter (context dependent use). It is said that movers are good, both at making plans and observing and adapting to the consequences. Stimulators meanwhile make plans and execute them but are insensitive to the consequences of their plans. Perceivers don’t make much happen but are good at observing what happens around them. To be logically consistent I guess that adapters should be terrible at making plans and terrible at observing what happens around them, but instead it is argued that their top and bottom brain activity is contextually dependent, as if that is not true for all people. I do not know of any evidence to support this idea except that people are different which is hardly a revolutionary observation.

I do not know of any evidence to support this idea except that people are different which is hardly a revolutionary observation. Readers of this book will almost certainly read about the different categories and think that they resemble one category more than the others, but this does not mean that the theory is accurate. People are experts when it comes to confirmation bias. Give people a general astrological description (e.g. in general you like being with people but sometimes you feel shy), and a high percentage will think that it is a good description of their personality. People generally do not seek to falsify such statements.

In sum then, I think that there is a possibility that this book has hit upon an interesting brain dichotomy which we may want to explore further. However, the claims made in this book are very far distanced from the scientific foundation. For the reader who wants a good introduction to the brain I recommend going for Incognito instead.
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on February 13, 2016
I think you guys missed something important. I've removed my review until I work through the math. Your work combined with the logical brain's tendency to decide then rationalize later (thought to disprove free will - it doesn't.) suggests that the brain functions completely counter intuitively. The math is tricky, I'll get back to you.
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on December 20, 2013
The authors of this book have synthesized many studies and posit that the long-held theory of left-right brain is not correct. They believe that brain function is actually divided more along the lines of top and bottom brain function. It is a fascinating book and very interesting for anyone who has an interest in how our brains operate and how we negotiate with the world around us.
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on August 21, 2014
For some reason, I was always suspect of the left-right brain theory. Every other scientist kept saying that the brain can (and does) storage information "all over the place." This new theory is more in tone with the general science world.
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on April 27, 2014
It is hard for me to imagine a worse, more trivial or less meaningful book than this, and I have a pretty good imagination. One of the things that prompted me to buy it was a quote from Steven Pinker on the back cover that stated "Kosslyn is one of the world's great cognitive neuroscientists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century." I admire Pinker and have been impressed by the precision and accuracy of his language. When I looked at this quote again after reading the book, I realized he never said the book was good (or even mediocre) or that its ideas were useful or accurate. All he said was that one of the authors was a great scientist. I have found that the hallmark of poor psychological writing is taking something and subdivide it with little or no evidence that the subdivisions exist and/or are meaningful. Freud started this with the ideas of id, ego, and superego. Since then childhood has been divided into numerous different numbers of phases by various authors, as has personality, the brain and just about everything else they examine. This is a book to avoid since it is a total waste of time and money. If you want a good book on the brain, read Michio Kaku's The Future of the Mind
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on June 21, 2014
Kosslyn’s idea of “cognitive modes” is decades old.

Betty Edwards {Artist/Author/ Left-brain-Right-brain Theorist} used the idea of thinking modes in her 1979 book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”.

Kosslyn has a whopping 4, yes, count them... 4 cognitive modes!

Ricki Linksman (Educator/Author/Left-brain-Right-brain Theorist) had at least triple that number of modes if you include her version of middle-brainers. She called them “mixed preferences” in her 1996 book “How to Learn Anything Quickly”.

Only left-brainy neuroscientists can repackage Left Brain Right Brain Theory and not see it for what it is.

The existence of this book proves the Left Brain Right Brain Theory is true. And it demonstrates that neuroscientists are still playing catch up. This book gets neuroscience to the year 1976... the year Betty Edwards got her doctoral degree. (well... maybe to the Orwellian doublespeak year of 1984)

Kosslyn and Miller may have added something useful to left-brain right-brain theory so I'll give them three stars for that.

If you want a useful application of brain science to your life go with Betty Edwards or Ricki Linksman.

If you want to see just how left-brainy neuroscience is in real life then read this book.
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