With MIND IN MOTION, psychologist Barbara Tversky offers a stunning account of movement in the world as the foundation of abstract thought, from logical problem-solving to taking other people's perspectives. We discuss gesture, abstract art, animal intelligence and much more.
"Our feet take us from place to place. A place is a dot and the path between places is a relation. And if you think about thought, it's the same."
“There’s all this work done now on how you can preserve an aging mind. Crossword puzzles…brain training…none of that works as well as moving in the world. Just keep moving.”
You’re a body in the world. From the moment you’re born, from that very first gasp of air, you’re taking in sensations, trying to get a handle on things and the relationships between them. There’s a lot of things to get a handle on. Too many. So your brain needs to simplify. It makes boxes for objects, maps them onto grids to track their motion. Through this process, the physical world enters your mind. It makes your mind. And that’s where things start to get really interesting.
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My guest today is cognitive psychologist Barbara Tversky. Her new book MIND IN MOTION: How Action Shapes Thought, upends everything most of us think we know about thinking. Tversky’s first law of cognition is that there are no benefits without costs. We simplify the physical world—reduce it to lines and boxes. We build abstract thought—everything from Shakespeare to string theory to how to design a pair of sneakers—on top of that same flawed foundation. And that explains all of our superpowers and all of our blind spots.