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Richard Gregory

Richard Gregory whose books include The Intelligent Eye and Eye and Brain, is Director of the Brain and Perception Laboratory at Bristol University.

Genius

Richard Gregory, 17 June 1982

Why are some people creative to the point of genius, even though they may not appear especially intelligent, or in any other way remarkable? Creativity is a long-standing puzzle which has received many trite and no very convincing accounts. Explanations range from the Divine Spark to slogging hard work; from unconscious problem-solving to super-conscious awareness; from the darkness of profound dreams to the brightness of extreme wakefulness; from slow gestations to instant insights. A merit of this book is that it looks at these various accounts – in the light of historically testified and autobiographical examples – with a good pinch (I almost said a Lot) of salt. The author, D. N. Perkins, a Co-Director of Project Zero at Harvard, includes puns and situation jokes as examples. Here he is following Arthur Koestler, but he does not altogether accept Koestler’s notion of Bisociation, expounded in The Act of Creation. This is the notion that we generally act within reference frames, and that creating involves relating normally independent matrices. Perkins’s objection – which is a central theme – is that creativity is not a special kind of thinking. For him, there is no essence, no special mental functions, for creativity: but there is strongly held motivation to achieve ends that may be new. For him, it is a matter of searching for and discovering surprising relations with an eye on fairly specific end-results, though with nothing very special required to produce even the unique results of genius.

Against Consciousness

Richard Gregory, 24 January 1980

Jeffrey Gray’s scientific biography of the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov is a worthy member of the distinguished Modern Masters series, which includes excellent semi-technical short books on, among others, Einstein, Wittgenstein, Russell, Freud, Piaget and Chomsky. The author, who lectures in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oxford, writes from first-hand expert knowledge of experimental work in animal behaviour and the relevance of experiments on animals to human neurology and psychology. The book is lively, clear and sophisticated in its arguments, and is without a trace of academic pedantry or unnecessary jargon.

Is that you, James?

Thomas Nagel, 1 October 1987

Your nervous system is as complex a physical object as there is in the universe, so far as we know: 12 billion cells, each of them a complex structure with up to sixty thousand synaptic points of...

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The New Phrenology

Patrick Wall, 17 December 1981

This book is about its subtitle: ‘A History of Explanations in Psychology and Physics’. To bring that history up to date, one should point out that this year’s Nobel Prizes in...

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