Cover image for Hare brain, tortoise mind : why intelligence increases when you think less
Hare brain, tortoise mind : why intelligence increases when you think less
Claxton, Guy.
Personal Author:
First Ecco edition.
Publication Information:
Hopewell, N.J. : Ecco Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
xi, 259 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Central Library BF441 .C45 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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When faced with complexity, we become impatient. Our hare brains are unprepared for ambiguity and sleeping on it. According to Claxton, we must learn the patience not to force the issues, the readiness to mull things over, and the humility to allow our unconscious mind to do the thinking.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Reminding readers of key aspects of life too often ignored is the common goal of these self-help tomes. Claxton is a professor of psychology and education. Drawing on cognitive science, which he calls a blend of neuroscience, philosophy, artificial intelligence, and experimental psychology, he distinguishes the mind's three processing speeds: faster-than-thought instinctive reactions, or our "wits"; the logical, deliberative "d-mode" of our intellects; and the undermind, which is, he argues, the slowest, most contemplative, and most undervalued aspect of human intelligence. Claxton examines the role of this "tortoise mind" in creativity and its value in coping with ambiguity and paradox, then describes some of the changes needed in classrooms and workplaces to "put the tortoise to work" in people's lives. Child psychiatrist Terr suggests that Freud's reduction of the critical elements of life to love and work was too narrow: play, she argues, is as important for adults as for children. Terr considers the whys and wherefores of play, examines the appeal of different types of play, discusses the changing role of play through the life cycle (and through history), and includes plenty of case studies, particularly of people whose work includes a strong element of play and of those whose preferred form of play has shifted over the years. Like Claxton, Terr urges her readers to slow down and be a bit less intensely goal oriented to improve their quality of life (as well as quality of mind). --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a counterintuitive, often provocative assault on our everyday view of how our minds work, Claxton labels rational, ordinary, purposeful thinking the "d-mode" (deliberation mode or default mode). Modern Western culture, he maintains, overvalues the practical, conscious cogitation of the d-mode, which is diagnostic rather than playful, analytical and impatient instead of intuitive and relaxed. An Oxford-educated psychologist and visiting professor at Bristol University in England, Claxton draws heavily on recent research in cognitive science and studies of the human brain to argue that an "undermind" or intelligent unconscious works quietly below‘and in some cases ahead of‘conscious apprehension, helping us to register events, recognize patterns, make connections and be creative. A former pupil of Buddhist teachers Sogyal Rinpoche and Thich Nhat Hanh, Claxton uses descriptions of the creative process by Einstein, Mozart, Wordsworth, Ted Hughes, Henry Moore and many others to support his theory of the undermind. He includes deceptively simple puzzles and exercises, as well as anecdotes drawn from daily life, to bolster his thesis that we need to adopt slower, more meditative modes of knowing. While Claxton speaks the language of cognitive science, his ideas resonate with Freud's description of the unconscious, Buddhist concepts of the divine ground of existence and the great Romantic poets' notions of the fount of creativity. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Claxton's stated intent is to present empirical studies that will stimulate interest in aspects of the mind beyond the traditional concept of intelligence embodied by reasoning and deliberative thinking, the aspect that has been so heavily emphasized in the Euro-American culture. The author explores differences between conscious and unconscious modes of thinking, providing abundant examples of problem sets and "everyday" thinking situations that are hindered by an analytical thinking approach. He draws on empirical data on well-known psychological phenomena in diverse areas such as social psychology, perceptual set, psychotherapy, repressed memory, and so forth, explaining them in terms of the other cognitive processes that he considers have been neglected in the educational system--creativity, intuition, and wisdom. In his chapter on the neurophysiology of the brain, Claxton outlines the present state of knowledge about neural networks, which may provide the underpinnings of consciousness, attention, and wisdom. Readable and well documented, this book should be useful to all students interested in the field of cognition. Recommended for collections in four-year colleges and universities. P. Barker; formerly, Schenectady County Community College



Chapter One The Speed of Thought Turtle buries its thoughts, like its eggs, in the sand, and allows the sun to hatch the little ones. Look at the old fable of the tortoise and the hare, and decide for yourself whether or not you would like to align with Turtle. Native American Medicine Cards There is an old Polish saying, `Sleep faster; we need the pillows', which reminds us that there are some activities which just will not be rushed. They take the time that they take. If you are late for a meeting, you can hurry. If the roast potatoes are slow to brown, you can turn up the oven. But if you try to speed up the baking of meringues, they burn. If you are impatient with the mayonnaise and add the oil too quickly, it curdles. If you start tugging with frustration on a tangled fishing line, the knot just becomes tighter.     The mind, too, works at different speeds. Some of its functions are performed at lightning speed; others take seconds, minutes, hours, days or even years to complete their course. Some can be speeded up -- we can become quicker at solving crossword puzzles or doing mental arithmetic. But others cannot be rushed, and if they are, then they will break down, like the mayonnaise, or get tangled up, like the fishing line. `Think fast; we need the results' may sometimes be as absurd a notion, or at least as counterproductive, as the attempt to cram a night's rest into half the time. We learn, think and know in a variety of different ways, and these modes of the mind operate at different speeds, and are good for different mental jobs. `He who hesitates is lost', says one proverb. `Look before you leap', says another. And both are true.     Roughly speaking, the mind possesses three different processing speeds. The first is faster than thought. Some situations demand an unselfconscious, instantaneous reaction. When my motor-bike skidded on a wet manhole cover in London some years ago, my brain and my body immediately choreographed for me an intricate and effective set of movements that enabled me to keep my seat -- and it was only after the action was all over that my conscious mind and my emotions started to catch up. Neither a concert pianist nor an Olympic fencer has time to figure out what to do next. There is a kind of `intelligence' that works more rapidly than thinking. This mode of fast, physical intelligence could be called our `wits'. (The five senses were originally known as `the five wits'.)     Then there is thought itself: the sort of intelligence which does involve figuring matters out, weighing up the pros and cons, constructing arguments and solving problems. A mechanic working out why an engine will not fire, a family arguing over the brochures about where to go for next summer's holiday, a scientist trying to interpret an intriguing experimental result, a student wrestling with an examination question: all are employing a way of knowing that relies on reason and logic, on deliberate conscious thinking. We often call this kind of intelligence `intellect' -- though to make the idea more precise, I shall call it d-mode , where the `d' stands for `deliberation'. Someone who is good at solving these sorts of problems we call `bright' or `clever'.     But below this, there is another mental register that proceeds more slowly still. It is often less purposeful and clear-cut, more playful, leisurely or dreamy. In this mode we are ruminating or mulling things over; being contemplative or meditative. We may be pondering a problem, rather than earnestly trying to solve it, or just idly watching the world go by. What is going on in the mind may be quite fragmentary. What we are thinking may not make sense. We may even not be aware of much at all. As the English yokel is reported to have said: `sometimes I sits and thinks, but mostly I just sits'. Perched on a seaside rock, lost in the sound and the motion of the surf, or hovering just on the brink of sleep or waking, we are in a different mental mode from the one we find ourselves in as we plan a meal or dictate a letter. These leisurely, apparently aimless, ways of knowing and experiencing are just as `intelligent' as the other, faster ones. Allowing the mind time to meander is not a luxury that can safely be cut back as life or work gets more demanding. On the contrary, thinking slowly is a vital part of the cognitive armamentarium. We need the tortoise mind just as much as we need the hare brain.     Some kinds of everyday predicament are better, more effectively approached with a slow mind. Some mysteries can only be penetrated with a relaxed, unquesting mental attitude. Some kinds of understanding simply refuse to come when they are called. As the Tao Te Ching puts it: Truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing. Those who are bound by desire see only the outward container. Recent scientific evidence shows convincingly that the more patient, less deliberate modes of mind are particularly suited to making sense of situations that are intricate, shadowy or ill defined. Deliberate thinking, d-mode, works well when the problem it is facing is easily conceptualised. When we are trying to decide where to spend our holidays, it may well be perfectly obvious what the parameters are: how much we can afford, when we can get away, what kinds of things we enjoy doing, and so on. But when we are not sure what needs to be taken into account, or even which questions to pose -- or when the issue is too subtle to be captured by the familiar categories of conscious thought -- we need recourse to the tortoise mind. If the problem is not whether to go to Turkey or Greece, but how best to manage a difficult group of people at work, or whether to give up being a manager completely and retrain as a teacher, we may be better advised to sit quietly and ponder than to search frantically for explanations and solutions. This third type of intelligence is associated with what we call creativity, or even `wisdom'.     Poets have always known the limitations of conscious, deliberate thinking, and have sought to cultivate these slower, mistier ways of knowing. Philosophers from Spinoza and Leibniz to Martin Heidegger and Suzanne Langer have written about the realms of mind that lie beyond and beneath the conscious intellect. Psychotherapists know that `the unconscious' is not just a source of personal difficulties; a revised relationship with one's unconscious is also part of the `cure'. And the sages and mystics of all religious traditions attest to the spontaneous transformation of experience that occurs when one embraces the `impersonal mystery' at the core of mental life -- whether this mystery be the `godhead' of Meister Eckhart or the `Unborn' of Zen master Bankei. Even scientists themselves, or at least the most creative of them, admit that their genius comes to them from layers of mind over which they have little or no control (and they may even feel somehow fraudulent for taking personal credit for insights that simply `occurred to them').     It is only recently, however, that scientists have started to explore the slower, less deliberate ways of knowing directly. The newly formed hybrid discipline of `cognitive science', an alliance of neuroscience, philosophy, artificial intelligence and experimental psychology, is revealing that the unconscious realms of the human mind will successfully accomplish a number of unusual, interesting and important tasks if they are given the time . They will learn patterns of a degree of subtlety which normal consciousness cannot even see; make sense out of situations that are too complex to analyse; and get to the bottom of certain difficult issues much more successfully than the questing intellect. They will detect and respond to meanings, in poetry and art, as well as in relationships, that cannot be clearly articulated.     One of my main aims in writing this book is to bring this fascinating research to a wider audience, for it offers a profound and salutary challenge to our everyday view of our own minds and how they work. These empirical demonstrations are more than interesting: they are important. For my argument is not just that the slow ways of knowing exist, and are useful. It is that our culture has come to ignore and undervalue them, to treat them as marginal or merely recreational, and in so doing has foreclosed on areas of our psychological resources that we need. Just like the computer, the Western mind has come to adopt as its `default mode' just one of its possible modes of knowing: d-mode. (The `d' can stand for `default' as well as `deliberation'.)     The individuals and societies of the West have rather lost touch with the value of contemplation. Only active thinking is regarded as productive. Sitting gazing absently at your office wall or out of the classroom window is not of value. Yet many of those whom our society admires as icons of creativity and wisdom have spent much of their time doing nothing. Einstein, it is said, would frequently be found in his office at Princeton staring into space. The Dalai Lama spends hours each day in meditation. Even that paragon of penetrating insight, Sherlock Holmes, is described by his creator as entering a meditative state `with a dreamy vacant expression in his eyes'.     There are a number of reasons why slow knowing has fallen into disuse. Partly it is due to our changing conception of, and attitude towards, time. In pre-seventeenth-century Europe a leisurely approach to thinking was much more common, and in other cultures it still is. A tribal meeting at a Maori marae can last for days, until everyone has had time to assimilate the issues, to have their say, and to form a consensus. However, the idea that time is plentiful is in many parts of the world now seen as laughably old-fashioned and self-indulgent.     Swedish anthropologist Helena Norberg-Hodge has documented the way in which the introduction of Western culture has radically altered the pace of life in the traditional society of Ladakh, for example. Until ten years ago, a Ladakhi wedding lasted a fortnight. But their lifestyle rapidly altered following the introduction of some simple `labour-saving' changes: tools, such as the Rotovator, to make ploughing quicker and easier; and some new crops and livestock, such as dairy cows. Compared to the traditional yak, cows yield more milk than a family needs, creating a surplus which can be turned into cheese and sold to bring in some extra cash. While there is no harm in making life a little easier, in encouraging families to accumulate a little `wealth', unfortunately this apparently benign `aid package' also gave the Ladakhis a new view of time -- as something in short supply. Instead of the Rotovators and the cows generating more leisure, they have in fact reduced it. People are now busier than they were: busy creating wealth -- and `saving time'. Today a Ladakhi wedding lasts less than a day, just like an English one. Within the Western mindset, time becomes a commodity, and one inevitable consequence is the urge to `think faster': to solve problems and make decisions quickly.     Partly the decline of slow thinking is to do with the rise of what the American social critic Neil Postman has called `technopoly' -- the widespread view that every ill is a problem which has a potential solution; solutions are provided by technological advances, which are generated by clear, purposeful, disciplined thinking; and the faster problems are solved, the better. Thus, as the Ladakhis have recently joined us in believing, time is an adversary over which technology can triumph. For Postman, technopoly is based on the beliefs that the primary, if not the only goal of human labour and thought is efficiency; that technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgment; that in fact human judgment cannot be trusted, because it is plagued by laxity, ambiguity, and unnecessary complexity; that subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking; that what cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value; and that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by `experts.' In such a culture, time spent exploring the question is only justified to the extent that it clearly leads towards a solution to the problem. To spend time dwelling on the question to see if it may lead to a deeper question seems inefficient, self-indulgent or perverse.     In contemporary `Western' society (which now effectively covers the globe), we seem to have generated an inner, psychological culture of speed, pressure and the need for control -- mirroring the outer culture of efficiency and productivity -- in which access to the slower modes of mind has been lost. People are in a hurry to know, to have answers, to plan and solve. We urgently want explanations: Theories of Everything, from marital mishaps to the origin of the universe. We want more data, more ideas; we want them faster; and we want them, with just a little thought, to tell us clearly what to do.     We find ourselves in a culture which has lost sight (not least in its education system) of some fundamental distinctions, like those between being wise, being clever, having your `wits' about you, and being merely well informed. We have been inadvertently trapped in a single mode of mind that is characterised by information-gathering, intellect and impatience, one that requires you to be explicit, articulate, purposeful and to show your reasoning. We are thus committed (and restricted) to those ways of knowing that can function in such a high-speed mental climate: predominantly those that use language (or other symbol systems) as a medium and deliberation as a method. As a culture we are, in consequence, very good at solving analytic and technological problems. The trouble is that we tend, increasingly, to treat all human predicaments as if they were of this type, including those for which such mental tools are inappropriate. We meet with cleverness, focus and deliberation those challenges that can only properly be handled with patience, intuition and relaxation.     To tap into the leisurely ways of knowing, one must dare to wait. Knowing emerges from, and is a response to, not-knowing. Learning -- the process of coming to know -- emerges from uncertainty. Ambivalently, learning seeks to reduce uncertainty, by transmuting the strange into the familiar, but it also needs to tolerate uncertainty, as the seedbed in which ideas germinate and responses form. If either one of these two aspects of learning predominates, then the balance of the mind is disturbed. If the passive acceptance of not-knowing overwhelms the active search for meaning and control, then one may fall into fatalism and dependency. While if the need for certainty becomes intemperate, undermining the ability to tolerate confusion, then one may develop a vulnerability to demagoguery and dogma, liable to cling to opinions and beliefs that may not fit the bill, but which do assuage the anxiety.     Perhaps the most fundamental cause of the decline of slow knowing, though, is that as a culture we have lost our sense of the unconscious intelligence to which these more patient modes of mind give access, a loss for which Rent Descartes conventionally takes the blame. If the busy conscious mind is to allow itself to wait, mute, for something to come, presumably from a source beyond its ken and its control, it has, minimally, to acknowledge the existence of such a source. Modern Western culture has so neglected the intelligent unconscious -- the undermind , I shall sometimes call it -- that we no longer know that we have it, do not remember what it is for, and so cannot find it when we need it. We do not think of the unconscious as a valuable resource, but (if we think of it at all) as a wild and unruly `thing' that threatens our reason and control, and lives in the dangerous Freudian dungeon of the mind. Instead, we give exclusive credence to conscious, deliberate, purposeful thinking -- d-mode. Broader than strict logic or scientific reasoning, though it includes these, d-mode has a number of different facets.     D-mode is much more interested in finding answers and solutions than in examining the questions . Being the primary instrument of technopoly, and as such centrally concerned with problem-solving, d-mode treats any unwanted or inconvenient condition in life as if it were a `fault' in need of fixing; as if one's loss of libido or turnover were technical malfunctions which one ought -- either by oneself, or with the aid of an `expert', such as a counsellor or a market analyst -- to be able to put right.     D-mode treats perception as unproblematic . It assumes that the way it sees the situation is the way it is. The diagnosis is taken for granted. The idea that the fault may be in the way the situation is perceived or `framed', or that things might look different `on closer inspection', does not come naturally to d-mode.     D-mode sees conscious, articulate understanding as the essential basis for action, and thought as the essential problem-solving tool . The activity in d-mode is predominantly that of gaining a mental grasp, or figuring out. This may involve the impeccable rationality of the prototypical scientist, with her equations and flow charts and technical terms. Or it may involve the more common-or-garden kinds of thinking: weighing up the pros and cons of a decision; talking things through with a friend; jotting down thoughts or making lists on the back of an envelope; trying out arguments over dinner, discussing family arrangements, making a sales pitch. Though this latter kind of thinking may not match up to the exacting standards of the professional philosopher or mathematician, and is often full of unnoticed holes, nevertheless it is, in its form and intent, `quasi' or `proto'-rational.     D-mode values explanation over observation , and is more concerned about `why' than `what'. Sometimes figuring out is designed to get directly to the point of action. But commonly, either as a means or an end in itself, what it seeks is understanding or explanation. The need to have a mental grasp, to be able to offer, to oneself if not to others, an acceptable account of things, is an integral part of d-mode. Right from playschool, adults will be asking children: `What are you trying to do?', or `That's interesting; why did you do that?' And children quickly get the idea that they ought to know what they are up to, what they are trying to achieve; and to be able to give an account of themselves, their actions and their motives, to other people. They come to assume, with their parents and teachers, that it is normal to be intentional, and proper to have explanations to offer. As ever, there is no problem with this per se ; it is a very useful ability. But when this purposeful, justificatory, `always-show-your-reasoning' attitude becomes part of the dominant default mode of the mind, it then tends to suppress other ways of knowing, and makes one sceptical of any activity whose `point' you cannot immediately, consciously see.     D-mode likes explanations and plans that are `reasonable' and justifiable, rather than intuitive . The demand that ideas always come with supporting arguments and explanations may lead one to reject out of hand thoughts that are in fact extremely fruitful, but which arrive without any indication of their pedigree or antecedents. The productive intuition can be overlooked in favour of the well-argued case. And if explanation comes to be seen as a necessary intermediary between a problem and a plan of action -- if one does not feel qualified to act without a conscious rationale -- then again one might miss out on some short cuts and bright ideas. Doubt, in the sense of a lack of conscious comprehension, becomes stultifying rather than facilitating; a trap rather than a springboard.     D-mode seeks and prefers clarity, and neither likes nor values confusion . Because of its concern with justification, d-mode likes to move along a well-lit path from problem to solution, preserving, as it goes, as much of a mental grasp as it can. It prefers learning that hops from stepping-stone to stepping-stone, without getting its feet wet, like a mathematical proof, or a well-argued report that progresses smoothly from a problem, to a clear analysis, to a plausible solution, to an action plan. And while some learning may proceed in this point-by-point fashion, much does not. Often learning emerges in a more gradual, holistic way, only after a period of casting around for a vague sense of direction, like a pack of hounds that has lost the scent. An artist composing a still life, a client in psychotherapy, even a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough: none of these (as we shall see) would be functioning optimally in d-mode. To undertake this kind of slow learning, one needs to be able to feel comfortable being `at sea' for a while.     D-mode operates with a sense of urgency and impatience . It is accompanied by a subtle -- or sometimes gross -- sense of not having enough time; of wanting things to be sorted out soon; of getting irritable when the fix is not quick enough. Fuelled by this sense of urgency, we find ourselves living, increasingly, in the fast lane. And the technology -- be it planes or Powerbooks, microwaves or modems -- tracks this need, but also channels and exacerbates it. If you have to wait for the TV news, or tomorrow's newspapers, to hear about the rumours on Wall Street, or a small earthquake in Peru, you're not a serious player. Our intolerance of dissatisfaction, or even of a delay in information, comes to dictate the kind of mind-mode with which we meet any kind of adversity.     D-mode is purposeful and effortful rather than playful . With problem-solving and impatience comes a feeling of mental strain, of pushing for answers that would not arrive by themselves, or certainly not quickly enough. In d-mode there is always this sense, vague or acute, of being under time pressure, and of being intentional, purposeful, questing: of needing to have an answer to a pre-existing question, whether it concerns a fault in the production line or the meaning of life. Once this busy activity becomes all we know how to do, the default mode, then we are going to miss any fruits of relaxed cognition .     D-mode is precise ; it tends to work with propositions made up of clearly defined symbols, preferably the hyper-precise languages of mathematics and science, where every term seems to be transparent and complete. A model of the national economy which can be represented as a sophisticated computer program, in which everything that counts can be given a measure -- and in which therefore everything which has no measure has no place and no value -- is taken more seriously than one which may subsume a richer view of human nature, but which is less explicit and precise. The history of scientific psychology -- a d-mode enterprise if ever there was one -- is full of precise theories about how memory works, for example, which make quantitative predictions about arcane laboratory tasks, but which simply ignore almost everything that people find interesting about their own powers of retention. When I was working on memory for my doctorate, I stopped telling people at parties because they would inevitably start to ask me all kinds of fascinating questions to which my detailed knowledge was embarrassingly irrelevant. (Happily things in memory research have improved somewhat in the last twenty-five years.)     D-mode relies on language that appears to be literal and explicit , and tends to be suspicious of what it sees as the slippery, evocative world of metaphor and imagery. If something can be understood, it can be understood clearly and unambiguously, says the intellect. An intimation of understanding that does not quite reveal itself, that remains shrouded or indistinct, is, to d-mode, only an impoverished kind of understanding; one that should either be forced to explain itself more fully, or treated with disdain. Poetry does not capture anything that cannot ultimately be better, more clearly rendered in prose, and rhetoric is a poor cousin of reasoned explanation.     D-mode works with concepts and generalizations , and likes to apply `rules' and `principles' where possible. D-mode favours abstraction over particularity. It works with what is generic or prototypical. It talks about `the workforce', `the rational consumer', `the typical teacher', `the environment', `holidays', `feelings'. Even individuals are treated as generalizations, collections of traits and dispositions. `John Major' and `Chef' are as much abstractions as `the national debt' or `the state of Welsh rugby'. The idea that a kind of truth could be derived from a close, sustained but unthinking attention to a single object is foreign to d-mode.     Language necessarily imposes a certain speed, a particular time frame, on cognition, so d-mode must operate at the rates at which language can be received, produced and processed . If you speed speech up it soon becomes unintelligible. If you slow it down beyond a certain point it loses its meaning. (Old-fashioned vinyl `45s', when played at either 33 or 78 revolutions per minute, demonstrate this phenomenon nicely.) Those modes of mind that work very slowly (or, for that matter, very fast) cannot, therefore, operate with the familiar tools of words and sentences. They need different contents, different elements -- or perhaps no conscious elements at all. And without the familiar ticker tape of words rolling across the screen of consciousness, there may come a disconcerting feeling of having lost predictability and control. Thus d-mode maintains a sense of thinking as being controlled and deliberate , rather than spontaneous or wilful.     D-mode works well when tackling problems which can be treated as an assemblage of nameable parts . It is in the nature of language to segment and analyse. The world seen through language is one that is perforated, capable of being gently pulled apart into concepts that seem, for the most part, self-evidently `real' or `natural', and which can be analysed in terms of the relationships between these concepts. Much of traditional science works so well precisely because the world of which it treats is this kind of world. But when the mind turns its attention to situations that are ecological or `systemic', too intricate to be decomposed in this way without serious misrepresentation, the limitations of d-mode's linguistic, analytical approach are quickly reached. Any situation that is organic rather than mechanical is likely to be of this kind. The new `sciences' of chaos and complexity are in part a response to the realisation that d-mode is in principle unequal to the task of explaining systems as complicated as the weather, or the behaviour of animals in the natural world. Along with the rise of these new sciences must come a re-evaluation of the slower ways of knowing; of intuition as an essential complement to reason.     The fact that language can handle only so much complexity is easy to demonstrate. Take the sentence     The ecologist hated the accountant. This is trivially easy to understand. Now take     The accountant the ecologist hated abused the waiter. This is still perfectly manageable. Add another (quite grammatical) embedded clause     The waiter the accountant the ecologist hated abused loved the archbishop. Understanding begins to get slightly tenuous. And when we get to     The archbishop the waiter the accountant the ecologist hated abused loved joined the conspiracy you have to work quite hard. You begin to need some kind of cognitive prosthesis, like a diagram, if you are to overcome the limitations of memory and understanding that are being revealed. Without the build-up, it would take some very deliberate unpacking to figure out who it was who abused whom. D-mode stretched to its limit becomes cumbersome and inept.     Here are two other examples of perfectly grammatical language that are, in practice, virtually incomprehensible. We cannot prove the statement which is arrived at by substituting for the variable in the statement form `We cannot prove the statement which is arrived at by substituting for the variable in the statement form Y the name of the statement form in question', the name of the statement form in question. And: Both is preferable to neither; but naturally both both and neither is preferable to neither both nor neither; but naturally both both both and neither and neither both nor neither is preferable to neither both both and neither nor neither both nor neither; but -- naturally -- both both both both and neither and neither both nor neither and neither both both and neither nor neither both nor neither is preferable to neither both both both and neither and neither both nor neither nor neither both both and neither nor neither both nor neither. Unless we have spent years getting used to statements like this, d-mode simply has to give up. A professor of logic might be able to make her way through these abstract jungles, but the fact that d-mode admits of levels of expertise should not blind us to its inherent limitations. Even language and logic can rapidly get out of control if we let them. And it is therefore an open question whether there are kinds and degrees of complexity which might be handled better in a different way.     If we see d-mode as the only form of intelligence, we must suppose, when it fails, that we are not `bright' enough, or did not think `hard' enough, or have not got enough `data'. The lesson we learn from such failures is that we must develop better models, collect more data, and ponder more carefully. What we do not learn is that we may have been thinking in the wrong way . While this epistemological stance remains invisible and unchallenged, therefore, the search for better answers to personal, social, political and environmental predicaments has to be conducted by the light of conscious thought. Our efforts are like those of the man who was searching for his car keys under the streetlight -- though he has lost them elsewhere -- because that was the only place he could see . Thus scientists, researchers, intellectuals and those who program computers with complicated formulae in order to try to predict economic trends remain the people on whom we tend to pin our hopes in the face of difficulties and uncertainties. They are the ones who, by general acclaim, have the best, most explicit models; who have the most information; and who are the most skilled thinkers. We trust them. Where else could we look for guidance?     The `slow ways of knowing' are, in general, those that lack any or all of the characteristics of d-mode. They spend time on uncovering what may lie behind a particular question. They do not rush into conceptualisation, but are content to explore more fully the situation itself before deciding what to make of it. They like to stay close to the particular. They are tolerant of information that is faint, fleeting, ephemeral, marginal or ambiguous; they like to dwell on details which do not `fit' or immediately make sense. They are relaxed, leisurely and playful; willing to explore without knowing what they are looking for. They see ignorance and confusion as the ground from which understanding may spring. They use the rich, allusive media of imagination, myth and dream. They are receptive rather than proactive. They are happy to relinquish the sense of control over the directions that the mind spontaneously takes. And they are prepared to take seriously ideas that come `out of the blue', without any ready-made train of rational thought to justify them. These are the modes of mind that the following chapters will explore, in order both to reveal their nature and their value and also to uncover ways in which they might be rehabilitated.     In order to rehabilitate the slow ways of knowing, we need to adopt a different view of the mind as a whole: one which embraces sources of knowledge that are less articulate, less conscious and less predictable. The undermind is the key resource on which slow knowing draws, so we need new metaphors and images for the relationship between conscious and unconscious which escape from the polarisation to which both Descartes and Freud, from their different sides, subscribed. Only in the light of new models of the mind will we see the possibility and the point of more patient, receptive ways of knowing, and be able to cultivate -- and tolerate -- the conditions which they require.     The crucial step in this recovery is not the acquisition of a new psychological technology (brainstorming, visualisation, mnemonics and so on), but a revised understanding of the human mind, and a willingness to move into, and to enjoy, the life of the mind as it is lived in the shadowlands rather than under the bright lights of consciousness. Clever mental techniques -- devices that `tap' the resources of the `right hemisphere', as if it were a barrel of beer -- miss the point if they leave in place the same questing, restless attitude of mind. In many courses on `creative management' or `experiential learning', it is a case of plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose . Instead of calling a meeting to `discuss' the problem, you call one to `brainstorm' it, or to get people to draw it with crayons. But the pressure for results, the underlying impatience, is still there. The key to the undermind is not an overlay of technique but radical reconceptualisation. When the mind slows and relaxes, other ways of knowing automatically reappear. If and when this shift of mental mood takes place, then some different strategies of thought may indeed be helpful, but, without it, they are useless. (This, incidentally, explains why the enthusiasm for each new, much-hyped mental technology has such a disappointingly short half-life.)     Another step in the recovery of the slower ways of knowing is to recognise that these forms of cognition are not the exclusive province of special groups of people -- poets, mystics or sages -- nor do they appear only on special occasions. They have sometimes been talked about in rather mystifying ways, as the work of `the muse', or as signifying great gifts, or special states of grace. Such talk makes slow knowing look rather awesome and arcane. One feels intimidated, as if such mental modes were beyond the reach of ordinary mortals, or had little to do with the mundane realities of modern life. This is a false and unhelpful impression. A `poetic way of knowing' is not the special prerogative of those who string words together in certain ways. It is accessible, and of value, to anyone. And though it cannot be trained, taught or engineered, it can be cultivated by anyone.     So Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind is about why it is a good idea to pull off the Information Super-Highway into the Information Super Lay-By; to stop chasing after more data and better solutions and to rest for a while. It is about why it is sometimes more intelligent to be less busy; why there are ideas one can gain access to by loafing which are inaccessible to earnest, purposeful cognition. And it is about the reasons why these natural endowments of the human mind have become neglected in twentieth-century Euro-American culture, and why, in this culture, they are sorely missed. Copyright © 1997 Guy Claxton. All rights reserved.

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