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Mind Hacks: Tips & Tricks for Using Your Brain [Paperback]

Tom Stafford , Matt Webb
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Dec 2004 Hacks

The brain is a fearsomely complex information-processing environment--one that often eludes our ability to understand it. At any given time, the brain is collecting, filtering, and analyzing information and, in response, performing countless intricate processes, some of which are automatic, some voluntary, some conscious, and some unconscious.

Cognitive neuroscience is one of the ways we have to understand the workings of our minds. It's the study of the brain biology behind our mental functions: a collection of methods--like brain scanning and computational modeling--combined with a way of looking at psychological phenomena and discovering where, why, and how the brain makes them happen.

Want to know more? Mind Hacks is a collection of probes into the moment-by-moment works of the brain. Using cognitive neuroscience, these experiments, tricks, and tips related to vision, motor skills, attention, cognition, subliminal perception, and more throw light on how the human brain works. Each hack examines specific operations of the brain. By seeing how the brain responds, we pick up clues about the architecture and design of the brain, learning a little bit more about how the brain is put together.

Mind Hacks begins your exploration of the mind with a look inside the brain itself, using hacks such as "Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: Turn On and Off Bits of the Brain" and "Tour the Cortex and the Four Lobes." Also among the 100 hacks in this book, you'll find:

  • Release Eye Fixations for Faster Reactions
  • See Movement When All is Still
  • Feel the Presence and Loss of Attention
  • Detect Sounds on the Margins of Certainty
  • Mold Your Body Schema
  • Test Your Handedness
  • See a Person in Moving Lights
  • Make Events Understandable as Cause-and-Effect
  • Boost Memory by Using Context
  • Understand Detail and the Limits of Attention
Steven Johnson, author of "Mind Wide Open" writes in his foreword to the book, "These hacks amaze because they reveal the brain's hidden logic; they shed light on the cheats and shortcuts and latent assumptions our brains make about the world." If you want to know more about what's going on in your head, then Mind Hacks is the key--let yourself play with the interface between you and the world.

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Mind Hacks: Tips & Tricks for Using Your Brain + How the Mind Works (Penguin Press Science)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (2 Dec 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596007795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596007799
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.3 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


It is totally overflowing with examples and simple exercises. ..buy the book and give a Mind Hacks party! -- bookzen.blogspot.com

It makes a wonderful annotated bibliography, with a light touch and hackish humour that inspires further reading. -- New Scientist, 5 February 2005 (by Mike Holderness)

From the Author

Mind Hacks is 100 do-it-at-home demonstrations that reveal something about how your brain works. We wrote the book because we found so much cool stuff being done in the cognitive sciences and we wanted to tell people about it, packaging it so that anyone could understand it and begin to use it in the own way for their own purposes. One of us (Tom) is a cognitive neuroscientist, the other (Matt) is a programmer and designer - so we're both interested in mechanism - in how things work. The book should help you understand a few quirks of mind not only affect how we think and behave but also reveal some fundamental things about how our brain constructs the illusion of reality for us.

Each Hack describes a phenomenon and gives an explanation of the psychology and neuroscience behind it. The demonstration will either make you go "wow" or it will make you go "I always noticed that - but I thought it was just me". Did you know that you spend 90 minutes of your waking day functionally blind (because visual input is cut off when your eyes move)? That you can improve your muscle strength by mental exercise alone? That preventing someone talking to themselves can stop them being able to combine information from different senses? Would you like to know why you're good with faces but not with names? Why you have a favourite coffee cup or why it is easier to listen to someone if you are wearing your glasses? The book lets you understand why these things happens, what they mean about our brain, and how they connect to the rest of our everyday lives. We had great fun writing the book, and some fantastic contributors. It is ram-packed full of tit-bits, information-nuggets, links and references for following things up. Come and visit us at mindhacks.com to get a taster.

- Tom & Matt

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and, more importantly, fun! 3 Mar 2005
By Stephen Hampshire VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've only just finished reading it, but I have a feeling this will be one of those books that you keep coming back to. There's a lot of scope for flicking through and reading bits that catch your eye.
A lot of this is down to the layout - within each section the points are made in short "hacks", each one capturing a particular trick of the mind to reveal the (occasionally hackish) way it works.
If an optical illusion can trick us into thinking that two identical objects are different sizes, why do our hands know the right size when they go to pick one up? This is one of the hacks, and it proves that visual information is processed on two paths - the motor control is happening before the processing of context. Or does it? Many of the hacks raise questions which have not been settled, so readers can explore the controversy for themselves.
The authors have an infectious enthusiasm for the subject which is manifest in a lot of links and supplementary reading (as well as a blog). It's certainly a good idea to have the internet accessible to you while you read so you can look up the demos they link to, or you'll find your copy overflowing with bookmarks like I did.
Two minor notes of caution - not all of the hacks are tricks that you can actually try out. Especially at the beginning of the book many of them are textbook information presented in the "hacks" style. This is a fun book, but the science is there as well so be prepared for it! The other potential irritation is that, because the hacks are designed to stand on their own, the book can feel a bit repetitive if you try to read it cover to cover.
Overall, though, an excellent roadtrip through the workings of the mind, with plenty of opportunity for picking up party tricks along the way. There'll even be some serious lessons for anyone interested in the way senses are processed for interface design etc. I can thoroughly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in how the mind works.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Really Good and interesting book 28 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is really good book, well researched and written.
Every section is well explained, includes an example and practical exercise for the reader to carried out.
Images and graphs would have made it better.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hacked mind 15 May 2010
By R. Hick
It's a compilation of short but dense introductions to more, mostly, or less interesting and stimulating insights into how brains functions. The format is a little uncomfortable as it has the accesibility of a coffee table read but has comprehensive web references that encourage you visit the sources and find out more. Which makes it a book to read while sitting at your computer so maybe a book for the underworked or for when your waiting for an email.
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