The author is Nick Chater and the subtitle is The Illusion of Mental Depth and the Improvised Mind. I found this to be one of the most interesting books on the mind I have read. Overall the message is that your hidden inner life ain’t what you think:
According to our common-sense view, the senses map the outer world into some kind of inner copy, so that, when perceiving a book, table or coffee cup, our minds are conjuring up a shadowy ‘mental’ book, table or coffee cup. The mind is a ‘mirror’ of nature. But this can’t be right. There can’t be a 3D ‘mental copy’ of these objects — because they don’t make sense in 3D. They are like 3D jigsaw puzzles whose pieces simply don’t fit together. The mind-as-mirror metaphor can’t possibly be right; we need a very different viewpoint — that perception requires inference.
Take that Thomas Reid! By the way:
This perspective has a further, intriguing and direct prediction: that we can only count colours slowly and laboriously…the apparent richness of colour is itself a trick — that our brains seem to be able to encode no more than one colour (or shape, or orientation) at a time. But this is what the data tell us.
Here is perhaps the clincher:
…all of us perceive the world through a remarkably narrow channel — roughly a single word, object, pattern or property at a time.
So much of the rest is the top-down processing function of our minds filling in the gaps.
By the way, if you are told to shake your head up and down, nodding in agreement, while reciting a plausible argument, you will assign a higher truth value to that claim. And emotion is more a “creation of the moment” rather than “an inner revelation.” If you cross a dangerous bridge to meet up with a woman, thus raising your adrenalin levels, you are more likely to develop a crush on her, that sort of thing.
I cannot evaluate all of the claims in this book, and indeed I am partly skeptical in light of the rather scanty treatment given to cross-sectional variation across heterogeneous individuals. Still, the author cites evidence for his major claims and applies reasonable and scientific arguments throughout. I can definitely recommend this book to those interested in serious popular science treatments of the mind, and it is not simply a rehash of other popular science books on the mind.
The top link above is for U.S. Amazon orders, due out in August, I was very happy to have ordered from AmazonUK.
I believe this book was first recommended to me by Tim Harford.