£22.00
  • RRP: £40.95
  • You Save: £18.95 (46%)
FREE Delivery in the UK.
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
Quantity:1
Beyond the Brain: How Bod... has been added to your Basket
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds Hardcover – 24 Apr 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
£22.00
£16.24 £23.16
Note: This item is eligible for click and collect. Details
Pick up your parcel at a time and place that suits you.
  • Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
  • Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
How to order to an Amazon Pickup Location?
  1. Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
  2. Dispatch to this address when you check out
Learn more
£22.00 FREE Delivery in the UK. Only 1 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Special Offers and Product Promotions


Frequently Bought Together

  • Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds
  • +
  • Radical Embodied Cognitive Science
Total price: £39.95
Buy the selected items together

Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.




Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (24 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691126445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691126449
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,095,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"Beyond the Brain" explores the emerging field of embedded cognition, in which the mind is seen as more than a product of brain mechanisms. . . . Barrett provides a thorough, well-written introduction to the disparate schools of thought on embedded cognition, starting with a discussion of what human brains really do and the ways in which brainpower is adaptive. -- "Choice

Barrett's book is a superb and unique bit of thinking, and so eminently readable and enticing that it will appeal to the mainstream. . . . It is so rare to find a richly scientific and philosophical book that the reader will find hard to put down, as if it were a bestselling novel, and I hope this book actually reaches a bestseller list, it is that good, and has that wide an audience, from layman to cognitive scientist. I recommend it to any university under or post-graduate course, as one of the most intriguing and compelling works I have ever read or reviewed. This is not due alone to the startling facts, or her humor, or any other single facet, but owes much to her integration of so many aspects of argument, philosophy, science, anthropology, ecological psychology and others, that it teaches the student, in passing, to think outside of the umwelt. A great contribution.--Roy Sugarman "Metapsychology "

[T]his book provides an excellent synthesis of psychology, philosophy, robotics and biology on the topic of animal and human cognition. The prose is accessible and easy to read, and Barrett effectively uses everyday examples to make theoretical and technical points clear. . . . [T]his book . . . gave me a lot of new insights. I highly recommend it to scientists and students interested in understanding animal and human minds.--Sabine Tebbich "Animal Behaviour "

[W]e can see Barrett's brave new book as a beacon to future generations of scientists who wish to investigate the particularly human niche in cognitive evolution.--Daniel J. Povinelli "Human Ethology Bulletin "

[I]f you are new to the area of embodied cognition, read this book. If you're familiar with the literature but want a clear, well-structured presentation of many of the key ideas, then read this book. If you're bored with the same old examples and want some new, perhaps more convincing examples of embodied cognition in action, read this book. And if you have heard some of the arguments but still think behaviour really comes from the computational activity of our complex brains, then, for the love of science, read this book.--Andrew Wilson "Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists "

"Beyond the Brain" is indeed an amusing and entertaining read, but one with an extraordinary analytical rigor and eloquence of argument. Very accessible, enticing, and lucidly written, it can be enjoyed both by professional academics and laypeople. Readers--be they novice or seasoned--will certainly find the volume uplifting and inspirational, Barrett's style brisk and delightful and her intellectual playfulness quite solacing. . . . A must read for the next generations of cognitive scientists and for all those who are interested in the study of comparative cognition.--Mirko Farina "Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences "

I am jealous of this book, especially of the first half. It is so well written. Barrett picks exactly the right examples and weaves them together in exactly the right ways. It is clear that Barrett has put great care into the construction of Beyond the Brain, and her success should be rewarded by a wide readership.--Eric P. Charles "PsycCRITIQUES "


"Beyond the Brain" is indeed an amusing and entertaining read, but one with an extraordinary analytical rigor and eloquence of argument. Very accessible, enticing, and lucidly written, it can be enjoyed both by professional academics and laypeople. Readers--be they novice or seasoned--will certainly find the volume uplifting and inspirational, Barrett's style brisk and delightful and her intellectual playfulness quite solacing. . . . A must read for the next generations of cognitive scientists and for all those who are interested in the study of comparative cognition.--Mirko Farina "Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences "

Drawing on examples from animal behavior, comparative psychology, robotics, artificial life, developmental psychology, and cognitive science, Barrett provides remarkable new insights into how animals and humans depend on their bodies and environment--not just their brains--to behave intelligently.--Daniel J. Povinelli "Leonardo Reviews "


[W]e can see Barrett's brave new book as a beacon to future generations of scientists who wish to investigate the particularly human niche in cognitive evolution.
--Daniel J. Povinelli "Human Ethology Bulletin "


Barrett's book is a superb and unique bit of thinking, and so eminently readable and enticing that it will appeal to the mainstream. . . . It is so rare to find a richly scientific and philosophical book that the reader will find hard to put down, as if it were a bestselling novel, and I hope this book actually reaches a bestseller list, it is that good, and has that wide an audience, from layman to cognitive scientist. I recommend it to any university under or post-graduate course, as one of the most intriguing and compelling works I have ever read or reviewed. This is not due alone to the startling facts, or her humor, or any other single facet, but owes much to her integration of so many aspects of argument, philosophy, science, anthropology, ecological psychology and others, that it teaches the student, in passing, to think outside of the umwelt. A great contribution.
--Roy Sugarman "Metapsychology "


[T]his book provides an excellent synthesis of psychology, philosophy, robotics and biology on the topic of animal and human cognition. The prose is accessible and easy to read, and Barrett effectively uses everyday examples to make theoretical and technical points clear. . . . [T]his book . . . gave me a lot of new insights. I highly recommend it to scientists and students interested in understanding animal and human minds.
--Sabine Tebbich "Animal Behaviour "


[I]f you are new to the area of embodied cognition, read this book. If you're familiar with the literature but want a clear, well-structured presentation of many of the key ideas, then read this book. If you're bored with the same old examples and want some new, perhaps more convincing examples of embodied cognition in action, read this book. And if you have heard some of the arguments but still think behaviour really comes from the computational activity of our complex brains, then, for the love of science, read this book.
--Andrew Wilson "Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists "



"Beyond the Brain" is indeed an amusing and entertaining read, but one with an extraordinary analytical rigor and eloquence of argument. Very accessible, enticing, and lucidly written, it can be enjoyed both by professional academics and laypeople. Readers--be they novice or seasoned--will certainly find the volume uplifting and inspirational, Barrett's style brisk and delightful and her intellectual playfulness quite solacing. . . . A must read for the next generations of cognitive scientists and for all those who are interested in the study of comparative cognition.
--Mirko Farina "Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences "


I am jealous of this book, especially of the first half. It is so well written. Barrett picks exactly the right examples and weaves them together in exactly the right ways. It is clear that Barrett has put great care into the construction of Beyond the Brain, and her success should be rewarded by a wide readership.
--Eric P. Charles "PsycCRITIQUES "


Drawing on examples from animal behavior, comparative psychology, robotics, artificial life, developmental psychology, and cognitive science, Barrett provides remarkable new insights into how animals and humans depend on their bodies and environment--not just their brains--to behave intelligently.
--Daniel J. Povinelli "Leonardo Reviews "

One of "Choice"'s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012


One of "Choice"'s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012


""Beyond the Brain" is an astonishingly good book, both substantive and fun to read. . . . Barrett re-centres the field on the study of animal cognition. I think this is an excellent decision, and not just because it allows her to tell some great animal stories. The main advantage is not narrative but substantive: her careful reconstruction of the grounds of natural cognition is simply more convincing and more relevant than even the best discussion of artificial intelligence could ever be. . . . "Beyond the Brain" is full of . . . interesting and heterodox discussions, and is sure to engage, enrage, and inspire in differential measure depending on the reader's theoretical proclivities."--Michael L. Anderson, "Journal of Consciousness Studies"

"[T]his book provides an excellent synthesis of psychology, philosophy, robotics and biology on the topic of animal and human cognition. The prose is accessible and easy to read, and Barrett effectively uses everyday examples to make theoretical and technical points clear. . . . [T]his book . . . gave me a lot of new insights. I highly recommend it to scientists and students interested in understanding animal and human minds."--Sabine Tebbich, "Animal Behaviour"

"Barrett's book is a superb and unique bit of thinking, and so eminently readable and enticing that it will appeal to the mainstream. . . . It is so rare to find a richly scientific and philosophical book that the reader will find hard to put down, as if it were a bestselling novel, and I hope this book actually reaches a bestseller list, it is that good, and has that wide an audience, from layman to cognitive scientist. I recommend it to any university under or post-graduate course, as one of the most intriguing and compelling works I have ever read or reviewed. This is not due alone to the startling facts, or her humor, or any other single facet, but owes much to her integration of so many aspects of argument, philosophy, science, anthropology, ecological psychology and others, that it teaches the student, in passing, to think outside of the umwelt. A great contribution."--Roy Sugarman, "Metapsychology"

""Beyond the Brain" is indeed an amusing and entertaining read, but one with an extraordinary analytical rigor and eloquence of argument. Very accessible, enticing, and lucidly written, it can be enjoyed both by professional academics and laypeople. Readers--be they novice or seasoned--will certainly find the volume uplifting and inspirational, Barrett's style brisk and delightful and her intellectual playfulness quite solacing. . . . A must read for the next generations of cognitive scientists and for all those who are interested in the study of comparative cognition."--Mirko Farina, "Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences"

"[W]e can see Barrett's brave new book as a beacon to future generations of scientists who wish to investigate the particularly human niche in cognitive evolution."--Daniel J. Povinelli, "Human Ethology Bulletin"

"[I]f you are new to the area of embodied cognition, read this book. If you're familiar with the literature but want a clear, well-structured presentation of many of the key ideas, then read this book. If you're bored with the same old examples and want some new, perhaps more convincing examples of embodied cognition in action, read this book. And if you have heard some of the arguments but still think behaviour really comes from the computational activity of our complex brains, then, for the love of science, read this book."--Andrew Wilson, "Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists"

"I am jealous of this book, especially of the first half. It is so well written. Barrett picks exactly the right examples and weaves them together in exactly the right ways. It is clear that Barrett has put great care into the construction of Beyond the Brain, and her success should be rewarded by a wide readership."--Eric P. Charles, "PsycCRITIQUES"

""Beyond the Brain" explores the emerging field of embedded cognition, in which the mind is seen as more than a product of brain mechanisms. . . . Barrett provides a thorough, well-written introduction to the disparate schools of thought on embedded cognition, starting with a discussion of what human brains really do and the ways in which brainpower is adaptive."--"Choice"

"Drawing on examples from animal behavior, comparative psychology, robotics, artificial life, developmental psychology, and cognitive science, Barrett provides remarkable new insights into how animals and humans depend on their bodies and environment--not just their brains--to behave intelligently."--Daniel J. Povinelli, "Leonardo Reviews"

"Barrett's book contains many bold ideas, expressed in a lively and engaging style; with nice touches of humor, it is both thought provoking and entertaining. Her relational, environment-based, action-oriented perspective is deeply compatible with behavior analysis, and I suspect many behavior analysts will be nodding in agreement with many of the thoughtful and well developed arguments put forth in the book."--Timothy D. Hackenberg, "Behaviour Analyst"

"Barrett s book contains many bold ideas, expressed in a lively and engaging style; with nice touches of humor, it is both thought provoking and entertaining. Her relational, environment-based, action-oriented perspective is deeply compatible with behavior analysis, and I suspect many behavior analysts will be nodding in agreement with many of the thoughtful and well developed arguments put forth in the book."--Timothy D. Hackenberg, "Behaviour Analyst""

From the Back Cover

"Louise Barrett's latest book is a beacon of hope for anyone who worries that the study of the evolution of cognition is being reduced to nothing but sensationalistic claims about the nature of the animal mind. With delightful prose, she makes a strong case that overinflated notions regarding how human minds work have tragically distorted our view of other animals. Barrett's book is a highest-priority must read for the next generation of scientists interested in the evolution of cognition."--Daniel J. Povinelli, University of Louisiana

"A delight to read, this very ambitious book furnishes a fresh perspective on animal behavior. Barrett synthesizes a broad literature from fields as diverse as ethology, ecological psychology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and philosophy, and masterfully weaves the different strands together into an iconoclastic but coherent view of cognitive behavior. A reader could not wish for a clearer guide into this new field."--Carel van Schaik, Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich

"This is an excellent book about comparative cognition, how minds and brains evolve, and how to think about the minds of animals."--Nicola S. Clayton, University of Cambridge

"Clear and engaging, this thought-provoking book is an excellent synthesis of new directions in cognitive science and evolution. The use of everyday and humorous examples is effective, and the scholarship is impressive in its breadth and rigor, combining ideas from ecological psychology, robotics, cognitive science, and evolutionary biology. A stimulating read, it will have scientists questioning conventional wisdom about the nature of cognition and species difference."--Robert Barton, Durham University

"Arguing that observed animal behavior is substantially organized by both an organism's physical structure and environmental affordances, this book raises interesting questions about the role of cognition in behavior and the attribution of complex behaviors to cognitive processes similar to those purportedly supporting human behavior. An intriguing and engaging book."--Bennett Galef, McMaster University"

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
1
4 star
0
3 star
0
2 star
0
1 star
0
See the customer review
Share your thoughts with other customers

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Barrett combines evidence from comparative psychology, robotics and AI to make a comprehensive argument regarding the nature of human reasoning. Specifically, she examines the way cognition is dependent on the body, and its environment as well as the brain. In doing so, she effectively deals with the Descartesian dualism that remains implicit in a lot of psychology.

Altough Barrett endevours to be accessible to the general reader, some background knowledge in scientific psychology does help. However, this book provides an amazing introduction to embodied cognition for undergraduates and postgraduates in psychology, and that is the audience I would primarily reccomend it to.
Comment 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x91478924) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d09b604) out of 5 stars The brain is not the whole story. 14 Oct. 2012
By Alexander P. Woika - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In Beyond the Brain, How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds,
Louise Barrett creates an argument that intelligence and behavior are not due to the brain alone
but rather to a complex interaction of an animal's body, environment, and nervous system. Her
argument is supported by a number of examples in both living systems and artificial intelligences
(AIs). As the book progresses, Barrett repeatedly references and links to concepts covered
previously. This referencing makes it easier to understand her argument as some parts of the
book are abstract or do not follow conventional thinking. The purpose of this review is to briefly
describe critical parts of the argument.

Anti-anthropomorphism:

Louise Barrett begins her argument by suggesting that anthropomorphism should be
limited when trying to determine how an animal's behavior is developed. This argument is based
on the fact that anthropocentric view limits how we are able to explain an animal's behavior by
trying to force it to function based on the same mechanisms that we function when the behavior
could be developed by completely different causes. This is important because "other animals
have different bodies and different nervous systems, and live in different habitats. This means
that, even though their behavior may look similar to ours in some way or another, it need not be
produced by the same underlying mechanism."

This is a particularly interesting point because people (including me) like to
anthropomorphize things. As a result of reading this book, I hope that I will be more cautious in
my assumptions of what mechanisms are functioning behind behavior. Barrett presents a much
better argument against oversimplification due to anthropomorphism than described above.

Complex behavior and small brains:

Barrett presents evidence that complex behaviors are not necessarily the result of big
brains or complex computations in the head. In this section, Barrett proposes that big brains and
complex neural computations are not necessary for seemingly complex behaviors, but that
behaviors can be achieved based on the animal's body and how it interacts with the environment.
For example, clusters of objects that are formed by didabots. Didabots are simple robots that
have two optical sensors on either side of their head and operate on one simple rule: "if the
sensor on the right is activated, they turn left, and if the sensor on the left is activated, they turn
right." Based on this rule and body configuration the didabots tend to form clusters of objects
when they are placed in a crowded environment. This clustering is not the goal or purpose of the
didabots and is not guided by complex rules or computations, but rather "is an emergent property
of a very simple "self-organizing" process that reflects the coupling between the didabots'
movements and how these robots interact with the objects in the environment." This is just a
brief example of how a complex behavior (clustering of objects) can be brought about by simple
mechanism. Barrett provides more examples of this interesting occurrence in her book.

Behavior is environmentally determined:

Louise Barrett challenges the notion that practical behavior can result just based on the
presence of a brain. Here, she logically argues that the behavior is the result of the nervous
system being embodied in the environment. This is particularly important in how an animal
perceives the world. Perception as Barrett describes in not a passive process in which the animal
merely receives a stimulus from the environment and produces a response but a "is a matter of
active exploration of, and attention to, the environment." This is based on the fact that animals
are capable of acting on their environment and that their actions result in changes in their
environment. Consequently, animals receive different stimuli based on their actions.
Additionally, Barrett points out that it is impossible to have a nervous system be meaningful
without a body to act with and an environment to act upon.

More interesting quotes:

"[O]nce we begin exploring the actual mechanisms that animals use to negotiate their worlds, it
becomes very hard to decide where "perception" ends and "cognition" starts. One reason for this
is that we may be thinking about these things in the wrong way, and so make false distinctions;
we tend to assume that perception is merely the passive reception of information from the world,
especially compared to the active manipulation of information that we assume cognition entails.
But perceptual processes are much more active than we think, and, as a result, they are highly
instrumental in enabling animals to behave flexibly."

" First, when we talk about the behavioral flexibility and intelligence of animals, we're always
doing so in relation to the environments in which they are embedded. The flexibility we see
emerges as a consequence of the engagement between the organisms and the environment, and is
not due to the animal alone (remember the parable of the ant). Moreover, the flexibility and
intelligence we see is also relative because, as in our foraging ant example, the intelligence
shown is not a property of the animal, or its brain, or even the evolutionary process that gave rise
to it, but is, in fact, in the eye of the beholder.31 We see "intelligence" because we look on as
outsiders, whereas, in many cases, the organisms themselves have no knowledge or
understanding of the fact that they are exploiting certain physical properties of the environment,
or even that such properties exist."

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to others. It offers a different approach to what
intelligence really is. Additionally, this book challenges what Louise Barrett considers a
neurocentric view and shows that much of an animal's behavior is specifically linked to the
body's construction and environment, and that a large amount of computation is not done by the
brain but rather in the morphology of an animal.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91be88ac) out of 5 stars Well worth the read! 14 Oct. 2011
By Eric P Charles - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book explains, in an approachable way, what increasingly seems like it will be the future of scientific psychology - a view of the organism (human or otherwise) embedded in its world, with the brain viewed as crucially important, but not as a central-control mechanism. Most importantly, this book takes some of the ideas in psychology that often seem the most crazy - Gibson's ecological psychology, Clark's extended cognition - and makes them seem almost inevitable. The ideas haven't gotten any simpler, Barrett is incredibly skilled at explaining them. If you want to know more about the book, check out the summary here:
[...]
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91322e70) out of 5 stars Simply brilliant 24 April 2011
By Beatlesandtea - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Louise Barrett's perspective on embodied cognition is enlightening, and a welcome break from the tiresome excess of brain-centric literature that pervades psychology. Beyond the Brain is for anyone who has ever wondered how simple creatures exhibit complex behaviours all without an intricate brain. Dr. Barrett reintegrates the environment as a central influence in shaping behaviour. If one has not had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Barrett discuss embodied cognition in person, then I strongly recommend Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds. Dr. Barrett's wit and charm make Beyond the Brain an entertaining and illuminating read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91661e04) out of 5 stars An intelligent alternative to current dogma 3 April 2014
By C. Newland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is clear, succinct, smart, provocative, and highly readable. Using excellent concrete examples, it takes on problems with information-processing and computer-based metaphors that are so prevalent now in attempts to "explain" behavior. It also addresses the easier targets of dualism and anthropomorphism, though in some surprising ways. More important, though, the criticism is a relatively small part of the book. She offers an alternative perspective, one that is straightforward and reasonable.

Barrett draws from robotics, philosophy, insect behavior, neuroscience, comparative psychology (comparative cognition) and evolutionary thinking to describe and illustrate a perspective called ‘extended cognition.’ She builds an argument sequentially, starting with the behavior of spiders and crickets and them increasing in complexity through micro-robots (didabots) and finally to growing children. Although she doesn't mention it, her approach is also compatible with the more sophisticated, contemporary behavioral approaches to psychology (forget silliness like blank slates and denial of obvious existence of private events, we're simply talking about a reluctance to build a science on a foundation of computer metaphors).

Briefly, her idea is that complex behavior emerges out of simple mechanisms, behavior-environment relations arise out of interactions of an organism with a behavioral history in that environment and the skin is an arbitrary, and sometimes not very meaningful, barrier. There is no central computer that stores, retrieves, decides, but rather an environment that influences what we do via multiple, distributed, and sometimes fantastically simple, processes within the body (including the brain) and that is, in turn, remodeled by behavior. In this view, the brain is not so much something that sits on top of an organism but rather an organ like any other that interacts with other organs and with the environment.

Enthusiastically recommended. It will change the way you look at things.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91158600) out of 5 stars Not just for scientists 30 Sept. 2013
By Sheng Jiang - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In her book Beyond the Brain, How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds, Louise Barrett explores the behavior of animal cognition and how it is affected by the surrounding environment. She does not simply look at the brain by itself, but instead argues that the environment perceived by the brain has a very substantial role on human and animal behaviors. Throughout the book, Barrett intertwines various scientific fields in order to support her arguments and attack those who do not believe in the interaction of the brain and its surroundings. She backs up her claims with facts and studies, but her writing doesn't feel like a textbook's. Despite the sometimes esoteric topics discussed in this book, the author explains them in a digestable way, making for a pleasant read.

The book is structured into 11 chapters that build into one theme: that environmental inputs are necessary for the development of behavior and intelligence in animals. These chapters can be divided into 4 sections:

Chapters 1 and 2 deal with attacking the concept of anthropomorphism. Through several real-life examples, including the social behaviors of apes and the mental developments of human babies, Barrett shows how the tendencies of humans to anthropomorphize can lead to confusion and errors in explaining the behaviors of animals. She urges her readers to throw away their human-centric beliefs, as they can cause significant bias while attempting to describe animal psychology. The repeated references that Barrett makes help remind the readers of what they have read and help link new concepts to ones explained previously, easing them into the more in-depth chapters of the book. One such reference is that of Santino, chimpanzee who lives in a zoo. Over ten years, Santino would collect and pile up rocks in the morning to hurl at visitors who would come to the zoo, displaying a capacity to plan for the future. Barrett uses his scenario to drive home her point that anthropomophicity can lead to bias:
"His [Santino's] behavior was taken as evidence for forward planning and the presence of autonoetic consciousness. As a result, Santino was raised up to what we clearly consider to be our own exalted level of ability, rather than leading us to question the apparent complexity of our own cognition. For if it were true that Santino possessed the ability to mentally plan his own future using a brain only one-third the size of our own, then it is equally true--and perhaps evolutionarily more valid--to argue that this ability is a general ape-level capacity and not a human-like trait. More bluntly, it would mean that we are more mundane and apelike than we suppose, rather than that Santino is as "special" as us."

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 address the differences of a small brain versus a big brain. Barrett starts by showing that a small brain can display surprisingly complex behaviors. One very intriguing example that she uses is that of the 'fertile turtles'. These were a set of robots that had very simple intelligence and could only gather information from two inputs: the touching of a sensor and the detection of light. They could only find light and move towards it, but despite the simplicities of the robot, it displayed complex behaviors without any prior programming once placed into an environment. Barrett uses this example to show how behavioral complexity and cognitive complexity are not related. In her later examples, the author proposes that many complex behaviors are not due to the complexity of the brain, but rather the complexity of the environment the brain is placed in. The fact that a simple brain can display such intricate behaviors was very surprising to me, and this section was one that I enjoyed reading the most.

The rest of this book delve into the meat of the book. In these chapters, Barrett describes how the environment helps determine behavior. She explains how the dynamics of the brain help animals to adapt to their current environment, and how this is apparent in the behaviors of human babies. In addition, she attacks the notion that the brain acts like a computer in favor for embodied systems that are able to survive in different situations. She argues for the idea of soft assembly, where a variety of local factors interact with an animal's nervous system to generate on-the-fly behaviors. These chapters start to pile on information, but thanks to Barrett's simpler explanations, it is not difficult to keep up with her.

In conclusion, the vast amounts of information that Barrett writes about is presented in a very digestible manner, backed by solid logic and reputable references. The topics discussed are very interesting, and have helped open my views of animal behaviors and intelligence. I would recommend this book to others, no matter their expertise in the neurological field.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know


Feedback