New Book: Rethinking Thought

From Laura Otis:

RethinkingThought[5]In keeping with our tradition of sharing our interdisciplinary work, I would like to let you know about my new book, Rethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists (Oxford University Press, 2016). I extend my deepest thanks to those of you who helped it to come into being, either as participants or as critical readers.

Rethinking Thought analyzes the ways that people vary as individuals in their uses of visual mental imagery and verbal language in their conscious thought. It argues against categorizing people simply as “visual” or “verbal” and focuses on how people use words, images, and combinations of the two to get things done. The research involved interviewing creative thinkers from many walks of life: novelists, poets, scientists, engineers, designers, visual artists, and one flamenco dancer. The participants included Temple Grandin, Salman Rushdie, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Natasha Trethewey, and N. Katherine Hayles. For each thinker, I did my best to create a portrait that would take readers inside his or her mind the way a novel takes a reader inside a character’s. The aim was to show how greatly the conscious process of thinking can vary from person to person. Interwoven with the portraits are critical summaries of neuroscientific, psychological, and philosophical studies of language, mental imagery, and thought conducted  over the past century or so, with emphasis on cognitive neuroscience of the past decade. In the book, I did my best to establish the laboratory science and the participants’ insights as equal partners, so that no one discipline would have the last word on what thinking is.