The Extended Mind:
The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain
by Annie Murphy Paul
After finishing this book in October of 2021, I wrote,
"Get most of your head out of your head! So much more powerful that way. This book pulled me in from the beginning in the how and why to expand the ability of our mind."
My clippings below collapse a 357-page book into 8 pages, measured by using 12-point type in Microsoft Word."
Here are the selections I made:
ON FEBRUARY 14, 1946, a breathless bustle filled the halls of the Moore School of Electrical Engineering in Philadelphia. On this day, the school’s secret jewel was going to be revealed to the world: the ENIAC. Inside a locked room at Moore hummed the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, the first machine of its kind capable of performing calculations at lightning speed. Weighing thirty tons, the massive ENIAC used around eighteen thousand vacuum tubes, employed about six thousand switches, and encompassed upwards of half a million soldered joints; it had taken more than 200,000 man-hours to build.
Commercial brain-training regimens like Cogmed, Lumosity, and BrainHQ have attracted many who desire to improve their memory and increase their focus; Lumosity alone claims 100 million registered users in 195 countries.
Visitors to the exhibit were instructed to place a finger on a sensor that detected their pulse; the readout of the sensor was visible only to Ainley. “Please tell me when your heart beats,” she would say to each patron who stepped forward. An elderly couple who stopped by the booth had very different reactions to Ainley’s request. “How on earth would I know what my heart is doing?” the woman asked incredulously. Her husband turned and stared at her, equally dumbfounded. “But of course you know,” he exclaimed. “Don’t be so stupid, everyone knows what their heartbeat is!” “He had always been able to hear his heart, and she had never been able to hear hers,” Ainley observed in an interview, smiling at the memory. “They had been married for decades, but they had never talked of or even recognized this difference between them.”
Rooted in the Buddhist traditions of Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, the body scan was introduced to Western audiences by mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn, now a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “People find the body scan beneficial because it reconnects their conscious mind to the feeling states of their body,” says Kabat-Zinn. “By practicing regularly, people usually feel more in touch with sensations in parts of their body they had never felt or thought much about before.”
The body scan trains us to observe such sensations with interest and equanimity. But tuning in to these feelings is only a first step. The next step is to name them. Attaching a label to our interoceptive sensations allows us to begin to regulate them; without such attentive self-regulation, we may find our feelings overwhelming, or we may misinterpret their source. Research shows that the simple act of giving a name to what we’re feeling has a profound effect on the nervous system, immediately dialing down the body’s stress response.
Half of the participants were then asked to engage in what the researchers call “affect labeling,” filling in responses to the prompt “I feel _________,” while the other half were asked to complete a neutral shape-matching task. The affect-labeling group showed steep declines in heart rate and skin conductance compared to the control group, whose levels of physiological arousal remained high.
THAT’S EMPHATICALLY not the case in the classroom helmed by Maureen Zink, a fourth-grade teacher at Vallecito Elementary School in San Rafael, California