One of my favourite blogs Brain Pickings publishes a growing collection of very juicy looking books. The blog’s curator Maria Popova has a brilliant eye. One of the psychology books she has selected is On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand by Jerome Bruner the pioneering Harvard cognitive psychologist and learning theorist who turns 100 this year.


Popova’s view are pithy and widely informed:

I’ve always held the art of discovery in higher regard than the art of invention. Rather than creating something that didn’t previously exist, to discover is to uncover what has always been there but had remained hidden from view — to shine a light on a corner of the world until now shrouded in the darkness of not-knowing. Given our severe sensorial and cognitive blinders, which ensure that the vast majority of reality remains hidden from our view, any act of discovery is therefore a remarkable feat.

She quotes Bruner:

Discovery, like surprise, favors the well-prepared mind.


Discovery … is in its essence a matter of rearranging or transforming evidence in such a way that one is enabled to go beyond the evidence so reassembled to new insights. It may well be that an additional fact or shred of evidence makes this larger transformation possible. But it is often not even dependent on new information.


For the person to search out and find regularities and relationships in his environment, he must either come armed with an expectancy that there will be something to find or be aroused to such an expectancy so that he may devise ways of searching and finding. One of the chief enemies of search is the assumption that there is nothing one can find in the environment by way of regularity or relationship.

via book pickings