Scott Grafton Launches New book "Physical Intelligence"

January 2, 2020
Book-Physical Intelligence by Scott Grafton

ICB co-director and co-leader of the ICB research focus area Cognitive Neuroscience, Scott Grafton has written a new book, Physical Intelligence: The Science of How the Body and the Mind Guide Each Other Through Life.

While Grafton's passion for neuroscience is well known and can be seen in his many titles—UCSB Bedrosian Coyne Presidential Chair in Neuroscience, Director of the UCSB Brain Imaging Center and Distinguished Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences at UCSB—he is also a passionate outdoorsman who loves spending his free time rock climbing and mountaineering. In his new book, Professor Grafton elegantly weaves these two passions together using his personal stories in the great outdoors as the physical backdrop to illustrate the findings of this research.  

We’re used to thinking of intelligence as a purely mental pursuit—no movement required. But according to Grafton, all of our actions rely on “physical intelligence, our oldest and most important form of cognition.”

Our brains and muscles have worked together over a lifetime to create information about dealing with our environment and the basic challenges of navigating it. These tasks all fall under the category of physical intelligence. Before sidewalks and shopping malls, human beings had to learn how to deal with these challenges to survive. Physical intelligence is the mutually responsive interaction between your body and your mind that allows you to interact effectively in the world.

Physical intelligence, however, is a skill that can decline if not trained. Shy away from these kinds of challenges, and you guarantee an inability to deal with them in the future. According to Grafton, "Treadmills and weight reps are good. But hiking outdoors helps develop important skills that just can’t be mastered in a gym." 

In a plea for greater harmony with nature, remember that spending time outdoors is more than just a fun pastime. Navigating, balancing on boulders, and negotiating difficult terrain are physical pursuits that build important cognitive skills. 

There will be a book signing at Chaucer's Book Store at 3321 State Street, on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 7:00PM.
Scott Grafton interview—The Armen Show podcast