The Universe Within: A New Science Explores the Human Mind. Morton Hunt. Simon & Schuster.

The Universe Within: A New Science Explores the Human Mind Book Cover The Universe Within: A New Science Explores the Human Mind
Morton Hunt
Simon & Schuster
February 26, 1982

A triumph of science reporting, The Universe Within is a wonderfully readable, lucid, first-hand account of the latest discoveries and theories of cognitive science – the study of how our minds work. Drawing on two years of interviews with scientists at the cutting edge of this new discipline, Morton Hunt has synthesized an astonishing range of information covering every aspect of the mind, from the failure of behaviorism to the future of artificial intelligence.

Hunt portrays the work of researchers who are at last successfully investigating such mysteries of the mind as memory and forgetting, concept formation, logical reasoning, inferential reasoning, and the differences between the problem-solving of experts and novices. With him we watch cognitive scientists performing laboratory experiments in human response (where differences of a few thousandths of a second are the clue to what is happening in the mind), studying the reasoning of pre-literate peoples, and simulating human thought on computers. He discusses the evolution and physiology of the brain; how we store, process, and recall over 100 trillion bits of information; and how we acquire the ability to reason. He reports the latest discoveries about how we solve problems and get creative ideas, and documents the present state and future potential of computer intelligence in relation to the human mind.

Throughout, Hunt demonstrates how our intellects make us radically different from all other life forms. For only we human beings have the ability to create a symbolic universe in the mind – to invent words, numbers, and other symbols for objects, events, and concepts – and, by juggling that inner universe, to pre-test and shape our behavior in the world outside. But, he tells us, we are also intellectually superior in crucial ways to any existing computer and, perhaps, to any that will ever exist.

Hunt encourages us to put the findings of cognitive science to our own use, for as we learn how our minds actually work, we become capable of using our mental powers far more effectively than we now do.

The Universe Within asks us to look beyond the old nature/nurture debate: to see that the view of man as a “naked ape,” pre-programmed like other animals, is as inaccurate as the opposite view – that we are totally the product of training and experience. Hunt invites us to discover that in fact we are infinitely more intricate and remarkable than we have ever realized.

Morten Hunt’s books include The Natural History of Love and The World of the Formerly Married; he has also written extensively on the behavioral sciences. He is married to author Bernice Hunt, and lives in Bedford, New York.