Mind is Flat
Nick Chater

Book cover image

Narrated By: Nick Chater

Duration: 7 hours and 27 minutes

What to expect

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of The Mind is Flat written and read by Nick Chater.

Most of us assume that our thoughts, desires and behaviour arise from the murky depths of our minds, and, if only we could access this inner world, we could truly understand ourselves. For more than a century, psychologists, psychiatrists and neuroscientists have struggled, using methods from psychotherapy to brain scans, to discover what lies below the surface of our minds.

In a profound reappraisal of how the mind works, pre-eminent behavioural scientist Nick Chater reveals that this entire enterprise is misguided: that we have no mental depths to plumb. Drawing on startling new research in neuroscience, behavioural psychology and perception, The Mind is Flat shows that we have no inner library of beliefs, values and desires lying with us, but instead generate them in the moment, and base them entirely on our past experiences. As the reader discovers - through eye-opening experiments and mind-bending visual examples - we are all characters of our own creation, constantly improvising our behaviour, rather than the playthings of unconscious currents within us.

Boldly original and utterly convincing, The Mind is Flat forces us to reconsider just about everything we thought we knew about ourselves, and shows that the result can be liberating.


Psychology, Cognitivism, cognitive theory, Cognition & cognitive psychology

Listen to a sample

An astonishing achievement. Nick Chater has blown my mind - as well as assuring me that my brain just doesn't work the way I think it does. I haven't been able to stop talking about the ideas in this book

author of Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy and The Undercover Economist

The mind may be flat but this book is a fascinating, rounded and radical approach to understanding how we think and act. The implications for understanding human decision making are profound. Everyone who enjoyed Thinking, Fast and Slow must read this book

Gus O'Donnell, former Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the Behavioural Insights Team Advisory Board

It's a triumph in itself that Chater has written a book about cognition that is as gripping as a thriller. In fact, I would go even further. If you can measure a book by how often you find yourself bringing it up in conversation, then The Mind is Flat is one of the best I've ever read . . .

Brilliant . . . beautifully written . . . you'll be able to bored your relatives rigid with your new theories of cognition over the Christmas turkey

The Spectator

A total assault on all lingering psychiatric and psychoanalytic notions of mental depths to be plumbed. For Chater, surface is everything ... Light the touchpaper and stand well back

New Scientist

A superb exposition of scientific findings


This is a remarkable book. Every other book about the mind will tell you either why we're so dumb, or why we're so smart. Chater offers a single elegant theory to explain both: why our minds so often let us down and confound us, at the same time that they far surpass our current attempts to build intelligence in machines

Josh Tenenbaum, Professor of Cognitive Science and Computation at MIT

Launched with what may be the most engaging prologue of any work of nonfiction, the reader of The Mind is Flat is taken on a fascinating intellectual journey. Chater first compels us to leave behind widely-accepted views about the depth of the mind, abandoning the cherished idea that thinking is rooted in the depths of unconscious thought. But far from depriving the life of the mind of its charm, magic or meaning, Chater introduces us to a new appreciation of the brain's remarkable propensity and capacity to make sense of experience. While the mind may indeed be flat in the sense it is devoid of unconscious ruminations, reading this book leaves us with a much deeper, transformed, understanding of our own thoughts and feelings and of how we perceive the definitively non-flat world in which we live