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Michael Shelford

JOHN DUNCAN is assistant director of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge, honorary professor of cognitive neuroscience at the universities of Cambridge and Bangor, visiting professor at the University of Oxford, and fellow of the Royal Society and the British Academy. He is known for his frontal-lobe theory of human intelligence, which has been covered in the media worldwide – including the BBC, ABC News, The New York Times, Washington Post, Science and New Scientist. HOW INTELLIGENCE HAPPENS, his first book for a popular audience, is based on his 30-year research programme linking human mind to brain. He lives in a small village close to Cambridge.



How Intelligence Happens website

Featured titles


A wonderfully compact summary of brain architecture and function – WALL STREET JOURNAL


Like getting into a gripping novel… The book is an invigorating read – SACRAMENTO BOOK REVIEW


An elegant book… engaging and easily comprehensible without being simplistic – Wendy Johnson, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION


A highly personal and fascinating account – Michael I. Posner, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon


A comprehensive account… offering a unique perspective and hypothesis – Earl K. Miller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


A timely, original and highly readable contribution – Nancy Kanwisher, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The experimental findings… are unexpected and arresting… rewarding for the lay reader – Charles F. Stevens, Public Library of Science Biology


From the 2012 winner of the prestigious Heineken Prize for Cognition Science, a firsthand account of his search for the biological basis of intelligence.


Human intelligence is among the most powerful forces on Earth. It builds spreading cities, enormous cornfields and coffee plantations, microchips; it takes us from the atom to the limits of the Universe. Understanding how brains build intelligence is among the most fascinating challenges of modern science. How does the biological brain, a collection of billions of cells, enable us to do things no other species can do? In this book John Duncan, a scientist who has spent 30 years studying the human brain, offers an adventure story – the story of the hunt for basic principles of human intelligence, behaviour and though


Using results drawn from classical studies of intelligence testing, from attempts to build computers that think, from studies of how minds change after brain damage, from modern discoveries of brain imaging and from groundbreaking recent research, Duncan synthesizes often difficult-to-understand information into a book that will appeal to scientific and popular readers alike. He explains how brains break down problems into useful, solvable parts, then assemble these parts into the complex mental programmes of human thought and actio


At the heart of the book is the quest for the seat of intelligence: the cerebral source of general intelligence that many have been tempted to call the g spot. The author and his colleagues have identified one brain region, rather than many, that seems to be at the core of IQ: a zone in the frontal lobes, just above the outer edges of the eyebrows. The region is important for planning and solving novel tasks, keeping many things in mind at once and screening out irrelevant information – and is revealing itself as a hitherto unknown window into human nature.


Moving from the foundations of psychology, artificial intelligence and neuroscience to the most current scientific thinking, HOW INTELLIGENCE HAPPENS is for all those curious to understand what we actually mean by intelligence, how and why it happens and what this can tell us about ourselves – in other words, how our own mind works.

Publisher: Yale University Press (UK/US)

Pub Date: 26 October 2010

Length: 244 pages


All rights available excluding:

World English Language (Yale University Press), Japan (Hayakawa), Russia (Hippo)