Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind” as Want to Read:
Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,768 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Are we noble in reason? Perfect, in Gods image? Far from it, says New York University psychologist Gary Marcus. In this lucid and revealing book, Marcus argues that the mind is not an elegantly designed organ but rather a kluge, a clumsy, cobbled-together contraption. He unveils a fundamentally new way of looking at the human mind -- think duct tape, not supercomputer -- ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2008)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,768 ratings  ·  169 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, psychology
In some ways the start of this is just The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making put into chapters and continuous prose. Not that I mean that as a bad thing quite the opposite. The ideas in both books are terribly important to anyone with a brain, particularly anyone who finds that brain getting away with terribly odd and distressing things at times.

When I Googled Kluge I found that there are quite a few people out there called Kluge as my American friends might say a bit of a bummer. In
May 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Kluge is a slang term for "a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem." In this new book, psychologist Gary Marcus argues that the human mind itself is a kluge, and then goes on to discuss how this explains why you can't remember the name of that woman from your yoga class when you run into her at the movie theater.

The basis of Marcus' argument is that evolution was working with the tools at hand when it whipped up the more complex parts of our brain and that the result, while generally

As this book suggests, the human mind is a mixture of inconsistencies. It can systematically plan and prepare, but it can also disregard those prepared plans in favor of immediate and short-term gratification. It can store and accurately retrieve memories, but it can also hardly absorb readily available information, and sometimes, memories which can be retrieved at one particular time can also be distorted due to subjectively retained external stimuli. In other words, despite its reliability in
Apr 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
(I read the NOOkcolor ebook edition)

I thought I'd really love a book about evolution's mistakes, especially one who shows irrefutably Creationists are. Marcus starts out by noting that if God made man in His image, and if he made man perfect, it's more than passingly strange that we have lousy spines that are actually retreaded quadruped spines. Everyone who has had back and neck problems can relate to this,

However, that was the beginning. Where Marcus goes stupidly wrong is his claim that if
Al Bità
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it

This wonderful book confronts a truth about evolution as it relates to biological science. The title rhymes with 'rouge' or 'scrooge', and is slang for 'a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem'. It is used by Marcus to refer to the haphazard construction of the human mind, as necessitated by evolution.

Darwinian evolution has given us powerful insights which explain how each one of us as individuals are indeed individuals: we are products of a system which, while generally resulting in
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Good: This turned out to be a wonderful little book which surveyed many of the ways in which the human brain doesn't function rationally or ideally. The examples are wonderful, and I found exception with very few of his arguments. Similar to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, Kluge gave me a bit of insight into how to combat the flaws in my brain's design and to live more rationally. At the end, Marcus explains (successfully) how the science of evolutionary psychology roundly debunks intelligent ...more
Jessie B.
This book presented one of the best arguments I've heard against creationism/ intelligent design. It suggests that we evolved enough to surive, rather than to the very best, so many human systems (the spine, our reasoning capacities, even language) is just "good enough", and often not the optimal, but rather a kluge which does the job needed but nothing more. Why would an intelligent designer create such an imperfect system when they could make the best one possible I don't agree with everything ...more
Jun 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cognition
Great idea for a book. Short read, big on ideas, and soft on data/supporting studies. I buy the narrative, especially after reading Jonathan Haidt's excellent "Happiness Hypothesis" and reading "Nudge" as well.

I appreciate the neuroscience and morality angle, but it's hard for me to disentangle this book from the 'Hypothesis.' I would suggest reading both to understand how your brain helps and hurts you, and steps to make it run a little smoother.
Apr 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Marcus takes a new slant: our brains are the products of evolution, and as such, are not perfect. In fact, they're a "kluge" of different evolutionary developments, each overlaying on top of each other. He ends the book with some advice on how we can handle our imperfect minds - sort of like a self-help book on how we can deal with our klugey minds.

One annoying thing - he gradually uses more footnotes toward the end of the book. For some reason, it began to annoy me. M
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: non-fiction lovers, brain enthusiasts, evolution enthusiasts
This is for you, Kirsti!

First of all, I learned a new word in reading "Kluge", and I have used that word in conversation already. And had to explain it. But that's hardly the point of this book.

The point, largely, is that the human brain, once so lauded (see the Bible, Shakespeare, etc.), is really just a somewhat cobbled-together affair which "does the job" but leaves much to be desired (the definition of "kluge" being a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem). Marcus gives excellent
Bob Lake
May 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-on-kindle
A long article stretched to a small book. This popsci book will be disappointing to anyone who tends to follow brain/mind science, but to someone who is new to the field will enjoy this book.

The premise is that the mind's faults are due to the brain's having been evolving in a stepwise fashion. Our original primate brain (reflexive) has had layered on top of it a "deliberative" section. These two parts are often fighting for control producing results that are not always satisfactory.
Nov 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Tremendously enjoyable explication of the cobbled-together nature of the human mind. Cogently explains, among other things, how we can't trust our own assessments about, well, nearly everything. The chapter on language is especially fascinating, the chapters that cover rationalizations and happiness are more squirm-inducing than otherwise. Very accessible and full of enough lame jokes and fun asides to keep it from being too scientific. Highly recommended.
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In Kludge, Gary Marcus highlights a number of design problems with the mind and explains the corresponding evolutionary reasons why these problems have arisen. It's a very easy read but also very deep in knowledge. I found items in my own life explained that have always bothered me deeply (why is goal setting so difficult - it always seems like future discounting takes away the desire to to good goal setting). He also recommends some ideas on how to get past these mind design failures.
Beth Diiorio
Found the content very interesting, not only as it applies to me but also, as a teacher, as it applies to my students (and why some of them just can't memorize their math facts or other useful information :-) I'm reminded of the importance that learning be contextual and am further inspired to keep plugging away at best teaching practices!
Yuriy Stasyuk
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kludge spends most of its pages trying to persuade me that my brain is both the most complex thing in the known universe and yet, inescapably faulty and prone to error. It succeeds. I think. My faulty brain may be jumping to conclusions here. Gary Marcus makes a compelling case for his argument, that our brain evolved as an inelegant cobbled together system of patches over an existing infrastructure, that still works.

On a side note, this serves as a powerful argument against both creationism
Andrew Jacobson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
The only thing haphazard is the content of this book. However, the reader gains a great deal of respect for the authors research on observable scientific experiments and studies. ...more
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
These book is really amazing.
Bart Breen
May 23, 2012 rated it liked it
It Might be evidence of its own Conclusion

This book is its own best argument for the haphazard, meandering quality of the human brain and the human thinking process.

The book itself has some strong points and raises some issues that appear to be somewhat profound, but in the end, from this reviewer's perspective it vastly overreaches the evidence presented and attempts to draw conclusions in an authoritative manner that are a huge stretch. Up front, the author jumps to the material of Richard
Apr 29, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoy reading about the imperfections of humans so was excited to read this.

The most exciting thing I learnt is that memory is context-dependent. A study showed divers who memorised facts underwater were better able to recall these facts while underwater. I'll now be doing all web dev studies at my computer. I'm considering how I can make my home desk more like my work desk to maximise recall - at work.

Kluge explains how humans rely both on reflexive and deliberative systems. The reflexive is
Feb 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a short (almost too short) and accessible introduction to the idea that the human mind is, well, not as perfect as we like to believe. While evolution does lead to supremely well-designed and efficient organisms and biological processes, it also leads to a lot of junk. Marcus uses the term "kluge" (from engineering) to describe the many ways in which the human mind is sub-optimal from the point of view of some imagined "perfect" design. He does (justifiably) grind his ax against the ...more
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nathan by: Dale Dougherty
I've read a few of these popular science books about the brain, and Kluge is the best of them all. He provides intriguing experimental result after intriguing experimental result. He's a product of his times, too--computer metaphors abound, from operating systems theory to addressable RAM. This makes it very readable for geeks, and yet not as lightweight as John Medina's "Brain Rules".

The only thing I'd have like to see would be a section on how to recognize and defeat these quirks in our
Aug 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Worth a read...most valuable part involves the 13 suggestions in the last chapter. We all need to consider how to educate our children more effectively, and I'd certainly like to learn more about the "Philosophy for Children program." Hats off to those parents and schools that are helping children to evaluate their own thoughts and beliefs and all of the information they are bombarded with in our technological age. We all need to address this challenge.
Jun 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: folks who wonder why people do some crazy things
Recommended to Burt by: The Week magazine
Shelves: non-fiction
Evolution and development of the brain. Our brain is a Rube Goldberg device. Not cut from a whole cloth, but consisting of a series of additions to a fairly primitive base, our brain functions incredibly well, in the main, and yet, because of its, well, klugy, organization, it can yield some "half full/half empty" results, depending on the circumstances.

A bit turgid at times, this is a remarkable work that made me aware of an aspect of anthropology that I had never even considered before.
Carlos JP Navia
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The most honest description of the workings of the mind I've ever read. I've been interested in the subject for many years now; I've read other perspectives of the mind/intelligence by authors like Steven Pinker, Daniel Goleman, and Pierce J. Howard. Marcus may not paint the most perfect image, but what he paints with his words is as true as a photograph... or an MRI scan.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it liked it
It took me a while to read this. It's a good book with very readable information and tidbits about thow the mind works: memory, language, emotion, etc. The thing that got me was the overly conversational style in which it was written. Sure it makes the science more palatable, but the constant asides and footnotes break up the flow of the reading.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Funny and humane work of evolutionary psychology. Like Thinking, Fast and Slow but he tries to explain the many cognitive biases in terms of evolutionary adaptations.

Relies on classic (old) behavioural experiments. So, not sure if this holds up better than Kahneman under the replication crisis assault.
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Really a good book (clever too). Had this been my introduction to the ideas it probably would be a five star book. Instead this filled in a few gaps and deepened some other areas of my understanding.
Most Valuable to me was the idea of counter factual thinking and applying that to the brain.
Overall a good book.
Short and surprisingly straight-forward book. It reads kind of like a very pleasant introduction to experimental psychology. Much of the terminology and studies were familiar to me but put together in a fairly concise manner. It was somewhat uneven from topic to topic but otherwise well worth reading 4 of 5.
Erik van Mechelen
Feb 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: pyschology
Marcus neatly curates the broad research on decision-making, psychology, and neuroscience in the context of the brain's evolution, but doesn't offer compelling new insights.

Kluge is a useful metaphor for the brain, though, and a clever way to describe in a word his overall argument for the haphazard evolutionary construction of the brain.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like
  • Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average
  • The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger
  • Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts
  • The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good
  • How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life
  • The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
  • The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life
  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
  • Click: The Magic of Instant Connections
  • Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience
  • The Wisdom of Crowds
  • The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life
  • Gaddafi's Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya
  • Stumbling on Happiness
  • The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language
  • Irrationally yours : On Missing Socks, Pick-up Lines and Other Existential Puzzles
See similar books…
Gary Marcus is an award-wining Professor of Psychology at New York University and director of the NYU Center for Child Language. He has written three books about the origins and nature of the human mind, including Kluge (2008, Houghton Mifflin/Faber), and The Birth of the Mind (Basic Books, 2004, translated into 6 languages). He is also the editor of The Norton Psychology Reader, and the author of ...more

News & Interviews

With clever detectives, missing jewels, murderous women, daring spies, and more, mysteries and thrillers deliver page-turning delight with ever...
123 likes · 73 comments
“the time when we tend to notice that we need toilet paper tends not to be the moment when we are in a position to buy it. Relying” 0 likes
More quotes…