The Extended Mind: the Power of Thinking Outside the Brain | A Book Review by Jonathan Martin | 5 Min Read

Is there a name yet for the popular nonfiction genre in which primarily non-scholars round up a few dozen fascinating findings from recently published research in psychology, sociology, and economics; find a sometimes awkwardly fitting organizing theme, and write a well-polished series of anecdotes summarizing that research in a loose but often compelling argument about that theme?

I’m confident I’m not the only educator who eats these books up, some of which are non-specific to schooling (but still very applicable), and some of which are more squarely attentive to our work. Malcolm Gladwell is clearly the king of the genre, and some online scanning suggests that perhaps he’s put his name on it: these types of books are said to be “Gladwellian.”  Dan Pink has long been one of my favorites in this field, going back to his 2006 title A Whole New Mind; I also greatly enjoy Steven Johnson and Adam Grant (who is, unusually in this genre, a researcher himself), among others.

However, it’s becoming more difficult to read these narratives as “innocently” as we did before, as we become more aware of the social science “replication crisis.”   Often these books cherrypick from singular experiments…

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Jonathan Martin

Jonathan E. Martin taught at and led schools in California and Arizona from 1989 to 2012; over the past decade he has been a writer, school consultant, and professional development provider to more than a hundred schools and thousands of educators in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. His affiliations have included EdLeader21, OECD PISA, NWEA, NAIS, Mastery Transcript Consortium, Blackbaud, Enrollment Management Association, CWRA, and Think Through Math. He is the author of Reinventing Crediting for Competency-Based Education (Routledge Press, 2020), as well as scores of e-books, special reports, and white papers over the past 10 years. He currently directs professional learning for a global not-for-profit educational organization.