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Pictures of Ourselves

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 22 December 1983

Consciousness Regained: Chapters in the Development of Mind 
by Nicholas Humphrey.
Oxford, 222 pp., £12.95, September 1983, 9780192177322
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... During World War Two, my father was walking out of a greengrocer’s shop in London when a flying bomb crashed and exploded nearby. The blast swept him off his feet, but he was otherwise unhurt. He picked himself up with the aid of a passing policeman, got into his car and drove off. Some time later, as he described it, he ‘came to’ to find himself driving along in a part of London totally unfamiliar to him and with no awareness of how he had come to be there ...

Whirring away

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 18 October 1984

The Modularity of Mind: An Essay on Faculty Psychology 
by Jerry Fodor.
MIT, 145 pp., £15.75, January 1984, 0 262 06084 1
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... Who now remembers phrenology as anything other than a Victorian pastime? Yet it began as a serious scientific hypothesis. Its founder, the German anatomist Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), argued that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that particular parts of the brain function as the organs of particular mental faculties. He assumed that there are distinct intellectual powers for language, music, mathematics and other domains, and that there are also distinct propensities for humour, destructiveness and even murder ...

Dennett’s Ark

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 1 September 1988

The Intentional Stance 
by Daniel Dennett.
MIT, 388 pp., £22.50, January 1988, 9780262040938
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... When the single-celled organism paramecium bumps into an obstacle, it reverses the power beat of its cilia, backs away, and swims off in a different direction. How natural to suppose that this animalcule forms a representation of the world, determines that it is obstructed, and decides to set another course. When ‘Washoe’, the celebrated chimpanzee who was taught the American Sign Language for the deaf and dumb, saw a duck for the first time, she made the signs for water and bird ...

Introspection and the Body

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 5 March 1987

William James: His Life and Thought 
by Gerald Myers.
Yale, 628 pp., £30, October 1986, 0 300 03417 2
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... Henry James Sr was a redoubtable patriarch who received a large inheritance from his father – an Irish immigrant who had made a fortune in upstate New York – and spent it on a life of leisure and religiosity. He shuttled back and forth to Europe on a kind of one-man cultural exchange which combined the grand tour with a Continental education for his children ...

Mental Processes

Christopher Longuet-Higgins, 4 August 1988

The Computer and the Mind: An Introduction to Cognitive Science 
by P.N. Johnson-Laird.
Harvard/Fontana, 444 pp., £23.50, May 1988, 0 674 15615 3
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... curable by a healthy dose of realism and clear thought? In The Computer and the Mind Philip Johnson-Laird, one of our leading cognitive psychologists, escorts the educated layman through the fantastic landscape of ‘cognitive science’ – the modern science of the mind, and of possible minds. The idea that there might be laws of thought transcending ...

A Model Science

George Miller, 3 November 1983

Mental Models: Towards a Cognitive Science of Language, Inference and Consciousness 
by P.N. Johnson-Laird.
Cambridge, 513 pp., £27.50, August 1983, 0 521 24123 5
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... are not far behind. Evidence that this federation might succeed has now taken shape in P.N. Johnson-Laird’s new book, Mental Models, which is surely the most authoritative guide to this intellectual territory now available. Its origin was a series of seven talks given at Stanford University early in 1980, but in the present version many explanations ...

Making up the mind

Ian Hacking, 1 September 1988

The Computer and the Mind: An Introduction to Cognitive Science 
by P.N. Johnson-Laird.
Harvard/Fontana, 444 pp., £23.50, May 1988, 0 674 15615 3
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... popular science-writing about quarks or gene-splicing. Instead they are evangelical. Alongside Dr Johnson-Laird’s friendly and often charming account of ingenious computational ideas, there’s the message – which is his own conception of cognitive science, of psychology, of the mind. The title itself conceals the message. The Computer and the Mind ...

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