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The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters

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-Compelling, and so beautifully written...'The Mind Club' deftly brings the most up-to-date research about other minds to readers of all backgrounds. It may cause you to think differently about crime and punishment, about business transactions and health care, and even about the upcoming elections. Things might just start looking up.--The Wall Street Journal
From dogs to gods, the science of understanding mysterious minds--including your own.

Nothing seems more real than the minds of other people. When you consider what your boss is thinking or whether your spouse is happy, you are admitting them into the -mind club.- It's easy to assume other humans can think and feel, but what about a cow, a computer, a corporation? What kinds of mind do they have? Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray are award-winning psychologists who have discovered that minds--while incredibly important--are a matter of perception. Their research opens a trove of new findings, with insights into human behavior that are fascinating, frightening and funny.
The Mind Club explains why we love some animals and eat others, why people debate the existence of God so intensely, how good people can be so cruel, and why robots make such poor lovers. By investigating the mind perception of extraordinary targets--animals, machines, comatose people, god--Wegner and Gray explain what it means to have a mind, and why it matters so much.
Fusing cutting-edge research and personal anecdotes, The Mind Club explores the moral dimensions of mind perception with wit and compassion, revealing the surprisingly simple basis for what compels us to love and hate, to harm and to protect. From the Hardcover edition.

400 pages, Paperback

First published March 22, 2016

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Daniel M. Wegner

34 books50 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Chris Branch.
559 reviews16 followers
July 8, 2022
Well, I could be wrong, but I suspect this book is primarily the work of Kurt Gray, rather than Daniel Wegner. Having read a couple of books by Wegner, as well as having taken one of his undergraduate courses back in the 80s, it just seems that the voice and tone here is different. And nothing against Gray, but I don't think this book quite measures up to Wegner's work.

The subject matter is fascinating, and well worth the book treatment. But Gray seems to be trying too hard here to be a comedian, and his one liners are not as funny to me as he seems to think they should be. As popular science goes, this book is much more "pop" than science, using cutesy phrasing, vaguely relevant illustrations, and transparent hooks to try to hold the interest of readers with short attention spans.

As for the content, well, I give Gray credit for coming up with thoughtful ideas and exploring them. But I see little evidence for his key assertion, that "There are two kinds of perceived minds, each with its own type of morality - thinking doers and vulnerable feelers". (p. 16). I mean, I suppose that might be true, and some of the examples produced in support of it are not too contrived, but it's a bit of a stretch to try to draw any explanatory conclusions from this.

In fact, there seems to be a pattern here: a study is cited, and then the next sentence is a speculative conclusion based on the results of the study, but the study results don't directly imply the conclusion. Sure, it's a possible hypothesis in many cases, but there are other possible explanations that aren't considered. For example, in making the argument that people may be inherent dualists, the author discusses a study involving babies who were shown videos in which a person seemed to teleport, and concludes with "They weren't surprised at all by a teleporting person [citation], perhaps because they expect things with minds to (at least occasionally) disobey the laws of matter [no citation]." (p. 236) Interesting idea,and people may in fact be instinctively dualist, but it's a stretch to conclude the second statement from the first.

It's also interesting and maybe a bit strange that while further elaborating on dualism, the author feels it necessary to state that "With funding from the John Templeton Foundation, our lab has experimentally tested conservation of mind across death..." The mention of Templeton, which is in the business of funding attempts to reconcile science and religion, should be a red flag for anyone interested in science as an unbiased endeavor.

So, although I was interested in the subject matter and had high expectations for this book, it unfortunately came across as rather shallower and overly speculative than I'd hoped for, and was ultimately somewhat disappointing.
Profile Image for Thomas Edmund.
896 reviews50 followers
December 14, 2019
The Mind club was just a random book I spotted in the non-fiction section of the library, but I'm very happy I read it. The premise seems deceptively simple at first. The book is an expansion on a study where people were asked about whether they saw various subjects 'minds' as having agency or being purely experiencers. For example children are typically seen as having 'minds' but are largely seen as passive experiencers whereas robots are seen as having minds in the sense of agency and doing stuff, but not experiencing things.

It seems common sensical that people see robots as doers, and children as experiences, but the book expands on all sorts of interesting points, like we have trouble acknowledging a person's agency and experience at the same time.

While at times hard to follow because of the esoteric nature of the topic and strangeness of the overall subjects, The Mind Club was touchingly personal (one of the late authors experienced a neurological condition that led to Locked In Syndrome) and humerously written - highly recommended.
Profile Image for Alicea.
649 reviews14 followers
August 28, 2018
How do you know that your friends and family aren't mindless zombies? Does your cat love you like you love it? Does God ever get hungry?

This book won't answer those questions but it will make you think outside of the box and ask even more questions which in my opinion is awesome. The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray was a fun ride. These two psychologists look at what makes up a 'mind' and who should be entered into the mind club (e.g. plants wouldn't be included). In the opening chapter, there was a little chart which represented how mind is measured by agency (mental abilities such as self-control, morality, communication, etc) and experience (capacity to feel hunger, pain, desire, pride, etc). I had never looked at the world in this kind of framework before and it was fascinating to see that God has a lot of agency (He is seen as all powerful and knowing) but no experience (God doesn't crave a cheeseburger or a nap). This had never occurred to me before but now it seems obvious that humans consider God to be a member of the mind club but he is not a full member like we are because he has no experience. Each chapter investigates a different mind to see if they warrant entry into the mind club. The chapters cover such topics as animals, the silent (those in vegetative states or locked-in), the dead (yes, dead people), robots (THE SINGULARITY IS NIGH), and at the very end of the book the self (that's us). The book was chock full of data from studies conducted by those that the authors worked with as well as from other academic sources. I liked this because it shows that they weren't just theorizing without anything to back them up. However, if you're going into this looking for concrete answers about what makes up the 'mind' then you're barking up the wrong book. Much like philosophy, the book reads like a thought experiment where many things are posed but nothing has a definitive answer. And that's fine! The book was fun and fascinating. I'm definitely going to comb through the Notes to get some more book recommendations (my one complaint was that the Notes weren't more expansive...it's just a standard bibliography where I'm accustomed to annotations). If you like thought experiments and/or you're interested in the psychology of the mind then this book is right up your alley. XD
63 reviews2 followers
September 26, 2016
I really got a kick out of this book.

Maybe it is old news to others, but this was my introduction to the concept (or at least the introduction that stuck) of moral patiency. I feel like the moral agency v. moral patiency dichotomy -- the dyadic nature of morality -- is a major "level-up" for my understanding of moral intuitions.

Also, the book called to my attention the work of Derek Parfit, which I am going to spend some time getting better acquainted with.

The book is largely a tour of some of the interesting and contentious areas of the philosophy of mind. It's a quick, sometimes irreverent tour of that area. I happened to stumble across some valuable concepts I hadn't known of while otherwise on an entertaining jaunt through familiar territory. I'm very glad I read this.
Profile Image for Ghalia.
56 reviews10 followers
October 18, 2017
A nice and page turning book about how we perceive minds around us starting from animals, computers, deceased people and even our own minds.
Profile Image for Robert.
283 reviews8 followers
May 15, 2016
The central theme of this book is some research about how people feel about different kinds of minds. At it's heart it's a Harvard Business Review style quadrant analysis with the two dimensions being doing and feeling (and doers doing things to feelers). This isn't nearly as interesting (or difficult) as actually trying to understand different minds. This is touched on briefly and mainly via that experiment where people report that they made a decision half a second after their body started doing the thing that they decided to do. Which is fascinating and hard to explain but it's only really a detour here. The meat of the book is how people feel about dogs and dead people and gods. There are some interesting anecdotes and the book is saved by the good humor and gentle snarkiness of at least one of the authors.
1,274 reviews
January 25, 2022
I cannot return a favorable review of this book. The authors act as if popular consensus can determine the reality of the afterlife, the existence of God, the status of animals, etc. And this "popular consensus" is determined by psychological research and experimentation. No, really. I doubt they actually believe this to be the case, but it is the only scaffolding for chapter after chapter. A much less interesting book than it could have been.
18 reviews
June 29, 2020
Great theory about how we perceive and classify minds giving them moral rights based on agency and experience. It provides great insight on human behaviour based on these mind perceptions.
Profile Image for Rob.
614 reviews28 followers
October 19, 2020
One of the best books I have read in 2020, for sure. Wegner and Gray argue that mind perception is the critical ingredient in establishing whether something (or someone) has "mind." In other words, they argue that mind is a gift that we grant to something because we recognize either agency or experience in that thing. Morality, then, is something that can be calculated based on the agentic/experience relationship between two minds. A CEO (high agency, low experience) punches a 3 year old girl (high experience, low agency) and we perceive this to be immoral. Flip those roles and let the girl punch the CEO and we don't perceive this to be immoral.

The book then goes through a series of "crypto-minds" or categories that we can ascribe mind to ranging from machines, to god, to ourselves. The psychology is fascinating and the anecdotes and writing style is light, digestible and fun. Definitely recommend for anyone interested in moral philosophy, psychology, and science of mind, especially if you are looking for something that is easy to read and not very jargon heavy.
1 review1 follower
January 29, 2022
This was fantastic. It's an overview of scientific studies, but exceptionally clear and easy to read. I went in thinking the book was about whether animals, robots, or comatose people have minds. But it's actually more about whether or not we perceive they have minds. I ultimately learned more about myself in how humans perceive things to have minds.
Profile Image for Rita Vo.
41 reviews36 followers
May 14, 2017
Mesmerizing. This book could have you question about your existence and doubt everything you thought you knew. Informative, interesting, yet not actually relaxing to read.
Profile Image for Tim.
83 reviews
November 19, 2017
Quiz time. Which of the following have minds?

The family dog
An advanced AI program
A corporation
A fetus
A venus fly trap
A bedbug
A person in a vegetative state
An ant colony
A strict religious cult
A person that has been deceased for ten years

The way you answer determines who you think deserves entry into the titular mind club. There is only one entry requirement – you have to have a mind.

This book was a fun, popular treatment of the nebulous concept of mind – what a mind is and what kinds of things may or may not have minds.

The authors break mind down into two components: experience and agency. Experience is what it is like from the inside to have a mind. It includes the capacities for hunger, fear, pain, pleasure, rage, and desire, as well as personality, consciousness, pride, embarrassment, and joy. Agency, on the other hand, is less about feeling and more about doing. It includes capacities like memory, planning, communication, morality, self-control, and thought. Experience is opaque – you can only guess at what is going on in the mind of another since the only mind you know from the inside is your own – but agency is far more transparent – you can determine it by observing the actions and reactions of an entity.

Another way of looking at it is in terms of inputs and outputs. Experience is about inputs from sensory data that feed into your brain and produce your experience. Agency is about outputs, the words and actions that come out of your mind to produce change in the environment. The two aspects are then partnered with morality. Anything that experiences, that has an inner life and the potential for suffering, is said to have some degree of moral rights. Anything that has the capacity to plan, carry out their plan, and appreciate the outcome is said to have some degree of moral responsibility. An infant human would be high in experience but low in agency. Indeed, a newborn is arguably entirely experience and no agency. If a baby accidentally discharged a loaded gun and killed someone, we would not hold him or her morally responsible for the loss of life. At the other end of the spectrum, God makes for an interesting case in terms of the agency/experience partnership. An omnipotent being would have an unlimited degree of agency but perhaps not the corresponding degree of experience. God as traditionally conceived knows everything and can do anything but has God experienced everything? Could you prefix 'omni' to His experience like you would many of His other attributes? For example, could it be said that God has or ever will experience fear? If not, that means that if you have experienced fear, there is something you know that God does not know. How about cowardice? The taste of a particularly good bowl of Haagen-Daaz ice cream? You get the point. Knowing about something by observing it from the outside and experiencing it from the inside are two different things.

The book spends a chapter on each of the following in terms of how much agency and experience we may ascribe to them: animals, artificial intelligence, patients, enemies, people in vegetative states, collectives, the deceased, God, and the individual self. Despite the fact that some of the material turns up on a regular basis in books on psychology/philosophy (the Turing Test, p-zombies, the God Helmet, Libet's potential readiness experiments that are believed to have disproved the concept of free will, to name a few), it was still an interesting read. It is a credit to the authors that I didn't get the sense that I was reading the same old thing. And I did learn a few new things – like the fact that people occasionally put animals on trial in human law courts during the middle ages.

If there is one criticism I could level at this book, it would be that the authors give short shrift to alternate points of view. For example, in the chapter on the possibility of life after death, dualism is dismissed with the literary equivalent of a wink and a nod. Intellectual honestly compels me to concede that dualism does have some problems where the empirical data is concerned but that is no less true of a materialist view of mind and the case for dualism has moved on a little bit since Rene Descartes first put pen to paper. Maybe the authors should have taken their excellent summary of the problem of confirmation bias contained herein to heart?
Profile Image for Meghan.
199 reviews55 followers
June 24, 2016
The Mind Club is a psychological and philosophical exploration of our perception of minds -- our own minds and the "minds" of others: animals, babies, machines, enemies, "silent minds", groups, the dead, and God. This book provides frameworks for thinking about minds, consciousness, and human behavior more generally, all founded on the principle that we perceive minds through a dyadic lens: they exhibit agency (and are therefore considered agents) and / or have the ability to experience (and are considered patients). Our understanding and treatment of other minds depends on where they fall in this moral dyad. Babies and animals, for example, are perceived as having high levels of experience (i.e., the ability to feel emotional pain), and low levels of agency, whereas robots and God are perceived to be the opposite. The authors build on this framework to address concepts like moral typecasting, group think, dehumanization, memetics and religion (one of my favorites), apophenia, etc. God proves to be a fascinating case study for mind perception.

I occasionally got the sense that the authors had a collection of (sometimes loosely) related ideas and observations they wanted to discuss, and decided that the common thread would be mind perception. Not that I'm complaining... it was interesting and entertaining throughout.
Profile Image for Scott Wozniak.
Author 13 books73 followers
April 20, 2016
This was an interesting philosophical and scientific exploration of what it means to have a mind--and how whether we believe that about another creature has big impact on how we treat them. From slavery to artificial intelligence to abortion, this is at the heart of our choices.

The book gets high marks for identifying two independent variables to a mind: the ability to act as we choose and the ability to experience, especially to suffer. We can believe high or low for each person. For example a baby has low choice power but high experience capacity. And a corporation is perceived to have a "mind" capable of choosing but little sense of personal experience.

However, the book falls flat when it comes to providing any helpful insights on what we should do. The authors attempt to share multiple views, but they display their obvious bias--atheists who believe that choice is an illusion and morality is an illusion. This isn't my guess, this is what they eventually state. As such, they have no answers to provide and no methods for approaching the questions beyond the idea that some deceptions are useful in that they make some of us feel better. But they don't even truly land that plane and make a clear statement on what deceptions we should choose.

Great job explaining the issue. Poor job adding anything to help settle any of the questions.
Author 29 books10 followers
January 16, 2017
A intriguing look at "mind" and consciousness that I hadn't come across in my other readings. I Wegner's view (and the view of his collaborator, Kurt Gray) mind isn't something that we can observe so we construct and image the minds of those in our environment (including our own). We intuitively sort people, animals, infants, robots, corporations, coma victims and dead people according to how much "mind" we perceive them to have. We also — and this was the interesting twist on the subject — see these minds as being of two types: experiencing and feeling minds (patients in the terms of the book) and doing and effecting minds (agents). Our perception of the relationship between what we see as entities that need to be looked after (babies and small animals, for instance) and those who are responsible and capable (adults, corporate CEO's, sophisticated robots...) is the basis for defining moral and immoral behavior and codes of behavior.

The arguments in the final chapter, the one in which the authors contend that we each actually create a model of our own mind that is just as perception driven as the models we create of other minds, is more than a bit mind-boggling.
Profile Image for Rhiannon.
40 reviews
March 6, 2018
More Books Like This, Please!

This was a satisfying sampler of psychology and philosophy. I call it a sampler because it's the first book of its kind that I've read and it whet my appetite for more. While reading this, I supplemented it with Crash Course Philosophy on YouTube and Robert Arp's The Devil and Philosophy. I needed the former to better understand the latter, but watching those videos while reading this book was a winning combination, too. My perception of the world is forever changed. Human behavior makes a lot more sense now, especially thanks to the chapters on the enemy, groups, and god.

One small complaint I have is that the chapter on the dead didn't offer much more than I had read in the Vox article that sold me on this book. So if you missed that piece, check it out here for a more complete experience: https://www.vox.com/2016/4/13/1140871...

Otherwise, this is a rich and engaging book, full of citations and clues on what to read next or alongside it for an even richer perspective. Lucid, edifying, and easy to digest, this is a must read for anyone interested in the overlap between cognitive science and philosophy.
254 reviews
September 19, 2016
This is a folksy popular psychology book written by erudite authors. The agent/patient duality is an interesting one and provides useful insights in two chapters in particular: the enemy and he group. The patient is quite a good chapter, but the chapter on the animal was thin except where it leant on Peter Singer. The chapters on the dead and God had me skimming over them, but I went back just in case there was something. I was disappointed.
Overall I came away with half a dozen well thought out metaphors and a feeling that the book was a bit thin when it went beyond its core business.
Profile Image for Ryan Young.
703 reviews9 followers
May 15, 2017
what is a mind? who or what qualifies as having a mind? how does granting something or someone a 'mind' change the way we need to treat them? at what point does a creature deserve something on the order of human rights? at what point do we hold a human 100% responsible for its actions? how about 0%? why do humans seek an agent to explain phenomena of all kinds? the mind club explores these questions and more!
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
December 15, 2017
There is so much to think about here. Some interesting research and some great questions. There were several pronouncements in there that I thought needed more evidence. The section on free will, in my opinion was the weakest. Or perhaps I just wanted more.
Profile Image for Chris Esposo.
671 reviews31 followers
December 30, 2019
The authors of “The Mind Club” have succeeded in writing a book that simultaneously addresses a wide range of timely and relevant issues with respect to the theory of the mind, namely: how is it that people attribute “humanity” to people, animals, and even machines? Though seemingly abstract on first blush, the question is a highly important one, touching on a variety of social issues, from societal racism, the nature of religious beliefs, and how they form, animal rights, to how we design artificial intelligence. Beside these, on the business-end, individuals working on productizing intelligent systems, like Alexa, or work in the broader field of human computer interactions, or man-machine interface, will find this book intriguing as well.

There are two explanatory primitives underlying, and connecting, all these ideas. The first is the notion of a dyad, or 2-tuple, in this case, a tuple of two agents. A dyad of agents can be two people, a person and a dog, a person and a group, a person and a machine, or even a person and god to name a few of the combinations outlined in this book. All dyads that involve anything other than a person-and-person are said to be dyads of a “crypto-mind”. Using this atomic structure, the authors expound on the notion of “dyadic completion”, which is the tendency for one agent to want to attribute the cause of an event to another agent. An example could be people attributing a natural disaster to an act of God, or a group of people attributing the JFK assasination to a shadowy government conspiracy. With this conceptual (and quasi-mathematical?) idea, authors can explain how it is society, in aggregate, makes various value-judgements and constructs morality with respect to crimes and ethical dilemmas.

The second primitive is the characterization of agents via an “experience” and “agency” measure. We say that an agent would lay in the “high” part of the experience interval people attribute that agent to have a high degree to sense/feel. Likewise, an agent with a high degree of “agency” if it has a high-ability to think/act. Therefore, one can say a robot is an agent with a high-degree of agency, yet also has a low-degree of experience (or maybe Mr. Spock from Star Trek). With these two primitives, we can begin to understand how it may be that society takes one ethical position relative to another, or how certain people could be discriminated against relative to another. For instance, how is the racism against African American distinct from those against Jews, or Asian Americans? Why do we find affinity with certain representations of artificial intelligence, like WallE or Data, but find others bizarre or creepy? This latter notion is often referred to as the “uncanny valley”

The authors address these and more in this book, taking at least 9 case-studies, which goes in-depth even on different kinds of human-to-human interactions, dyads between a person and a person who is unable to communicate, an example being is a person who is in a coma, or a dyad between a human and a dead person, which goes into detail on how it may have come to be that we attribute “humanity” to death, or even a dyad between a person and a patient, or known more generally as a person who may be beholden or dependent on another person, which I believe could also include a parent-child relationship.

These discussions are interesting, and there’s a lot to be said about their system, which definitely advances the how, that is it is a system that helps one put various dyads into different boxes, that is it’s a good organizational system. However, I’m less convinced that it really offers the “why”. For instance, why is it that certain racial groups are placed in high-agency, low experience buckets, and other racial groups are put into low-agency, high-experience buckets? Given that many different groups have been placed in multiple different buckets from the context of this system, across time, that the attribution of a group or individual to one kind of agent vs another is somewhat arbitrary. Still, it is undeniable that Gray & Wegner have advanced the state of the art on the analysis of many of these issues.

This book is highly accessible, and one should get both the print/ebook and audio to get the full effect (as well as access to the lengthy notes section with citations. If there is one weakness, it’s that not enough content is devoted to hammering in the empirical evidence that valides the authors’ theories. I suspect, the validation is currently in progress (circa mid/late-2010s), which may be the reason why there’s relatively less content on this issue. Or it could just be that the authors felt an introductory text should focus more on elucidating the conceptual super-structure. Either way, future editions should focus on adding more to the empirical evidence and research studies.

The book would pair well with Mary Midgley’s “Myths We Live By” as well as books dealing with AI, or those that deal with societal racism/prejudices. Highly recommended
Profile Image for Rossdavidh.
507 reviews143 followers
November 15, 2018
This book opens with a pretty heavy piece of news. One of the authors, Daniel Wegner, died before it was published. What is more, he died of ALS, and towards the very end of his life, he was essentially a mind only, with his body able to do little more than breathe (and eventually, not even that). It is almost certainly not a complete coincidence that Wegner had become interested in the topic, but since he was a Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he must have had an interest in the relations between mind and body long before he became aware that his mind would keep working well long after his body had ceased to. The other author, Kurt Gray, was a student of his, and worked with him completed the book after Wegner's death, at his request.

Well, wow. Welcome to this book. There is not a chapter in it which will not touch on some topic of substantial moral and emotional weight, even the introduction. The subtitle is a pretty good summary of the scope: "Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters". We talk about robots, about animals other than humans, about brain-dead humans, about living humans who have lost part of their mental faculties due to Alzheimer's, about ghosts, about zombies, about infants, about fetuses, about people we regard as enemies. Every one of these topics brings with it substantial moral or psychological questions.

Wegner and Gray assert that we humans tend to want to categorize beings as either Moral Agents, with a capacity for agency and possessing moral responsibility, or Moral Patients, with a capacity for Experiencing and possessing Moral Rights. The more we are able perceive that an entity has the capacity to think and do, the more we think of them in one way, and the more we perceive them as lacking that, the less. So, it is difficult for us to perceive a person as simultaneously a dangerous criminal who does hideously awful things to other people, and the victim of a horrible upbringing full of physical and psychological abuse.

There are a lot of psychological experiments mentioned in this book, many of them very interesting to read about. I did find myself wondering, repeatedly, while reading this book, "did this study effect ever get replicated?" Occasionally I would stop and use my smartphone to look up whether they did (mostly the answer was 'yes, successfully'). It does seem to me that whenever a book written by university academics goes into topics like a belief in God, they have a hard time pretending to be objective. God (or belief in same) gets an entire chapter in this book, and they try as much as one can expect, but were I a devout Christian I would have detected a pretty clear bias. I mean, not Richard Dawkins kind of bias or anything, but Wegner and Gray are coming at some pretty important and emotionally potent topics from a particular point of view, and they are humans, so it is not surprising that they have occasionally allowed some of that point of view to show through.

By and large, I found this to be a good book, that examines important issues about how we think about thinking. I would have liked to see some discussion of how they think their Moral Agent/Moral Patient axis interacts with Moral Foundations Theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_f...) as proposed by Jonathan Haidt and others. But, perhaps the way those two interact simply hasn't been examined, and this is most definitely a book that wants to make sure its assertions are backed up by scientific research. There is not a chapter in it which does not make you think more carefully about a topic worth the effort.
1,097 reviews6 followers
November 6, 2021

[Imported automatically from my blog. Some formatting there may not have translated here.]

Grabbed via UNH Interlibrary Loan from Colorado State. Go Rams! Recommended heartily by Arnold Kling. I'm not as enthusiastic as Arnold.

The authors for this 2016 book are listed as Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray. Wegner, professor of psychology at Harvard, died of ALS in 2013. As explained in the book's moving preface, this left Gray, his graduate student, to finish up. The book is informal, accessible, and (unexpectedly, given the somber preface) often very funny.

The authors approach the concept of "mind" from an interesting perspective: not how minds work, but instead how we perceive minds in various circumstances. Their model is two-dimensional; we see minds having different levels of "experience" and "agency". And they supply a map showing how various entities fall out on those scales (clipped from a 2007 Science article by the authors and Hannah Gray):

[Mind Club Map]

"Experience" here refers to the ability to feel (high for you and me, low for robots). "Agency" for the ability for "thinking and doing" (again high for you and me, low for frogs and fetuses).

Chapter by chapter, the book explores our attitudes toward the "minds" of different groups: animals, machines, patients (typically helpless, some irretrievably brain-damaged), enemies, the silent, groups, the dead, God, and (finally) your own self. Interesting observations are made, and a considerable amount of research is described. As usual, researchers love to put their test subjects into manipulated situations designed to fool their brains. (It's tons of fun, and often profitable!)

I particularly liked the study reported on p. 252 (hardcover). Researchers "had people read an essay supporting open immigration either on a normal city sidewalk or in front of a funeral home." They speculated that "reminders of death would lead people to identify strongly with their nationality—Go America!—and therefore see foreigners as threatening."

And that's exactly what they found!

The final chapter, "The Self", contains an argument against free will. Again, the argument is about perception: you may perceive yourself as having free will, but that's (they argue) an illusion. You may weigh their argument, find it persuasive, and choose to accept it… Oops!

I didn't. You'd think by now the anti-free will proselytizers would come up with an argument that I had no choice other than to accept.

22 reviews
December 30, 2022
Key points include:

The concept of "theory of mind": This refers to the ability to attribute mental states (such as beliefs, desires, and emotions) to oneself and others. It is a key aspect of social cognition, and allows us to understand and predict the behavior of others. Theory of mind is thought to be an important factor in the development of social relationships and communication.

The role of the unconscious mind: The unconscious mind plays a significant role in shaping our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, even though we may not be aware of it. Many mental processes, such as perception, memory, and decision-making, occur outside of our conscious awareness. The unconscious mind also influences our behavior through automatic processes, such as habits and responses to stimuli.

The concept of "cognitive dissonance": This refers to the mental discomfort that can arise when our beliefs and actions are in conflict. When this happens, people often try to resolve the dissonance by changing their beliefs or behaviors to align with each other. Cognitive dissonance can be a powerful motivator for change, and can influence people's attitudes and decision-making.

The importance of social connections: Our social connections and relationships have a significant impact on our mental health and well-being. Strong social connections can provide support, reduce stress, and improve mental and physical health. Conversely, social isolation and loneliness can have negative impacts on mental health and overall well-being.

The role of emotions: Emotions play a crucial role in shaping our thoughts and behaviors, and can sometimes be at odds with our logical reasoning. Emotions can influence our decision-making, memory, and problem-solving abilities, and can also affect our physical health.

The concept of "mindreading": This refers to the ability to understand and predict the thoughts and feelings of others. It is a key aspect of social cognition and is thought to be a fundamental part of human communication and social interaction.

The concept of "free will": The book discusses the debate over whether or not human beings have true free will, or if our actions and choices are predetermined by unconscious processes or external factors. This is a complex and controversial topic, with different philosophical and scientific perspectives offering different answers. The authors explore various arguments for and against free will, and discuss the implications of different viewpoints on issues such as moral responsibility and personal agency.
Profile Image for Hallie.
336 reviews
January 16, 2020
I hovered between a 3 and a 4 for this book.

Things that make it a 3:
- It's a little insensitive at some points (not very politically correct) but I know that isn't the reason the book was written.
- The chapters often meander a little too far off the main topic of the chapter (but always bring it back home by the end of it.)
- There was a little too much "This chapter will be about XYZ" -- show me, don't tell me. But I know that showing is more in novels, and this was nonfiction.

Things that ultimately bumped it to a 4:
- The humor in it. This reminded me a lot of books by Mary Roach, especially the footnotes. Weirdly, I also felt like I was reading a Lemony Snicket novel, the way the author(s) speak to the reader.
- I learned a bunch of fun facts. I have shared some of these fun facts with my family members and have become halfway insufferable because of it.

Passages, to myself for future reference:
Profile Image for Rodrigo Leonardo.
52 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2019
Have you ever wondered if there is a soul within yourself? What makes you, you? Well, the existence of the mind explains some of the soul's attributed faculties while still leaving the aforementioned questions unanswered. It turns out that individuals who have departed this life are still alive in your thoughts, in your mind. They belong to a special intangible and abstract place, called the Mind Club.

Some people love their pets more than they regard their human enemies. There are also respected figures in our lives such as one or several gods, powerful companies and states, some of which we perceive as a unit, because they act as one. However, we all know they can't be a unit because they comprise thousands of human minds, for instance. Yet, oneself should also consider the fact that a human acts as unit, comprised of billions of cells. So, are we the only ones with a mind? With this book, you'll be closer to an answer, or farther away... who knows?
Profile Image for Wing.
259 reviews3 followers
June 12, 2018
Anything that is perceived to have both agency and patiency is a mind. However, our perceptions get frequently distorted through anthropomorphism, anthropocentrism, machine-state functionalism, egocentrism, dehumanization, objectification, entitativity, intuitive mind-body dualism, and apophenia, to name a few examples. Our propensity to multistable perception renders the simultaneous perception of agency/patiency and mind/body at times difficult, further distorting our views towards sentience. This is a truly remarkable and clearly written book that helps the reader ponder upon the meaning of existence. Five stars.
179 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2018
I was quite disappointed in this book. Chris Branch's insightful review below sums up the main reasons why I felt this way. I would only add two comments. First, that I found the authors assumption that psychology is a science, along with their sometimes specious arguments relying on this assumption, problematic. Second, I found the injection of politics into unnecessary realms (usually accompanied by a lack of parallel structure) aggravating and distracting in a book that should have been apolitical. There are some valuable developments here, but it isn't worth digging through this to find them.
107 reviews
February 4, 2019
A very comprehensive introduction to all the questions related to mind:
- Which animals do we perceive as having a mind, and why?
- Why, during war, we try to forget that our enemies have mind too?
- When will we be able to say that a machine has a mind?
- When does mind arise in the unborn child
- At which moment of death is the mind disappearing?
- Do people in coma or vegetative state have a mind?
And many more question you were not expecting but who tend to be very interesting and thought provoking.
Recommended to all science lover and people curious about who we are and how we think.

June 2, 2020
The Mind Club was small wade into the often turbulent waters of mind perception. D. Wegner & K. Gray do an excellent job rounding up a variety of studies that analyze what it means to have a mind and who/what receives such an acknowledgment. While sources are plentiful, there were times where these studies beckoned for more detailed explanations of their results and impact. The tone of the book was near perfect; D. Wegner and K. Gray did an excellent job of maintaining fresh, digestible dialogue while discussing a rather complicated subject. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in psychology or science as a whole.
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