David Lodge’s novel Thinks, does not merely submit to Marco Roth’s ideas about neurological reductivism nor biological determinism in his academic article, “Rise of the Neuronovel”. In fact, Lodges novel actively engages both of these ideas, but in different ways. Reductivism seeks to reduce human actions to being caused by the internal operations of the brain. Lodge introduces reductive reasoning through the main protagonist Ralph Messenger. Much of Messenger’s dialogue contains reductionist views which present themselves as an avenue for Lodge to arrest the two conflicting views within his single novel. In the hot tub scene debate with another character, Helen, Messenger demonstrated reductivism by saying, “it’s still just information processing by his brain.” (100) This statement was meant to reduce “determination” to a mere mechanical action that was caused by the communication of nerves within the brain. Throughout various points in the novel, the main protagonist engages similar discussions with Helen, who appears to provide the platform for the conversation with her minimal input. This allows for the insertion of the reader and their own thoughts.
Most of the chapters that are narrated by Messenger, Helen or arguably, even Helen’s students, can be viewed as what Roth calls biological determinism. This idea explores how the human behavior is determined by culture and other social forces. One of the ways in which Lodge illustrates a deterministic idea about the brain is when he includes the transcript of Helen’s thoughts about having been kissed by Messenger. In her diary, she says, “At least, I didn’t resist it. I didn’t slap his face or push him away, or ask him what he thought he was doing. I didn’t say a word.” (103) Altogether, Lodge is addressing how action induces reaction and how societal norms influence a chain of possible responses, as listed by Helen, as well as the way in which emotions cultivate their own reaction.
Although the deterministic idea is the most dominant of the two concepts within the text, both ideas are clearly and carefully included. As I have stated, Lodge engages a conversation with the reader that investigates both reductive and deterministic aspects of the way that thought is assumed to work. Therefore, the novel is psychological because the general plot surveys ways in which the mind can be affected through awareness and external forces. Yet, the novel is also neurological because it addresses changes that occur to the main character post brain operation. Thus, the novel falls into both genres and can be called a psychoneurological (I combined the terms) novel.