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Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,715 ratings  ·  159 reviews
How is it that we can recognize photos from our high school yearbook decades later, but cannot remember what we ate for breakfast yesterday? And why are we inclined to buy more cans of soup if the sign says "LIMIT 12 PER CUSTOMER" rather than "LIMIT 4 PER CUSTOMER?" In Kluge, Gary Marcus argues convincingly that our minds are not as elegantly designed as we may believe. Th ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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3.82  · 
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 ·  1,715 ratings  ·  159 reviews


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Trevor
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, science
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”.
...more
Lena
May 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 functio
...more
Maica
description

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
...more
Al Bità
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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 simila
...more
Elaine
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 Go
...more
Conor
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 desi ...more
Chris
Jun 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Derrick
Apr 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kristin
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 example
...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
Bob Lake
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. Interestin
...more
Melody
Nov 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Colin
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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!
Andrew Jacobson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rockbandlive
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These book is really amazing.
Bart Breen
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 Daw
...more
Nathan
Apr 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Rebecca
Feb 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 absu ...more
Nathan
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 cognit
...more
Linda
Aug 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Burt
Jun 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
David
Sep 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mikedariano
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.
Gavin
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lee
May 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Short,, full of insight.

The only complaint is that clearly the publishers in the interest of making every non-fiction book have some tangible benefit to every reader had the author tack on some kind of "prescriptive element" at the end. This is ridiculous and clearly not something that makes any sense. But it's done a lot in non-fiction these days.
Erik van Mechelen
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.
Mitchell
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.
Melody
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the audio after reading the book a year or so ago.

It's the kind of thing I adore, a cogent explication of why everything I know about my own mind is tragically wrong. Marcus is funny, the premise is one I embrace, and there are even helpful tips to keep a person from falling victim to many of the brain's little tricks. Highly recommended for the scientifically minded.
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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
“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
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