Thursday, December 16, 2010

My review of Cohen's Mind Games

My review of Martin Cohen's Mind Games: 31 Days to Rediscover Your Brain is out now in the latest Times Higher Education [link to electronic version].

This book advertises itself as a self-directed course to explore mind, brain and consciousness in a way that involves not just reading, but engaging in various activities that allow diligent students to bypass the authorities and secure knowledge for themselves. At least, that's what's advertised.

What is delivered is something else: a jumble of anecdotes and factoids gleaned largely from cognitive psychology (but also from mathematics, rock music, world politics, computer science, physics and philosophy). Sprinkled in with the anecdotes are suggested activities, many of which one cannot seriously expect the lay reader to conduct in 31 days.
Day 14 involves obtaining, reading and summarising an entire book on self-help. Day 15 involves wearing upside-down goggles for several weeks. The goggles, which you build yourself using cardboard and mirrors, make everything look upside-down. Aside from the difficulty in fitting a multi-week task into a single day, one must wonder how the activities for days 15 through to 31 can possibly be pulled off while leaving the goggles on.

Day 19 involves going on a 10km walk on a coastal path while measuring it in metres, and then retracing the route while this time measuring it in centimetres. And that's just the morning. In the evening the conscientious student will be busy building and lying on a bed of nails.