Original Intelligence: The Architecture of the Human Mind

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9780071381420: Original Intelligence: The Architecture of the Human Mind

Reveals the innate characteristics of human intelligence

Humans are the inheritors of millenia of animal evolution­­indeed, a mere 1.6 percent genetic difference separates us from our closest relative, the chimp­­and yet clearly human intelligence is a thing apart. Leading experimental psychologist David Premack and his long-time collaborator, Ann Premack, have made an extraordinary joint career of teasing out exactly what are the deep characteristics of the human mind that separates us from our closest animal relatives. In Original Intelligence, the Premacks draw upon years of brilliant experimental work of their own and others with animals and children, and human babies as young as four months. Carefully comparing and contrasting the abilities of animals and humans, they present compelling evidence for the existence of "modules," or inborn intuitions that enable even extremely young humans to recognize basic physical laws such as gravity, do arithmetic, draw analogies, understand music, and, of course use language. Finally, they explore the psychological, social, and ethical implications of these findings, and offer prescriptions for how educational methods should be reformed in light of this new understanding of how the mind works.

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From the Back Cover:

About six million years ago, the common population shared by chimpanzees and humans diverged into separate groups, one becoming chimpanzee, the other Australopithecus, the first link in our long human lineage. And while the human lineage left Africa and migrated across the face of the earth, the chimpanzees, unable to construct a technology that makes migration possible, have remained marooned for over five million years in a small corner of Africa.

A mere 1.6% genetic difference separates us from the chimpanzee, our closest relative. Yet the human brain is more than two-and-a-half times larger than that of the chimpanzee, and human intelligence is a thing apart. While many have pondered this difference, few have put their finger on just what separates the human mind from the rest of the animal world.

In Original Intelligence, leading experimental psychologist David Premack and his long-time collaborator, Ann Premack present an extraordinary joint effort in teasing out exactly what are the deep characteristics of the human mind as they draw upon their years of brilliant experimentation. Carefully comparing and contrasting the abilities of animals and humans, they theorize that more than just the capacity for language has distinguished our minds from those of our animal ancestors. In elegant prose, they present compelling evidence for the presence of inborn intuitions, showing that even babies too young to be influenced by education and socialization can do arithmetic, draw analogies, understand music, use language, and even recognize basic physical laws such as gravity. Delving even further, as they explore the social implications of their findings, the authors set up a clarion call for education reform. Evolution, the Premacks attest, has dealt us a "promising hand" of extraordinary intelligence. It is now up to us to use it intelligently.

Finally, they explore the psychological, social, and ethical implications of these findings, and offer prescriptions for reforming educational methods in light of this new understanding of how the mind works.

Their approach to education exploits what evolution has already "taught" the child. It builds on the intuitions given the child by evolution. It links skills for which the child lacks evolutionary preparation, such as reading and writing, to skills for which the child is prepared. Finally it teaches the child how to control those intuitions that collide with the modern world.

Tomorrow's children, the beneficiaries of this education, will better understand what sets them apart as human. Knowing themselves, how their mind and brain work, humans will be better able to cope with their own savagery, better able to share with others, human and animal, the world that is entrusted to their care.

Trace the architecture of human intelligence with one of the world's top experimental psychologists.

"We are a complex species which nevertheless must decipher our own complexity. It would be marvelous if we could get some help--could contact a qualified party from another world, exchange views of each other's mind, and speed up the process of understanding in both parties. But we are alone. There are no other parties, no other problem-solving species to be found.

Yet the human capacity for problem solving is extraordinary. And for the past 20 years or so, humans have turned the capacity on themselves--rather than on quarks, neutrons, genes, etc.--and have begun to penetrate their own mind, clarifying both the neural processes and the mental capacities of which the mind consists. We are beginning to understand who we are, not in the sense of a philosphical treatise, but in the sense of science, the only sense, so far as we can see, in which we can defeat the ignorance which is our real enemy. To do justice to ourselves and to the world in which we live, we must have an understanding of ourselves."

--from the Conclusion

About the Author:

David Premack Ph.D. is emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. A pioneer, with Ann, in chimpanzee language study, they showed why chimps cannot acquire human language. Premack proposed a theory of reward or reinforcement still used after forty years (Premack Principle), and introduced the concept of Theory of Mind, a keystone of human social intelligence. His book The Mind of an Ape, which he wrote with Ann Premack, summarized his work on animal intelligence and was given an award by the American Psychological Association. Ann Premack's book Why Chimps Can Read was featured in "New and Noteworthy" in the New York Times and translated into five languages. She is an editor of Causal Cognition, and listed in Who's Who in the World.

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