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Multimind: A New Way of Looking at Human Behavior Paperback – July 4, 2015
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From Publishers Weekly
The author of The Psychology of Consciousness here defines the human mind as a "bastard hybrid system." Each of us has many "small minds" that simultaneously process feelings, fantasies, ideas, fixed routines, interpersonal responses and bodily skills. While Ornstein's "multimind" theory is more descriptive than explanatory, it offers a welcome alternative to trendy computer models, split-brain theories and Freudianism. Multimind helps explain why our emotions and attitudes are easily swayed, the difficulty of ever really knowing oneself or another person, and how mental shortcuts we rely on to make snap judgments can harden prejudices. Ornstein faults the narrowness of IQ tests by stressing the varied abilities that make up intelligence. He cites studies of hypnosis and multiple personality in support of the view tht several minds can coexist in one person. It's worth heeding his axiom, "Whatever enters consciousness is greatly overemphasized."
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Psychologist Robert Ornstein's wide-ranging and multidisciplinary work has won him awards from more than a dozen organizations, including the American Psychological Association and UNESCO. His pioneering research on the bilateral specialization of the brain has done much to advance our understanding of how we think. He received his bachelor's degree in psychology from City University of New York in 1964 and his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1968. His doctoral thesis won the American Institutes for Research Creative Talent Award and was published immediately as a book, On the Experience of Time. Since then he has written or co-written more than twenty other books on the nature of the human mind and brain and their relationship to thought, health and individual and social consciousness, which have sold over six million copies and been translated into a dozen other languages. His textbooks have been used in more than 20,000 university classes. Dr. Ornstein has taught at the University of California Medical Center and Stanford University, and he has lectured at more than 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. and overseas. He is the president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK), an educational nonprofit dedicated to bringing important discoveries concerning human nature to the general public.
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He wrote in the first chapter of this 1986 book, "Together with the reviews of evidence on mind and brain, intelligence and personality, I wish to present a new perspective on the human mind, one that encompasses the philosophical arguments, the challenges from Freud and from the discoveries from evolution, the new evidence from brain sciences and cognition, the problems of intelligence and personality and multiple personality. I hope this viewpoint will allow many who now see only myriad opposing and conflicting small and useless minor theories to understand that many of the conflicts have been caused by looking at the mind as if it had only one aspect, the aspect that is most highly prized in schools." (Pg. 13)
He states, "The idea that we have one rational mind seriously undersells our diverse abilities. It oversells our consistency, and it emphasizes the very small, rational islands in the mind at the expense of the vast archipelago of talents, opportunities, and abilities surrounding them. We often assume that our own mind is a reasonable and stable, somewhat solid device. It is not. It moves, it careens from one idea to another, and it is surprisingly inconsistent and unstable." (Pg. 17) He means by "multimind": "Instead of a single, intellectual entity that can judge many different kinds of events equably, the mind is diverse and complex. It contains a changeable conglomeration of different kinds of 'small minds'---fixed reactions, talents, flexible thinking---and these different entities are temporarily employed---'wheeled into consciousness'---and then usually discarded, returned to their place, after use." (Pg. 25)
He suggests, "The multimind model leads to a different vision of the mind. In a sense, it assumes that the mind is a kind of bastard hybrid system: a collage comprising many fixed and innate routines, all of which serve the mental operating policies that stretch over millions of years, millions of organisms, and millions of situations." (Pg. 81)
He points out, "The normal strategies of the mental operatuing system---simplification, exclusion of information---make us continually overreact from the little information we finally do select and allow to enter consciousness... Whatever enters consciousness is greatly overemhasized. It does not matter how the information enters... all that gets in is overemphasized. We ignore more important or more valid evidence that is available to us and focus on what we already know." (Pg. 104)
He admits, "There seems to be an apparent conflict in the minds of many people about how one person could write from apparently divergent viewpoints. I wrote earlier, in The Psychology of Consciousness and The Mind Field, about the unexpected possibilities of the development of consciousness. But later, in The Amazing Brain and in this book, I make the strong claim that the brain is an incoherent, bizarre, and ramshackle device and that we have great difficulty in controlling our minds... It is not, I hope, that I am becoming less coherent and precise in my middle age. It is just that my constant object of inquiry, the human mind, has come more clearly into view." (Pg. 175)
He concludes, "how DO we develop and change, given the multimind view?... It is in the ability to select the reaction, to select the mind that is operating, that is real mental development... Conscious development probably consists of attaining a genuine measure of understanding and control of the wheeling and dealing mental system: being able to choose which of the small minds (if any) operates at any moment... We must be able to learn and train ourselves in how we think, how our minds are structured, and how we can overcome the innate limitations and biases of mind." (Pg. 191)
This is one of Ornstein's most interesting books, and will be of keen interest to all who are interested in "creative" forms of mind research.
With 10 prior writings on consciousness, experience & the brain, Prof. Ornstein (Human Biol.) of Stanford presents us with his hypothesis of how the human brain/mind appears to be composed of multiple modules each of which may function apart or in harmony with constituent elements to help explain existence of "I", to establish homeostasis of an internal environment & to cope with the machinations of sensory inputs and comparisons, to simplify judgements, & to screen saliency without overt conscious effort. I am not sure how "Mindset" qualifies as "startling new concept of how the human mind works," BUT this is not of itself nosy.
"Multimind" uses easily read prose, boasts nothing overtly technical & it is blessed with a good sprinkling of anecdotes, shaggy dog stories, salient psychological stories of humaness & strategies for life in general & life in the fast lane including business sales, modern warefare & friendships -- Platonic or otherwise. He nicely illustrates how our minds are easily deceived, persuaded, coerced, intimidated & even corrupted in games of strategy based merely on the number of players involved. The treatise is not pompous, but, prototypical of books imparting hypotheses, has ample prolixity.
The work is written largely from the viewpoint of a psychologist pondering the mindset, sense & reasoning. The author suggests ways to look within ourselves at our desires, motivations, inconsistencies & reactions to & from others as a way of better understanding the MOS (Mental Operating System) which evolved over many millennium to make explicit elucidation of its ambulant disciplines readily known. Ornstein quotes J. Rumi (Persian poet, 13th Cent.) "What bread looks like depends upon whether you are hungry or not."