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The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory [Hardcover]

Torkel Klingberg
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: £15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

22 Jan 2009
As the pace of technological change accelerates, we are increasingly experiencing a state of information overload. Statistics show that we are interrupted every three minutes during the course of the work day. Multitasking between email, cell-phone, text messages, and four or five websites while listening to an iPod forces the brain to process more and more informaton at greater and greater speeds. And yet the human brain has hardly changed in the last 40,000 years.

Are all these high-tech advances overtaxing our Stone Age brains or is the constant flood of information good for us, giving our brains the daily exercise they seem to crave? In The Overflowing Brain, cognitive scientist Torkel Klingberg takes us on a journey into the limits and possibilities of the brain. He suggests that we should acknowledge and embrace our desire for information and mental challenges, but try to find a balance between demand and capacity. Klingberg explores the cognitive demands, or "complexity," of everyday life and how the brain tries to meet them. He identifies different types of attention, such as stimulus-driven and controlled attention, but focuses chiefly on "working memory," our capacity to keep information in mind for short periods of time. Dr Klingberg asserts that working memory capacity, long thought to be static and hardwired in the brain, can be improved by training, and that the increasing demands on working memory may actually have a constructive effect: as demands on the human brain increase, so does its capacity.

The book ends with a discussion of the future of brain development and how we can best handle information overload in our everyday lives. Klingberg suggests how we might find a balance between demand and capacity and move from feeling overwhelmed to deeply engaged.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; 1 edition (22 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195372883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195372885
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review

[ (Publishers Weekly)

] is a highly sane look at the increasingly insane demands of the information age.

Klingberg does his best to keep the material accessible, with lots of anecdotes... (Washington Post)

About the Author

...[ (Sacramento Book Review)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
In his introductory first chapter, Torkel Klingberg proposes that, in addition to determining how to learn to be less stressed by decelerating the pace of our lifestyle, we must also accommodate "our thirst for information, stimulation, and mental challenges. It is arguably when we determine our limits and find an optimal balance between cognitive demand and ability that we can not only achieve deep satisfaction but also develop our brain's capacity the most." Klingberg stresses the need to achieve and then maintain what Jonah Lehrer characterizes as "perfect equilibrium" in his recently published How We Decide. First, in Chapter 2, Klingberg examines the mental demands that surround us every day and compete for our attention, "through which the information flood re4aches the brain." (These mental demands comprise what marketers correctly call the "clutter" that they struggle to penetrate with their messages.) At one point, Klingberg cites an experiment that demonstrates "one of the rudimentary mechanisms of attention: the selection of neurons to be stimulated at the expense of others. The phenomenon is called [begin italics] biased competition [end italics]."

Then in Chapter 3, he examines "the really interesting constraints [that] lie in how we control our attention and how we retain the information we absorb." (It is important to keep in mind that if we do not focus our attention on something, such as the explanation of the specific subject Klingberg that he is discussing, we will not remember it.) "How do we remember what it is we concentrate on? The answer is [begin italics] working memory [end italics]." That is our ability to remember information for brief periods of time, usually a matter of seconds.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars readable and thought provoking 26 April 2014
By tallmanbaby TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Overflowing Brain on Kindle

This is a decent survey of recent academic research into how the brain functions, in particular looking at working memory and our ability to concentrate. The book sold well in Sweden and this translation retains a light accessible feel. It covers such topics as ADHD, brain training, rising intelligence levels and more.

Although the book reflects current research, the key information is presented in short readable chapters. The fictional office worker we are introduced to at the outset is actually a useful means of explaining some tricky concepts. The book can get a bit dense at points, I was rather lost on the structure of the brain, but the chapters are tightly themed, so if you are struggling persist and it will get easier.

There is a lot of stuff here that I was not aware of, and there is plenty of material that has been peppering my conversations ever since. Although there is an index, it does not include hotlinks on the Kindle, but otherwise the Kindle version is well put together and professional.

This book sits very well between the easy to read management/self improvement books with no new content, and the academic tomes that are unreadable but with plenty of new content, that is, it is readable and packed with interesting and novel content. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good book 15 July 2013
By TinTin
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A bit dry but a good honest book, no hype.
Some chapters could have been in more depth, but otherwise pretty good to dip into.
Includes a useful bit on ADHD.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 2 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great book but pretty heavy going.
I used it to support course work I am doing and it was useful to me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good. 18 Aug 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Yep. Good.
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