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If the conscious mind—the part you consider you—accounts for only a tiny fraction of the brain’s function, what is all the rest doing? This is the question that David Eagleman—renowned neuroscientist and acclaimed author of Sum—answers in a book as accessible and entertaining as it is deeply informed by startling, up-to-the-minute research.


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If the conscious mind—the part you consider you—accounts for only a tiny fraction of the brain’s function, what is all the rest doing? This is the question that David Eagleman—renowned neuroscientist and acclaimed author of Sum—answers in a book as accessible and entertaining as it is deeply informed by startling, up-to-the-minute research.

30 review for Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    Let me start with the easy stuff. On a literary note, this book is entertaining. However, it reads more like a series of interesting essays on neuroscience rather than a book. Let me move on to the more interesting stuff. This book is deceptive. Eagleman uses a "slight of hand" writing style. Just as he describes how magic tricks deceive the brain, Eagleman uses this entertaining little book to advocate for a social and justice system that disregards civil rights. How does he do this? He strings Let me start with the easy stuff. On a literary note, this book is entertaining. However, it reads more like a series of interesting essays on neuroscience rather than a book. Let me move on to the more interesting stuff. This book is deceptive. Eagleman uses a "slight of hand" writing style. Just as he describes how magic tricks deceive the brain, Eagleman uses this entertaining little book to advocate for a social and justice system that disregards civil rights. How does he do this? He strings together an a serious of interesting tidbits about how the brain is controlled by chemistry and its hardwiring. For example, he outlines research on split brain patients and the difference between the right and left sides. He explains how we become "wired" for routine actions, such as driving to work, and can put forward little effort on accomplishing such things. When he has you hooked, he launches into a treatise about how the criminal justice system should be used to correct our brains for he assumes that criminal activity is the result of a brain not functioning correctly. He admits that frontal lobotomies were a clumsy early attempt to do this, but he feels science is much more advanced now and continues to advance every day. For those who do not have "correctable" problems, he actually uses the work "warehouse" for their fate. The bottom line is that he believes in "treatment" for those who commit crimes. On the surface, this sounds enlightened. But when you take a step back from this book, this idea is disturbing. Our criminal justice system, in fact our whole legal framework, is based on the underlying assumption that individuals have the right to control their own bodies. Even when they have forfeited the right to be physically free and are imprisoned, our government does not have the right to force medical treatment and that includes psychological treatment. Eagleton is advocating for "treating" criminals. This should send a chill up his readers' spines. Our sordid history of "treating" criminals includes institutionalizing gays and lesbians and "treating" them for their "disorder", medical experiments with African American prisoners, and institutionalizing people with developmental disabilities for the minor offenses. This is a dangerous road. But what is particularly disturbing about this book is Eagleton's deceptive approach. He does not acknowledge or give weight to any of the counterarguments to this approach, which you think should be standard for his "scientific approach". In fact, he positions himself as being "enlightened" because he does not advocate for the "lock up and throw away the key" approach. I can only think back to another book that I read this year - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and how we must carefully balance the rights of individuals with scientific principles.

  2. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ from both sides of my brain The only David Eagleman book I’d read was my favourite book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, a collection of extremely short extremely thought-provoking stories. So I really wasn’t sure what to expect from a book from his “day job” as a neuroscientist. I needn’t have worried. While this is a non-fiction book about the biology of the brain, it is just as intriguingly thought-provoking as Sum. There are footnotes and an extensive reference list and index, for th 5★ from both sides of my brain The only David Eagleman book I’d read was my favourite book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, a collection of extremely short extremely thought-provoking stories. So I really wasn’t sure what to expect from a book from his “day job” as a neuroscientist. I needn’t have worried. While this is a non-fiction book about the biology of the brain, it is just as intriguingly thought-provoking as Sum. There are footnotes and an extensive reference list and index, for the academically inclined, but the writing style is accessible and, dare I say, entertainingly philosophical. The title of the first chapter, from Pink Floyd, indicates that. “There’s someone in my head, and it’s not me.” Reading this will give you an idea of whether that’s true or not, and if so, who that someone might be. There are numerous case histories and anecdotes, many of which seem like they’re straight out of an old Ripley’s Believe it or Not. The book was written in 2011, so some of the stories which sounded familiar to me probably are, because they may have been quoted from this book. The best I can do here is share some things I found interesting, for example, in today’s 24/7 media releases of political talking points, you might like to know that there is an "'illusion-of-truth’ effect: you are more likely to believe that a statement is true if you have heard it before—whether or not it is actually true.” Scary eh? I won’t bother you with the tests that have been done to prove these things are so, just take my word for it – they’re covered and referenced, if you’re looking for more information. Things like the genes that are shared by about 50% of the general population are carried by an overwhelming number of perpetrators of violent crimes and by over 98% of people on death row. A predisposition to violence, you might say. So whose fault are the crimes? Then there’s a take on "seeing is believing". We each “see” things the way we do, not necessarily the way our family and friends do. There’s a condition called synesthesia, meaning ‘joined sensation’, where sensing something with one sense will trigger another. Sound may be not only heard, but also experienced as colour. Numbers may be associated with colours. Synesthetes may have 3-dimensional views of calendars and time and be able to point to spots on space where those times and dates lie. I have mental time-lines and calendar lines in my mind’s eye, but they certainly aren’t floating in space that I know of. Eagleman says “Instead of reality being passively recorded by the brain, it is actively constructed by it.” There’s a fascinating section on The Democracy of the Mind. Rather than have an assembly line mind where each little component does its assigned role and contributes to a whole picture or state, we work with a competition model, where different parts of us want different things and may argue with each other about it. You know the feeling – the chocolate bar is beckoning, but then you’ve promised yourself you’re going to be more health-conscious. This democratic system of making decisions by weighing up pros and cons is why good governing systems work well when you have people with different opinions and different strengths contributing to the process. Eagleman gives good examples of how this works in world politics. He also identifies the “two-party system” for the brain: the rational and the emotional. He admits these are just handy words, not specific terms for discussing how we deal with this split. He always gives completely understandable, real-world examples to illustrate what he means. In this case, he says, “as a rough guide, rational cognition involves external events while emotion involves your internal state. You can do a math problem without consulting your internal state, but you can’t order a dessert off a menu or prioritize what you feel like doing next.” And did you know you could live perfectly normally with only half your brain? Better if the half is removed before you are 8 years old, but even after that, what we can do is remarkable. This is the right or left half, not just any old half, by the way. We seem to have built-in redundancy, which makes me wonder what we could do if we really used the whole thing! He cautions against reductionism, which proposes that you can understand things better if you keep breaking them down into smaller and smaller components. Sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, e.g., an airplane: no single part has flight properties, but put them all together, and you’re off! Observation won’t always do it either. He gives an example of what he calls Radio Theory. A bushman who’s never seen a transistor radio, picks one up, fiddles with it, hears voices, takes it apart and fiddles with wires, and discovers when he pulls one wire out, it stops. When he sticks it back, it works, sometimes louder, sometimes softer, depending on the dials. He may think the voices depend on the wires, and will seem brilliant, until someone asks how the voices got there. Eagleman mentions that Arthur C. Clarke said you couldn’t really tell advanced technology from magic. He was right. It is all magic. The book ends saying: "What a perplexing masterpiece the brain is and how lucky we are to be in a generation that has the technology and the will to turn our attention to it. It is the most wondrous thing we have discovered in the universe, and it is us.” Absolutely fascinating. This is just the smallest taste.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X wishes the world would return to normal

    What intrigued me about this book were some of the questions it is going to answer: why is your foot on the brake faster than your brain at seeing danger? Why, no matter where your attention might be, you can always hear your name mentioned in a conversation even if you weren't involved in it? How can you get angry with yourself? Who is upset with whom? I'd never even thought of these things, let alone that that the answers were neurological. What intrigued me about this book were some of the questions it is going to answer: why is your foot on the brake faster than your brain at seeing danger? Why, no matter where your attention might be, you can always hear your name mentioned in a conversation even if you weren't involved in it? How can you get angry with yourself? Who is upset with whom? I'd never even thought of these things, let alone that that the answers were neurological.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Superstrings vs. The Brain: "Incognito - The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman "Experimentation and transformation in both art and science spring from the same root - to understand, to encapsulate the world. This is why I've ever found reductionism (and scientism) drearily limiting and worthily pompous - that utilitarian speculation over what art 'is for', that misapprehension of art as a kind of elaborate trickery, only read If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Superstrings vs. The Brain: "Incognito - The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman "Experimentation and transformation in both art and science spring from the same root - to understand, to encapsulate the world. This is why I've ever found reductionism (and scientism) drearily limiting and worthily pompous - that utilitarian speculation over what art 'is for', that misapprehension of art as a kind of elaborate trickery, only readable in the light of neuroscience or physics. The best writers of fiction, artists, composers and scientists are, I've long felt, the ones who see the 'divide' as porous, and are open to findings in both great spheres of endeavour and experimentation."   In "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman     I've experienced significant creative leaps in shorter timelines than 4 weeks I think because over many years I've become increasingly adept at recognising and leveraging useful elements and catalysts. However I also agree that deep, long-term immersion in a creative problem, descending into disillusion and the chaotic abyss and then often out of failure or accident finding a new path based on hard won knowledge and insight - is where real invention and deeper epiphanies reside. The first time I experienced the creative process at this depth was after months of investigation and it was life changing - not in terms of the creative result so much but because of my first hand experience of the creative journey itself. Sometimes, even Steven King takes thirty years to write a book. Often only a year or two. Sometimes he manages to pop one out in a couple of weeks.     If you're into the nature of consciousness, read on.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    *I am required to disclose that I received this book as a freebie from the Goodreads first reads giveaway program, but don't worry, this doesn't obligate me to say only good things. Though I give the book four stars and have already recommended it to more people than any book I've ever read, I would strongly disagree with the first reviewer that the book is an "engaging romp" or "fun". The book is, and should be, profoundly unsettling, though for reasons which make it all the more important to con *I am required to disclose that I received this book as a freebie from the Goodreads first reads giveaway program, but don't worry, this doesn't obligate me to say only good things. Though I give the book four stars and have already recommended it to more people than any book I've ever read, I would strongly disagree with the first reviewer that the book is an "engaging romp" or "fun". The book is, and should be, profoundly unsettling, though for reasons which make it all the more important to confront. Eagleman creates a compelling account for rethinking the answer to the question "who am I?", one that will have you profoundly questioning former assumptions and intuitions. Incognito tells of homicidal sleepwalkers, people who hear color and taste sounds, and a condition in which a blind person is perfectly convinced that they can see. It poses the questions: To what extent does it make sense to refer to my conscious self as "my true self"? To what extent does the concept of free will make sense on a neurological level? How much of my reality is a perception of my physical surrounding, and how much might be an interpretation offered by my brain? Eagleman manages to address these questions in a very readable account, and you can't help but share in his contagious enthusiasm for how cool neuroscience is. If you like being wowed and challenged, read this book. Just be forewarned that it might force you to seriously reconsider the way your look at your world and your self.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This is a must read! What a fascinating book. Not only full of interesting ideas, but also hugely readable. It's a mouthful, but relevant, to mention that the author is director of Baylor College of Medicine's Initiative on Neuroscience and Law, at Stanford University. As the book progresses, it can be seen as an argument for assessing and handling criminals differently. Eagleman thinks we should pay much more attention to the physical and psychological factors which may influence individual crim This is a must read! What a fascinating book. Not only full of interesting ideas, but also hugely readable. It's a mouthful, but relevant, to mention that the author is director of Baylor College of Medicine's Initiative on Neuroscience and Law, at Stanford University. As the book progresses, it can be seen as an argument for assessing and handling criminals differently. Eagleman thinks we should pay much more attention to the physical and psychological factors which may influence individual criminals, rather than regarding the person in the dock as coming from a level playing field, where all people are the same. To back his argument, he spends much of the book convincing us that we are propelled through life by subconscious urges, fed by a soup of genes and hormones. I found his argument convincing. Most of all this book is wonderfully exciting. It's a darn good read. I end with my usual bunch of notes - nearly all just taken from the book. Enter here at your peril. I have droned on even more than usual. (view spoiler)[ The power behind the throne You gleefully say, "I just thought of something!", when in fact your brain performed an enormous amount of work before your moment of genius struck. When an idea is served up from behind the scenes, your neural circuitry has been working on it for hours or days or years, consolidating information and trying out new combinations. But you take credit without further wonderment at the vast, hidden machinery behind the scenes. Almost the entirety of what happens in your mental life is not under your conscious control, and the truth is that it's better this way.... When it meddles in details it doesn't understand, the operation runs less effectively. The best way to mess up your piano piece is to concentrate on your fingers; the best way to get out of breath is to think about your breathing; the best way to miss the golf ball is to analyse your swing. How to know if you're a racist, a homophobe etc. We often do not know what's buried in the caverns of our unconscious. An example of this comes up, in its ugliest form, with racism. Even if someone is unwilling to say they are racist, there are ways of probing what is in the unconscious brain. Imagine that you sit down in front of two buttons, and you're asked to hit the right button whenever a positive word flashes on the screen (joy, love, happy, and so on), and the left button whenever you see a negative word (terrible, nasty, failure). Pretty straightforward. Now the task changes a bit: hit the right button whenever you see a photo of an overweight person, and the left button whenever you see a photo of a thin person. Again, pretty easy. But for the next task, things are paired up: you're asked to hit the right button when you see either a positive world or and overweight person, and the left button whenever you see a negative word or, a thin person. In another group of trials, you do the same thing but with the pairings switched - so you now press the right button for a negative world or a thin person. The results can be troubling. The reaction times of subject are faster when the pairings have a strong association unconsciously. For example, if overweight people are linked with a negative association in the subject's unconscious, then the subject reacts faster to a photo of an overweight person when the response is linked to the same button as a negative word. During trials in which the opposite concepts are linked (thin with bad), subjects will take a longer time to respond, presumably because the pairing is more difficult. This experiment has been modified to measure implicit attitudes towards races, religions, homosexuality, skin tone, age, disabilities, and presidential candidates. (Greenwald, McGhee, and Schwartz, "Measuring individual differences." ) Hunches Often when we have hunches about things, this is due to our subconscious having worked something out before our conscious mind is aware of it. Sometimes conscious knowledge of a situation is not required for making advantageous decisions. Consciousness as a CEO Consciousness is the long-term planner, the CEO of the company, while most of the day-to-day operations are run by all those parts of the brain to which we have no access. Accessing the unconscious brain. The next time a friend laments that she cannot decide between two options, tell her the easiest way to solve her problem: flip a coin. She should specify which option belongs to heads and which to tails, and then let the coin fly. The important part is to assess her gut feeling after the coin lands. If she feels a subtle sense of relief at being "told" what to do by the coin, that's the right choice for her. If, instead, she concludes that it's ludicrous for her to make a decision based on a coin toss, that will cue her to choose the other option Our conscious minds train us, then our subconscious takes over Riding a bike, playing tennis or golf, or driving a car....at first the conscious mind teaches us how to do these things, but as we continue to do these things over and over again, the subconscious takes over. We are pre-programmed Nothing seems more natural than desire, but the first thing to notice is that we're wired only for species-appropriate desire. This underscores a simple but crucial point: the brain's circuits are designed to generate behaviour that is appropriate to our survival. Apples and eggs and potatoes taste good to us not because the shapes of their molecules are inherently wonderful, but because they're perfect little packages of sugars and proteins...Because the foods are useful, we are engineered to find them tasty. Consider babies. Babies at birth are not blank slates. Instead they inherit a great deal of problem-solving equipment and arrive at many problems with solutions already at hand. .... They pop into the world with neural programs specialized for reasoning about objects, physical causality, numbers, the biological world, the beliefs and motivations of other individuals, and social interactions. For example, a newborn's brain expects faces: even when they are less than ten minutes old, babies will turn toward face-like patterns, but not to scrambled versions of the same pattern. But two and a half months, and infant will express surprise if a solid object appears to pass through another object, or if an object seems to disappear, as though by magic, from behind a screen. Infants show a difference in the way they treat animate versus inanimate objects, making the assumption that animate toys have internal states (intentions) that they cannot see.... Another example of preprogramming is the so-called mind reading system - this is the collection of mechanisms by which we use the direction and movement of other people's eyes to infer what they want, know, and believe. For example, if someone abruptly looks over your left shoulder, you'll immediately suppose there is something interesting going on behind you. Our gaze-reading system is fully in place in early infancy. In conditions like autism this system can be impaired. 84 Monogamy, vasopressin and the gene RS3 334. Common sense would tell us that monogamy is a decision based on moral character, right? But this leads to the question of what constitutes "character" in the first place. Could this, too, be guided by mechanisms below the radar of consciousness? Consider the prairie vole... Unlike other voles and other mammals more generally, prairie voles remain monogamous. The reason pivots on hormones. When a male vole repeatedly mates with a female, a hormone called vasopressin is released in his brain. The vasopressin binds to receptors in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens and the binding mediates a pleasurable feeling that becomes associated with that female. This locks in the monogamy, which is known as pair-bonding. If you block this hormone, the pair bonding goes away. Amazingly, when researchers crank up the levels of vasopressin with genetic techniques, they can shift polygamous species to monogamous behaviour. In 2008 a research team at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden examined the gene for the vasopressin receptor in 5452 men in long-term heterosexual relationships. The researchers found that a section of the gene called RS3 334 can come in variable numbers. The more copies, the weaker the effect that vasopressin in the bloodstream would have in the brain. The results were surprising in their simplicity. The number of copies correlated with the men's pair-bonding behaviour. Men with more copies of RS3 334 scored worse on measures of pair-bonding - including measures of the strength of their relationships, perceived marital problems, and marital quality as perceived by their spouses. Those with two copies were more likely to be unmarried, and if they were married, they were more likely to have marital troubles. This is not to say that choices and environment don't matter - they do. But it is to say that we come into the world with different dispositions. Some men may be genetically inclined to have a single partner, while some may not. The democratic brain Brains are like representative democracies. They are built of multiple, over-lapping experts who weigh in and compete over different choices. As Walt Whitman correctly surmised, we are large and we harbour multitudes within us. And those multitudes are locked in chronic battle. There is an ongoing conversation among the different factions in your brain, each competing to control the single output channel of your behaviour. As a result, you can accomplish the strange feats of arguing with yourself, cursing at yourself, and cajoling yourself to do something - feats that modern computers simply do not do. For instance when you are offered a slice of cake. Part of you wants it and part of you tries to muster the fortitude to forgo it. The final vote of the parliament determines which party controls your action. In the end you either eat the cake or you do not, but you cannot do both. The brain is best understood as a team of rivals... In the same way that liberals and conservatives both love their country but can have acrimoniously different strategies for steering it, so too does the brain have competing factions that all believe they know the right way to solve the problem. Re Mel Gibson and his drunken anti-Semitic tirade, we can ask whether there is such a thing as "true" colours. We have seen that behaviour is the outcome of the battle among internal systems.... A team-of-rivals brain can naturally harbour both racist and non-racist feelings. Alcohol is not a truth serum. Instead, it tends to tip the battle toward the short-term, unreflective faction - which has no more or less claim than any other faction to be the "true" one. Neurochemistry of the brain When the frontal lobe is compromised, people become "disinhibited", unmasking the presence of the seedier elements in the neural democracy. A common example of this disinhibited behaviour is seen in patients with frontotemporal dementia, a tragic disease in which the frontal and temporal lobes degenerate. With the loss of the brain tissue, patients lost the ability to control the hidden impulses. To the frustration of their loved ones, these patients unearth an endless variety of way to violate social norms: shoplifting in front of store managers, removing their clothes in public, running stop signs, breaking out in song at inappropriate times, eating food scraps found in public trash cans, or being physically aggressive or sexually transgressive. For another example of changes in the brain leading to changes in behaviour, consider what has happened in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. In 2001, families of Parkinson's patients began to notice that when they were given a drug called pramipexole, some of them turned into pathological gamblers. For some, the new addiction reached beyond gambling to compulsive eating, alcohol consumption and hypersexuality. This was due to imbalances in the dopamine system of rewards. Lowering levels of the drug could usually get rid of these side-effects. The more we discover about the circuitry of the brain, the less we can accuse depressives of being indulgent, or a child doing poorly at school of being unmotivated and slow. Instead we see the option of problems with the neurochemistry of the brain. Our perceptions and behaviours are controlled by inaccessible subroutines that can be easily perturbed, as seen with the frontotemporal dementia victims, and the Parkinsonian gamblers. But there's a critical point hidden in here. Just because we've shifted away from the blame does not mean we have a full understanding of the biology. Neurochemistry is incredibly complicated. Although we know that there is a strong relationship between brain and behaviour, neuroimaging remains a crude technology, unable to meaningfully weigh in on assessments of guilt or innocence, especially on an individual basis. In the future, problems that are now opaque will open up to examination by new techniques, and we may someday find that certain types of bad behaviour will have a meaningful biological explanation - as has happened with schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression and mania. Currently we can detect only large brain tumours, but in one hundred years we will be able to detect patterns at unimaginably small levels of the microcircuitry that correlate with behavioural problems. The heart of the problem is that it no longer makes sense to ask, 'To what extent was it his biology and to what extent was it him?" The question no longer makes sense because we now understand those to be the same thing. Now, there's a critical nuance to appreciate here. Not everyone with a brain tumour undertakes a mass shooting. Why not? As we will see, it is because genes and environment interact in unimaginably complex patterns. As a result, human behaviour will always remain unpredictable. The main difference between teenage and adult brains is the development of the frontal lobes. The human prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until the early twenties, and this underlies the impulsive behaviour of teenagers. The frontal lobes are sometimes called the organ of socialization. Consider someone who gets rip-roaring drunk on a Saturday night. Zombie systems which have been lurking under the surface the whole time, are no longer masked by normally functioning frontal lobe. Instead they are disinhibited, and climb onto the main stage. Work is being done with people, using bars on a computer to exercise their frontal lobes, to give them greater self-reflection and socialization (Stephen LaConte and Pearl Chiu) The legal system is built partially upon the premise that humans are all equal before the law. This built-in myth of human equality suggests that all people are equally capable of decision making, impulse control, and comprehending consequences. While admirable, the notion is simply not true. Socialization People can however be modified. The child who is scolded for shoplifting, is being socialized. We need to differentiate between those who are modifiable, such a a teenager who still needs further frontal development, and someone with frontal lobe damage, who will never develop the capacity for socialization. The latter should be incapacitated by the state in a different sort of institution. Gene complexity Not everyone has heard that the Human Genome Project has been, in some ways, a failure. Once we sequenced the whole code, we didn't get hoped-for breakthrough answers about the genes that are unique to mankind; instead we discovered a massive recipe book for building the nuts and bolts of biological organisms..... Imagine going to different factories and examining the pitches and lengths of the screws used. This would tell you little about the function of the final product - say, a toaster versus a blow dryer. Both have similar elements configured into different functions. We have to acknowledge that successive levels of reduction are doomed to tell us very little about the questions important to humans.... Most diseases are polygenetic, meaning that they result from subtle contributions from tens or even hundreds of different genes. And as science develops better techniques, we are discovering that not just the coding regions of genes matter, but also the areas in between - what used to be thought of as 'junk' DNA. Most diseases seem to result from a perfect storm of numerous minor changes that combine in dreadfully complex ways. 210/211 The importance of environment interacting with physical factors Plus the contributions from the genome can really be understood only in the context of interaction with the environment. For instance many hundred of genes have been found to correlate with schizophrenia, yet one of the critical factors in developing schizophrenia seems to be the stress of being an immigrant to a new country. In studies across countries, immigrant groups who differ most in culture and appearance from the host population, carry the highest risk of developing it. You stand an 828 percent higher chance of committing a violent crime if you carry the Y chromosome, ie if you are male; but why aren't all males criminal? That is, only 1 percent of males are incarcerated. The answer is that knowledge of the genes alone is not sufficient to tell you much about behaviour. The way in which your body can process things like serotonin, and the environment in which you are brought up, are relevant as well. There are genes that can predispose one to depression, but it usually takes bad life events as well, to trigger a depression. Another example comes from the observation that smoking cannabis as a teenager increases the probability of developing psychosis as an adult. But this connection is true only for some people, and not for others. A genetic variation underlies one's susceptibility to this. With one combination of alleles, there is a strong link between cannabis use and adult psychosis; with a different combination, the link is week. Similarly, psychologists Angela Scarpa and Adrian Raine measured differences in brain function among people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder - a syndrome characterized by a total disregard for the feelings and rights of others, and one that is highly prevalent among the criminal population. The researchers found that antisocial personality disorder had the highest likelihood of occurring when brain abnormalities were combined with a history of adverse environmental experiences. In other words, if you have certain problems with your brain but are raised in a good home, your might turn out okay. If your brain is fine and your home is terrible, you might still turn out fine. But if you have mild brain damage and end up with a bad home life, you're tossing the dice for a very unlucky synergy. 215. (hide spoiler)] ______ The Brain with David Eagleman. What is Reality? BBC (You Tube) 1 hour. Actually this comes in 4 parts, which I am currently watching. Highly recommended! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvPu2...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Incognito is incredibly fascinating. I never tire of reading about the brain, an organ so complex that I doubt scientists will ever fully understand it. The book is packed with some the most astounding facts I've ever read, most of which I'd never heard of before or even considered. My favorite brain fact is in this book, still, years after I read Incognito and after reading other brain books. The topic has the potential to be textbook-like, but readers shouldn't be scared of Incognito. Eagleman Incognito is incredibly fascinating. I never tire of reading about the brain, an organ so complex that I doubt scientists will ever fully understand it. The book is packed with some the most astounding facts I've ever read, most of which I'd never heard of before or even considered. My favorite brain fact is in this book, still, years after I read Incognito and after reading other brain books. The topic has the potential to be textbook-like, but readers shouldn't be scared of Incognito. Eagleman is a brilliant man, but he wanted his book to be for the lay reader and is style is very engaging and accessible without being condescending. I also recommend his short and quirky Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, a fictional brain-based book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    This was a much better book than I thought it was going to be and a much better book than you might think from even flicking through it. You know, there are cartoons and while this isn't a guaranteed sign that things will be bad, it is the next best thing to a guarantee. And I listened to this as a talking book - and the author reads the book. This, too, is generally a mistake. But he did a reasonable job even here, although, to be honest, I think he would have been better served with a professio This was a much better book than I thought it was going to be and a much better book than you might think from even flicking through it. You know, there are cartoons and while this isn't a guaranteed sign that things will be bad, it is the next best thing to a guarantee. And I listened to this as a talking book - and the author reads the book. This, too, is generally a mistake. But he did a reasonable job even here, although, to be honest, I think he would have been better served with a professional. A lot of this book confirms my prejudices - so, of course, I approve of it immediately. Some of those prejudices include the idea that our personalities (our souls) are in fact elaborately constructed by the physical reality of our brains. He ends this book by somewhat calling this into question, but I like to see that mostly as him covering his bum, just in case. The bits of this that were particularly interesting, though, were not so much the speculations on consciousness and quantum theory - despite what he has to say on this about keeping an open mind, I still wonder about the point of raising this at all - but rather what he has to say about the nature of consciousness as has been illuminated by science and the implications of those illuminations. And for the first nine-tenths of this book he gives one surprising example after another. Until I got distracted recently I was reading a book called - The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. This is a mind-blowing work. The review will come eventually. Anyway, this book also looks at visual perception and how our brains constructs what we see - or, more accurately, what we think we see. We imagine we get a beautifully clear, panoramic view of the world and all for the remarkably low cost of opening our eyes. However, the reality is nothing at all like the appearance. In fact, rather than what we think we get when we open our eyes - about 250 degrees or fairly clear photograph of the world - in fact we get a rather tiny clear spot of attention and a brain that deludes us by filling in the rest in broad strokes. And he proves this in the most remarkable ways. The first is by way of a test of peripheral vision where he gets someone to look directly at his nose while he holds some coloured pencils in his hand at arms length. They are asked to say what colours and what order the pencils are in his hand. If we had the kind of vision we think we do this ought to be simplicity itself - but we don't have the kind of vision we think we do. But the best example he gives is something I have known for years but didn't realise could be so easily shown. We all know that light enters the eye through a lens which inverts the image and displays it upside down on the retina at the back of the eye. We like to think of this inverted image as a perfect little picture of the world - not unlike a video camera image. And we think the amazing thing that happens with this image is that our brain flips it around so it is right way up. The problem is this is by far the least impressive trick our brain does. Think about your retina as a cinema screen. The problem is that you need to get the image formed on this screen to your brain and the cable guy who put in the cable to transmit this data to your brain stuck the cable right in the middle of the screen. That means there are two great big holes right in the middle of your vision. Now, you may have noticed that you have never noticed these holes. That's because your brain fills them in. But do you want to see the hole? Place your hands in front of you so that your index fingers are pointing to the sky and your thumbs are touching and hold your hands about thirty centimetres (a foot for those of you still on base twelve) from your eyes. Close your left eye and do not move your focus from your left finger. Move your fingers away from your body and while still focused on your right finger notice what happens to your left finger - what happens is that it disappears. It disappears because it moves into your blind spot - the hole in your visual field. But you don't see a dark spot - your brain just fills in more background scene - background scene you know isn't actually there, because your finger is there. Think about that for a moment. The vast majority of what you think you see is actually stuff that you brain made up. And as long as no problems are encountered the made up world is the one you are most contented in living in. But wait, there's more. We are quite sure we have free will - but what is really interesting is some experiments reported here that seriously call this into question. One is where they get split brain patients and show them different words in their different eyes. Say, flower and tablecloth. They then tell the people to touch the object they had shown to them. People touch both a flower and a tablecloth - but only one side of their brain has the power of speech and so when they are asked why they touched the tablecloth the real answer should be, I've no idea. But this is never the answer given. Rather people make stuff up. They say things like, "I've been wanting to buy a tablecloth like this for years and just wanted to see if it felt as nice as it looks". Very, very often our 'motivation' for doing something is added only after we have seen ourselves doing it. There is a really interesting discussion on the problem of guilt given our questionable volition, and the perfectly sensible suggestion that we should only punish people if we think it will change their behaviour in the future. I know those of you who like the idea of punishment for punishment's sake won't like this suggestion very much, but it does seem to make sense to me. But then, I've crazy leftwing views with these things and don't really get off on the idea of punishing people for things beyond their control. There is a very long discussion on the incident where Mel Gibson told a Jewish cop that Jews were the cause of all wars in the world when he was pulled over for driving while being about twice the legal blood alcohol level. This is presented as some kind of proof that we are multiple people in the one body - and while I think this is true, as far as it goes, I don't think the example given is all that useful, mostly because I think the writer constantly misinterprets what actually happened in this case. Gibson later said he was not anti-semitic, and, I for one, think that is actually the case. What I think happened was that when Gibson was pulled over he knew he was buggered. This cop was going to cause him lots of pain - he was about to lose his license and be involved in a court case that would be embarrassing. The alcohol in his system told him - you need to kick this guy's arse. But how? He could have said, "I think you police aren't very nice people" - but it is just possible that the policeman may not have been terribly upset by this. A bit like Mel kicking the guy with a pair of fluffy slippers. However, there were a pair of steal tipped jackboots available. Do you for a second think that if the policeman was black Gibson would have started to rant about Jews ruling the world? Hardly. What Gibson did was unforgivable, but it was about something other than him 'displaying the racist within' - this was about grabbing whatever is available to hurt someone who is hurting you in the most painful way possible. Not pretty, but something quite different to what is discussed in this book. All the same, this is a fascinating book and remarkably simply written, despite the quite complicated ideas presented. An interesting book to read after Freud's Interpretation of Dreams - and remarkably consistent with the central ideas of that book too.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Lane

    Neuroscientists need to be pretty smart people. Even smarter is the neuroscientist who can produce writing which is attractive and appealing to our less-informed minds. David Eagleman can. Incognito is a wide-ranging and entertaining look at the development of our thinking about thinking, and the current state of brain-science. He covers • how and why we have practically no conscious knowledge of what’s going on in the incredibly complex machinery of our brains, and why the “chief executive” (ou Neuroscientists need to be pretty smart people. Even smarter is the neuroscientist who can produce writing which is attractive and appealing to our less-informed minds. David Eagleman can. Incognito is a wide-ranging and entertaining look at the development of our thinking about thinking, and the current state of brain-science. He covers • how and why we have practically no conscious knowledge of what’s going on in the incredibly complex machinery of our brains, and why the “chief executive” (our consciousness) is only brought into play on occasion • how totally misleading the “evidence” of our senses and our common-sense can be • how our minds contain multitudes of “ourselves” – so we can argue with ourselves, laugh at ourselves and make contracts with ourselves • and how vulnerable our brains are to small things that can change our functioning radically. Which all means… we’re not really driving the boat, even though we fool ourselves that we are. Our unconscious is at the wheel, driving from charts of “innumerable generations of evolutionary selection and a lifetime of experiences” and only enlisting our conscious mind from time to time. It’s pretty challenging stuff for those of us who have spent lifetimes working on polishing our decision-making skills and exploring our consciousness. It’s even more challenging when his research-study-by-research-study compilation of the above premises brings us to the big questions of “where then does our free will operate?” “What then does being culpable or blameworthy, in a criminal sense, mean?” And, his central question in this book comes through from his role as director of Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law – “how do we design a forward-looking , brain-compatible legal system?” He is not arguing that “to understand all is to forgive all”, but rather that while people who break social contracts need to be “warehoused” away from society, there is a difference between those who can then modify their own patterns and strengthen their self-control mechanisms through something he calls “the prefrontal workout”, and those who can’t. Different treatment is required. Having thrown that stone into the pool, he then moves back to perhaps more familiar territory about consciousness, self-knowledge, nature/nurture, reductionism/emergence, and finishes with another big idea – that our brain is only the hub of a broader socio-biological system. But what has stuck with me is the question about how we need to redesign our ways of dealing with criminal behaviour. It was so cleverly structured into the book. I was reading along going ‘yes, yes, I get that’ as he tracked through what was partly familiar research and interpretation and explanation and sense-making … then wham. A really tough “so what do we need to DO, now that we know what we know?” question. It’s changed my thinking – and that’s the best thing I can say about any book. Thank you David. Incognito – The Secret Lives of the Brain David Eagleman, The Text Publishing Company Melbourne, 2011 www.eagleman.com

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alisa Kester

    Another hard one to review. If I were going by the first few chapters, it would have been not only five stars, but one of my personal 'Best Books of 2011'. However, in the last two thirds the content took a nose dive into absurdity. The author first attempts to prove that we have no free will, because much of our behavior is ruled by the subconscious. Um...last time I checked, my subconscious was still *me*. Then, the author puts forward a case that because criminals do bad things, they are clea Another hard one to review. If I were going by the first few chapters, it would have been not only five stars, but one of my personal 'Best Books of 2011'. However, in the last two thirds the content took a nose dive into absurdity. The author first attempts to prove that we have no free will, because much of our behavior is ruled by the subconscious. Um...last time I checked, my subconscious was still *me*. Then, the author puts forward a case that because criminals do bad things, they are clearly all brain-damaged, and thus don't have the same level of 'blameworthiness' for their crimes as 'normal' people do. He compares them to people who have disorders like Tourette's. He spends chapters building this case, and ignoring this simple fact: Tourette's sufferers cannot control their actions, but criminals can...if they want to. When was the last time you saw a burglar steal in front of a policeman? If the burglar truly was brain-damaged, and 'had no control' over what he did, then the simple presence of a cop wouldn't stop him.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Isil Arican

    Very simply narrated neuroscience book that explains some of the interesting neuroscientific phenomena. The writer has a easy to read style with many examples, and even though he does not go deep, he tells a lot about interesting things surrounding cognitive science. If I was a new reader to the area, probably I would have liked the book better and would give more stars. However, it was not very fulfilling for me, since I read a lot about on the same subject, and some of them were much better an Very simply narrated neuroscience book that explains some of the interesting neuroscientific phenomena. The writer has a easy to read style with many examples, and even though he does not go deep, he tells a lot about interesting things surrounding cognitive science. If I was a new reader to the area, probably I would have liked the book better and would give more stars. However, it was not very fulfilling for me, since I read a lot about on the same subject, and some of them were much better and more detailed. Why 3 stars? 1. He explains some things in a too simplistic way. Again, good for the wow factor, not so good if you really are interested finding out whys. This level of simplicity also waters down some issues and as the writer jumps from conclusion to conclusion, it makes you think whether these were too premature. 2. Some of the research/ studies he cites are out of date. With the replicability crisis on cognitive science we know some of these studies are in fact poorly conducted and could not be replicated. Their conclusions are careless generalizations. And unfortunately lot of premises of the book relies on these premature non-asserted conclusions. 3. The last episode goes into a long tirade of bashing rationalist approach. The writer thinks that the materialist approach is overrated and it favors reductionism and advocate there might be more than what it seems to many phenomena. However, his attitude during the rest of the book contradicts his stance, since he takes many of the observational studies results as "facts". Also his examples for arguing against the materialism is faulty in my opinion. For example he gives an example of quantum physics as a proof that this approach does not work, since it contradicts the newtonian physics. I respectfully disagree, since this only proves that we thought we knew how matter was formed before, but now we know better with additional informations and observations. This does not disprove materialistic approach at all. Just because we updated what we knew with the new things we learned is not an argument against materialism or reductionism, it shows that our understanding how the world works improves with the new things we learn. In this last episode, it felt like he is invoking an "supernatural" explanation for some phenomena, beyond materialism. 4. His last episode also contradicts with an earlier episode he wrote regarding justice system. Even though he bashed materialism and criticizes Occam's Razor as being too reductionist, he does not shy away making hasty generalizations on how criminals should be treated based upon couple of examples he mentions in the book. Overall, an entertaining book, but has some internal contradictions. Also do not wait for lot of depth, it is more like a compilation of popular cognitive science literature sprinkled with personal opinions on how we know what we know. I listened this book while doing errands and driving, so it was not bad, But I am glad I did not sit down and spend time to read it. Again, if it is your first introduction to neuroscience, it is a fun book, but take his conclusions with a grain of salt.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    One of the most enjoyable audio books I've listened to. Eagleman has me thinking about the mysterious and various parts of the brain, about how slow and inefficient our consciousness is and about how much goes on unconsciously, deep in the brain, and about all the odd things that happen to people because of tumors, strokes and brain injuries, and about how complex the brain is, and about how little we understand it (his analogy is that it is like studying earth from orbit in space). He has anothe One of the most enjoyable audio books I've listened to. Eagleman has me thinking about the mysterious and various parts of the brain, about how slow and inefficient our consciousness is and about how much goes on unconsciously, deep in the brain, and about all the odd things that happen to people because of tumors, strokes and brain injuries, and about how complex the brain is, and about how little we understand it (his analogy is that it is like studying earth from orbit in space). He has another cool analogy on the unpredictability of true causes. He looks at a scientific analysis of a found, working radio and has the scientist study it, taking different pieces apart to discover how it works, and concluding the the wiring is the critical feature to make a radio talk and play music. How would one go from there to even considering radio waves. And that is science. The answers aren't around the corner, they are outside our current conceptual framework. This also has me thinking about how little of the world we are able to sense, yet we have no concept of what we can't sense. Because what we do sense is our reality. And about how we make a decision while different parts of our brain are battling against each other to lead us to the decision of that part. Each decision being the winner of multiple unconscious battles in the brain. And how little control we have over that. There are, I imagine, many books like this. But Eagleman did a great of job getting me excited about all the information he had to share, and in audio form (he reads it himself), which means it's not too complicated to listen to, but also that reads very nicely.

  13. 4 out of 5

    R K

    Sublime. Absolutely Sublime. I've said it time and time again that an outstanding book is one that leaves me speechless with incomprehensible gibberish being the only sounds you hear. After all, how can I summarize what is already so eloquently told by the book itself? It's an experience you must go through yourself. Most of us are aware that our brain can be split simply into two parts; the conscious and the unconscious. But beyond that, do we consider anything? Do we even care? Surely the most Sublime. Absolutely Sublime. I've said it time and time again that an outstanding book is one that leaves me speechless with incomprehensible gibberish being the only sounds you hear. After all, how can I summarize what is already so eloquently told by the book itself? It's an experience you must go through yourself. Most of us are aware that our brain can be split simply into two parts; the conscious and the unconscious. But beyond that, do we consider anything? Do we even care? Surely the most important part of our brain is the part we use in our daily life, no? Review Continued Here

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vegantrav

    Do you believe in libertarian free will or Cartesian dualism? If so, David Eagleman’s Incognito will radically challenge your beliefs. Incognito is probably the best work of nonfiction that I have read this year (2011), and it is also one of the best books on neuroscience that I have read in quite some time. Some of the material here has been presented elsewhere (if you have read works on neuroscience or consciousness by scientists and philosophers like Antonio Damasio, V. S. Ramachandran, Joseph Do you believe in libertarian free will or Cartesian dualism? If so, David Eagleman’s Incognito will radically challenge your beliefs. Incognito is probably the best work of nonfiction that I have read this year (2011), and it is also one of the best books on neuroscience that I have read in quite some time. Some of the material here has been presented elsewhere (if you have read works on neuroscience or consciousness by scientists and philosophers like Antonio Damasio, V. S. Ramachandran, Joseph Ledoux, Alva Noe, Patricia Churchland, and Daniel Dennett, much of the material in Incognito will be familiar to you), but Eagleman does an amazing job of showing how processes below the level of conscious awareness control much of our behavior and actually make us who we are. One of the most frightening yet enlightening case studies that Eagleman discusses in this book is that of a man who had been married for twenty years and lived a normal, law-abiding life when, suddenly and unexpectedly, this man developed an intense interest in child pornography and even attempted to solicit sex from a very young prostitute: this middle-aged heterosexual man suddenly found that he was a pedophile (although he never actually raped a child). At the same time as his sexual appetites were changing, he also began having very bad headaches, so his wife took him to see a physician, and eventually he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When the tumor was removed, both his headaches and his problem with pedophilia disappeared. About a year later, however, the headaches returned, and so did his sexual interest in children. He returned to the neurologist, and it was discovered that his original tumor had not been completely removed and had started growing again, and upon cutting out the tumor a second time, he again lost his sexual interest in children. Another example of a tumor causing a sudden change in behavior that Eagleman discusses is that of, Charles Whitman, who in 1966 killed 16 people (and wounded 32 others) on the campus of the University of Texas. Prior to the shooting, Whitman’s behavior had begun to change dramatically, and he felt that something was wrong with him. In the suicide note he wrote before committing his mass murder, he asked that he be autopsied when he died. When an autopsy was carried out, a tumor was found to have been growing and pressing against his amygdala; the amygdala plays a key role in regulating aggression, fear, and social behavior. Whitman’s friends testified to the fact that, in the months leading up to the shooting, he had not really been himself. Whitman himself wrote, in his suicide note, that he no longer felt like himself and that he was struggling with violent urges that he could no longer control. Had he not had this tumor, it is almost certain that Whitman would not have become a killer. Eagleman presents numerous other examples which show that our behavior and personalities are determined to a much greater extent by physiological and chemical processes than the ordinary layperson might think. However, Eagleman also pays due respect to the effects of the environment in which we live as a factor in shaping our very selves, but as he points out, we can no more control the environment in which we find ourselves than we can control the physiological and chemical processes that cause our brains to grow and change. This book is not meant to be an argument against free will. It is not a philosophical treatise. What it is is a fascinating synthesis of the biological basis of the self and of consicousness. I highly, highly recommend it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kalin

    29 Оct 2014: Just finished editing the Bulgarian translation. My inner selves--as is their wont at the end of a road--are still in a jumble. A more coherent review coming soon. ;) What I'd like to note right now is: this is another book I highly recommend to scientists and laymen alike. If you've ever struggled with questions such as "Telepathy? What do you mean, reading my mind? Am I supposed to have only one of them?" or "So who is the real me? The one who passionately believes in ahimsa and no 29 Оct 2014: Just finished editing the Bulgarian translation. My inner selves--as is their wont at the end of a road--are still in a jumble. A more coherent review coming soon. ;) What I'd like to note right now is: this is another book I highly recommend to scientists and laymen alike. If you've ever struggled with questions such as "Telepathy? What do you mean, reading my mind? Am I supposed to have only one of them?" or "So who is the real me? The one who passionately believes in ahimsa and non-violence? Or the one who wants to beat all of you senseless, for being such a stupid, insensible bunch? Or the one who laughs on the sideline, high above and beyond?" (or with Occam's effing razor), Incognito has some answers for you. Sorry ... I meant suggestions. ;) ~ 20 Dec 2014: This hardly counts as coherent, but ... here goes: Let me first say that I've appreaciated this book and the new insights (or confirmations of old ones) it gave me a lot. This is the only reason why I let myself spend so much time examining the ideas that didn't quite convince me. (Because, after decades of struggling against myself, I remain a perfectionist. Yes, yes, you already got the point about the selves, yes? :) If I didn't care enough for it, I wouldn't bother. So, the ideas that didn't quite convince me: There are some iffy, oversimplifying assumptions here (just like in any popular science book). For instance, the experiment that shows that men find women with dilated pupils more attractive. Here's how Eagleman explains it: In the largely inaccessible workings of the brain, something knew that a woman’s dilated eyes correlates with sexual excitement and readiness. Their brains knew this, but the men in the study didn’t – at least not explicitly. The men may also not have known that their notions of beauty and feelings of attraction are deeply hardwired, steered in the right direction by programs carved by millions of years of natural selection. When the men were choosing the most attractive women, they didn’t know that the choice was not theirs, really, but instead the choice of successful programs that had been burned deep into the brain’s circuitry over the course of hundreds of thousands of generations. However, do dilated pupils imply only sexual excitement? What if they demonstrate any sort of excitement: artistic, spiritual, the "wow, I just had a glimpse into the meaning of life" kind? I'm asking this from personal experience: I've noticed that pupils dilate when people switch into their deeper, more intense modes--whatever the reason. And, boy, don't I love them when they're like that! :D So, should we say that we're genetically programmed to feel attracted by people in their more intense modes? Is this only about procreation? Is it about creation? What else? (This is related to the question why--and if--we're attracted by people with larger eyes. Hello, South Korea. ;) Or listen to this one: To justify his claim that our brains do most of the work without the involvement (or indeed awareness) of our conscious mind, Eagleman supplies the following examples: In 1862, the Scottish mathematician James Clerk Maxwell developed a set of fundamental equations that unified electricity and magnetism. On his deathbed, he coughed up a strange sort of confession, declaring that „something within him“ discovered the famous equations, not he. He admitted he had no idea how ideas actually came to him – they simply came to him. William Blake related a similar experience, reporting of his long narrative poem Milton: „I have written this poem from immediate dictation twelve or sometimes twenty lines at a time without premeditation and even against my will.“ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe claimed to have written his novella The Sorrows of Young Werther with practically no conscious input, as though he were holding a pen that moved on its own. I have nothing against the claim. I wonder, however, about the relevance of the examples. Of course, writing a scientific book, Eagleman can't quite say, "You know, maybe they did get their input from the outside." Modern science--at least the subset Eagleman adheres to--hasn't proven that human beings are capable of getting input from the outside. Therefore, it must be the result of the subconscious work of our brains. QED. (What really riled me here was ignoring Blake's phrase "against my will." I know people who write like that: under dictation, aye. Dwelling on topics and expressing voices that have nothing to do with their lives or dispositions. Wondering who these voices are. And since I'm not writing a scientific book but a personal review on Goodreads, I don't mind saying it. Feel free to explain it away. ;) Aaaand ... The paradox of the paradox of free will The most baffling mystery of scientific thinking nowadays I. Just. Don't. Get it. So, there's a subconscious impulse to move my arm several hundred milliseconds before I grow aware of my intention to do so, let alone do it. So, maybe I--the conscious self--am not in charge of moving my arm. So, maybe there's no free will. It's already been decided, all of it. By something else. But...butbutbut, dear Mr Eagleman: What made you write this book? Rather than that one? How many milliseconds do you estimate it took your whatever-it-was-but-definitely-not-free-will to come up with the idea and find the proper words and put them in the proper places? What makes me write this comment? Rather than polish the Bulgarian translation for the last time? How many milliseconds here? Anyone? Can anyone please explain what I'm missing? ... I guess the real problem here is how Eagleman (or Michael Brooks, or-- the list goes on and on) defines "free will." I think this is the closest to a definition that Eagleman provides: Even in the face of all the machinery that constitutes you, is there some small internal voice that is independent of the biology, that directs decisions, that incessantly whispers the right thing to do? Isn’t this what we call free will? Now, if his point is that free will is NOT independent of biology, that is, it takes into account our physical bodies and is influenced by them, I have no bones to pick. I'm yet to see something--anything--that's truly independent of anything else. (I am a holist.) The bone-picking starts when I try to quantify this dependence. How much of what we do is determined by the "machinery"? How much, by something else? A lot of recent arguments I've seen leave me with the impression it's all "machinery." Which is as funny as any absolute claim. (This one included, yes. Didn't you just laugh a bit? ;) To be fair to Eagleman, he does go on to quantify some of the unconscious influences, and ultimately says that for his purposes, the question of free will is irrelevant. Free will may be there, or not--it doesn't change anything about his suggestions on improving the legal system by incorporating our understanding that many actions are outside our conscious control. Which is another idea that I love. I just wonder why he, too, had to go into this "free will" morass. Incidentally, the best approach I've seen to this issue--"best" as in most convincing and productive--was in The Broken God, where the protagonist was learning to discover his hidden biological programs and re-program them. However, I don't know what sources inspired Zindell for that. Interesingly, Eagleman seems to suggest something similar. He calls it prefrontal workout: So our new rehabilitative strategy is to give the frontal lobes practice in squelching the short-term circuits. My colleagues Stephen LaConte and Pearl Chiu have begun leveraging real-time feedback in brain imaging to allow this to happen. Imagine that you’d like to get better at resisting chocolate cake. In this experiment, you look at pictures of chocolate cake during brain scanning – and the experimenters determine the regions of your brain involved in the craving. Then the activity in those networks is represented by a vertical bar on a computer screen. Your job is to make the bar go down. The bar acts as a thermometer for your craving: If your craving networks are revving high, the bar is high; if you’re suppressing your craving, the bar is low. You stare at the bar and try to make it go down. Perhaps you have insight into what you’re doing to resist the cake; perhaps it is inaccessible. In any case, you try out different mental avenues until the bar begins to slowly sink. When it goes down, it means you’ve successfully recruited frontal circuitry to squelch the activity in the networks involved in impulsive craving. The long term has won over the short. Still looking at pictures of chocolate cake, you practice making the bar go down over and over until you’ve strengthened those frontal circuits. It's a beginning. ;) And now to the really great reminders: The illusion-of-truth effect: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/4189495 Even though I'm very well aware of this beast, it's unbelievable how many times I've caught my opinions being swayed by it. :( A trick I love: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/4189659 However, I usually do it by offering my friend two (or more) fingers to choose from. Well, finally we know how it works. ;) Finally, being a holist :P, I love the way Eagleman beats some sense into pure reductionists. Starting with his explanation of emergence: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/4279987 He goes on with examples from our brains and general biology, and concludes that: A meaningful theory of human biology cannot be reduced to chemistry and physics, but instead must be understood in its own vocabulary of evolution, competition, reward, desire, reputation, avarice, friendship, trust, hunger, and so on. Check out the other quotes I've liked too. Here be nuggets. Did I say the book is highly recommended? ;) Further reading: Your brain ain't asploded yet? Give it a shove! The Holographic Universe Thinking, Fast and Slow

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    This very interesting and thought provoking book by neuroscientist David Eagleman is a little disorienting. After all, based on the numerous observations and scientific experiments he details Eagleman’s conclusion is that we have no freewill. I may think I am considering options, making decisions, and choosing, for instance, what book to read, but according to scientists who study these things I am not in charge, if by “I” what I mean is the “I” that I know--my conscious mind. It’s not surprisin This very interesting and thought provoking book by neuroscientist David Eagleman is a little disorienting. After all, based on the numerous observations and scientific experiments he details Eagleman’s conclusion is that we have no freewill. I may think I am considering options, making decisions, and choosing, for instance, what book to read, but according to scientists who study these things I am not in charge, if by “I” what I mean is the “I” that I know--my conscious mind. It’s not surprising that drugs, alcohol, brain injury, and evolutionary forces exert power over us that we are not always aware of while it is going on, but according to the science Eagleman reports there is more to it than that. In an experiment in which people were asked to lift their fingers at the time of their choosing, the conscious brain impulse to move was preceded by unconscious brain activity. Is this proof that the conscious decision to move a finger is governed by the unconscious mind? I’m not sure. And if it is proof, would that carry over into every kind of decision? Does the unconscious mind really have invisible, almost god-like power over every thought and action? While I am not convinced that the freewill/determinism question has been fully answered--neuroscience is still a very young field of knowledge--the first five chapters of Incognito are full of fascinating, persuasive examples that demonstrate how the reality we perceive with our conscious minds bears sometimes only a rough resemblance to what is actually happening. When reading Incognito I frequently broke off to share these examples with whoever was around me. There are illustrations you can try yourself, for instance there is a graphic that allows you to prove to yourself that your eyes have a blind spot, a gap in vision that your unconscious brain fills in based on what is probably there. In the final chapters of Incognito Eagleman uses the latest information from brain science to draw logical but sometimes counterintuitive and unsettling conclusions about the future of the justice system. With little or no freewill, what should society do with criminals? Since the unconscious operates on a “team of rivals” model in which conflicting impulses struggle for control, Eagleman would have incarceration based on the neuroplasticity of the offender—that is on how likely it is that the criminal’s brain could respond to reconditioning techniques. Those who could be reconditioned so that they would no longer cause damage to society would be; those who couldn’t be reconditioned because of frontal lobe impairment or other brain defects would be warehoused. Even though neuroscience is still in its infancy there is a lot of riveting information here about how the brain works. You don’t have to agree with all the conclusions Eagleman draws in this book for it to be worth reading. Incognito is a great book for sparking deep and engaging discussions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    Wow what a surprise this one was! A must read!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Myth

    Disclaimer: I have not actually finished this book and do not know if I will. As someone who's very interested in neurology this book does have it's good moments, but they're largely eclipsed by a bunch of dumbing down. I don't blame Eagleman, I know it's people in the publishing industry who probably pushed this book to be like this. Following is my reaction to each element I found annoying. There's a summary at the end. Dumbing it down: Too much repetition and unnecessary metaphors. I do not kn Disclaimer: I have not actually finished this book and do not know if I will. As someone who's very interested in neurology this book does have it's good moments, but they're largely eclipsed by a bunch of dumbing down. I don't blame Eagleman, I know it's people in the publishing industry who probably pushed this book to be like this. Following is my reaction to each element I found annoying. There's a summary at the end. Dumbing it down: Too much repetition and unnecessary metaphors. I do not know how many times I have to be told the same thing in different configurations in two to three pages. Okay, I get it. I took the information at face value the first time it was said. Generalizations: Eagleman makes a ton of sweeping generalizations. I know generalizations are easy, but they're inaccurate and more fit for a marketing campaign than a book. I know Eagleman knows this, because there are times when he takes the more cautious approach and then follows it up with more generalizations. Generalizations lead to assumptions that are not necessarily true, if at all. It's pop-science at it's "best." Language: The writing style in this book bounces around. There are sections I don't mind, but the use of "you" is incredibly obnoxious. Obviously Eagleman doesn't know the sort of audience he may have, who may think in this rare way, have this condition and so on. The usage of "you" is yet again something more suited to advertisements than books (unless it's self-help.) Examples/Excersizes: These are so annoying. For one, not all of them will work on an ebook and two, not all of them will work period. This is not a children's textbook, so I don't understand why there are these childish little games. A normal person can reason that the information is true without having the mind games they published in Highlights in the 90s. Not all them work either, for reasons that are covered in the book. For instance, finding your blind spot. I'm aware I have a blind spot, but the little test didn't work at all and for a simple reason, I know the object/dot is there. Everyone I tried the test on (mostly family members) couldn't get the spot to go away and turn into background fuzz either. Why exactly is it assumed that the mind would turn a spot into background fuzz anyway (even though you shouldn't be able to technically see either?) Why wouldn't some brains simply fill in the dot? Sources: I took both psychology and media studies in college. I was rarely impressed by my psychology classes. Few actually rely on current information or on experimentation. It's expensive to conduct experiment, but way more reliable. The people who really understand the way the typical person thinks are in marketing and media studies. They stay far more up-to-date and have the money and motivation to do studies. Eagleman relies heavily on psychology which bothers me. A lot of what is known in abnormal psychology is from neurology and from brain injury. Of course there are the therapies that are shown to work, but the ideas surrounding the typical person's psyche seem to be frequently bias and out-of-date. For instance, Eagleman write about what is basically subliminal messages. Images that are displayed too quickly for the conscious mind to process. There's a ton of research that shows that subliminal messages don't work and that message can't be processed without conscious recognition. This is why subliminal messages aren't used in media anymore and we should be skeptical of any study using such a method. We also have to note that there are layers to our consciousness and it's not as simple as Eagleman writes it to be. Again, I assume he knows this and has dumbed it down. Aside from the fact that subliminal messages have never been proven to work, it was found in studies that a message followed up too quickly by another message would push out the last one. Basically, make us forget what we just saw - in studies where they flash faces to figure out if someone is racist (or whatever) we probably are consciously processing what we're seeing, but we're not given much time to make a decision. In another example people picked out words that were flashed, we do process them, but if they happen too quickly it can make our memories more fuzzy and incoherent than normal so we'll remember random things. Studies like this are very prone to human error, bias and I don't have much faith in them. Soft sciences are squishy and should act sponge-like, but are too often isolated and cemented. People in the hard sciences understand the purposes of science and one of those is change. Additionally, the psychology reveals biases, sexist notions and homophobic culture, which is probably only normal for studies taken from 50 to 100 years ago. Does our species reproduce with the use of two specialized sexes? Yes, but does that mean we're wired entirely just for sex for the sake of sex. No, we're a social species and we rely on community. There are other mammal that get what they want without being the least bit polite to the other they are trying to fornicate with. A zoologist knows more about mammal behavior than an evolutionary psychologist. I wouldn't be surprised if hospital doctors, emergency room workers and proctologists know more about typical human behavior than a psychologist. Studies of other apes have shown sex to be a social behavior that strengthens community. There's also theories in other fields about why there'd be bisexuals (it seems specifically bisexual woman and maybe a sense of community among females to raise children.) In this book human sexuality and attraction is grossly oversimplified (at least as far as I've read.) If we were so hardwired to attractive and healthy people it shouldn't go against our ethical instincts to say "We should 'fix' ugly, sick people and only let beautiful healthy people reproduce." There's also some hypothesis about us being attracted to what we're most familiar with (which is usually our own appearance) so we'll look for people with appearances that remind us of ourselves (or perhaps our parents.) This would explain our notions about people being well matched or looking good together and beauty in the eye of the beholder. tl:dr - Book is dumbed down, uses too many generalizations and has some suspect and inaccurate information. I don't know if I can finish this book. The information is not delivered in a fast-paced or intellectual way and, as such, is not really my style. I'll take my chances with Scientific American over this.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Farha Crystal

    Why can your foot move halfway to the brake pedal before you become consciously aware of danger ahead? Why do you hear your name being mentioned in a conversation that you didn’t think you were listening to? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret? How is it possible to get angry at yourself—who, exactly, is mad at whom? :D Mr. Eagleman shows through examples how often our behavior is regulated by factors we don’t control. And, the answer to "Who/ What am I?" is a never-ending search process unti Why can your foot move halfway to the brake pedal before you become consciously aware of danger ahead? Why do you hear your name being mentioned in a conversation that you didn’t think you were listening to? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret? How is it possible to get angry at yourself—who, exactly, is mad at whom? :D Mr. Eagleman shows through examples how often our behavior is regulated by factors we don’t control. And, the answer to "Who/ What am I?" is a never-ending search process until the system burns out of itself. :D Our capacities for decision-making and the way of seeing the world are not the same among individuals because of our different brain circuitries. So when it comes to criminal behavior: can we be blamed for “choosing” to do something when we only “choose” to do so because we have a brain tumor? Given the fixed state of the brain and the situation the criminal was in at the time of the crime - could he have done other than that which he did? But, won't that require at least one factor between his hardwired brain and nurture/training/experience to have been different? How much control the conscious mind has over its secret self? ... ... ... However, Mr. Eagleman made hasty generalizations on how criminals should be treated based on a couple of examples he mentions in the book which I don't like particularly! Favorite lines : “Imagine for a moment that we are nothing but the product of billions of years of molecules coming together and ratcheting up through natural selection, that we are composed only of highways of fluids and chemicals sliding along roadways within billions of dancing cells, that trillions of synaptic conversations hum in parallel, that this vast egglike fabric of micron-thin circuitry runs algorithms undreamt of in modern science, and that these neural programs give rise to our decision making, loves, desires, fears, and aspirations. To me, that understanding would be a numinous experience, better than anything ever proposed in anyone’s holy text." The book is definitely presented in a readable, easy to understand fashion but I didn't find a single new thing about the brain in this book ... well, that's not a brag/criticism. It's just the current conscious finding except I am dubious about my secret synaptic dance festival :P

  20. 4 out of 5

    Book

    Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman "Incognito" is a fascinating look into our brain and the secrets that it reveals. It's a wonderful book that covers recent findings of mainly the unconscious processes of our brains. Neuroscientist and best-selling author, David Eagleman takes the reader on a journey of discovery of our brains; an enjoyable and enlightening ride that makes the young field of neuroscience fun and informative. This instructive 304-page book is composed of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman "Incognito" is a fascinating look into our brain and the secrets that it reveals. It's a wonderful book that covers recent findings of mainly the unconscious processes of our brains. Neuroscientist and best-selling author, David Eagleman takes the reader on a journey of discovery of our brains; an enjoyable and enlightening ride that makes the young field of neuroscience fun and informative. This instructive 304-page book is composed of the following seven chapters: 1. There’s Someone In My Head, But It’s Not Me, 2. The Testimony of the Senses: What Is Experience Really Like?, 3. Mind: The Gap, 4. The Kinds of Thoughts That Are Thinkable, 5. The Brain Is a Team of Rivals, 6. Why Blameworthiness Is the Wrong Question, and 7. Life After the Monarchy. Positives: 1. An engaging scientific book that is not only accessible but a treat to read. 2. A well-researched book that is well referenced. 3. A fascinating topic in the hands of a neuroscientist. At the end of the first chapter the author ask a long series of intriguing questions about the brain and proceeds to answer them throughout the book. Great stuff! 4. The more we understand how the brain works, the better understanding we will have about ourselves and society. "The emerging understanding of the brain profoundly changes our view of ourselves, shifting us from an intuitive sense that we are at the center of the operations to a more sophisticated, illuminating, and wondrous view of the situation." 5. The book is full of fun and illuminating anecdotes. 6. The author has a wonderful science-writing style, he reveals a scientific discovery and proceeds to elaborate with interesting details. "The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control." 7. The history and evolution of this fascinating young field of brain science. 8. How are vision really works. Dare I say it...it's eye-opening. "You’re not perceiving what’s out there. You’re perceiving whatever your brain tells you." 9. The constructions of the brain. "Time" to know the truth. 10. Amazing facts abound in this book. "Interestingly, schizophrenics can tickle themselves because of a problem with their timing that does not allow their motor actions and resulting sensations to be correctly sequenced." 11. The chasm between what your brain knows and what your mind is capable of knowing. 12. The roles that consciousness plays versus unconsciousness. "The irony is that a professional athlete’s goal is to not think. The goal is to invest thousands of hours of training so that in the heat of the battle the right maneuvers will come automatically, with no interference from consciousness." 13. Evolution it does a species "good". "This underscores a simple but crucial point: the brain’s circuits are designed to generate behavior that is appropriate to our survival." 14. In some respects this book elicits deep philosophical thoughts, "What you are able to experience is completely limited by your biology." Awesome examples provided! 15. The prepackaged software of the brain. Instincts versus automatized behaviors. "Our innate behaviors represent ideas so useful that they became encoded into the tiny, cryptic language of DNA. This was accomplished by natural selection over millions of years: those who possessed instincts that favored survival and reproduction tended to multiply." 16. Understanding why artificial intelligence as in robotics is so complex. 17. How the "Team of Rivals" in the brain works. The rational system versus the emotional system. Neural battles. "Your behavior—what you do in the world—is simply the end result of the battles." 18. Disorders of the brain. Fascinating disorders and the consequences. 19. Do we have free will? What about a soul? Are other animals conscious? Big questions, captivating insights and the implications this may have for the law. "Change the brain, change the person". 20. Find out the most dangerous set of genes. A forward-looking, brain-compatible legal system. 21. The myth of human equality. An interesting idea that supports the author's contention that the law already recognizes that fact. 22. A great final chapter that summarizes the finding of the book and the philosophical considerations. Nature versus nurture. "These examples demonstrate that it is neither biology alone nor environment alone that determines the final product of a personality. When it comes to the nature versus nurture question, the answer almost always includes both." 23. Links worked great and excellent bibliography. Negatives: 1. How many times do I have to read about our friend Phineas Gage? This account is in practically every pop neuroscience book that I've read...and there have been many. 2. The amount of revelations is directly correlated with how many books of this ilk you have read, that being said, this is one of the best books of this genre. 3. There is so much that remains to be known. The books focus is on the unconscious at the expense of the conscious. 4. The book lacks depth. Its target audience is the layperson. In summary, I really enjoyed this book. What a fun and revealing book this was. If I had to do it all over I would have pursued a career in neuroscience over engineering, it's that interesting to me. Eagleman does a wonderful job of interweaving the latest in neuroscience research with interesting stories. The case of mass murderer Charles Whitman as an example will give you pause. The book is provocative and everyone will take something of note from it. I will take the following, " What you are able to experience is completely limited by your biology." I highly recommend it! Further suggestions: "Subliminal" by Leonard Mlodinow, "How to Create a Mind" by Ray Kurzwell, "The Blank Slate" by Steven Pinker, "Are You Sure?" by Ginger Campbell, "The Myth of Free Will" by Cris Evatt, "Who's In Charge" by Michael S. Gazzaniga, "Free Will" by Sam Harris, "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg, "The Ego Tunnel" by Thomas Metzinger, and "The Tell-Tale Brain" by V.S. Ramachandra.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gendou

    This book starts off with a really poor introduction. Poor, because it tries too hard, is hyperbolic, and contains two glaring errors! More on those later. The book runs the gambit of freshman-level psychology with the Freud, the subconscious, chicken sexing (not as dirty as it sounds), priming, synesthesia, etc. It introduces a theory of mind based on a team of rivals, which is pretty neat. The author puts in his two cents on the justice system. He calls for less emphasis on modifiability rather This book starts off with a really poor introduction. Poor, because it tries too hard, is hyperbolic, and contains two glaring errors! More on those later. The book runs the gambit of freshman-level psychology with the Freud, the subconscious, chicken sexing (not as dirty as it sounds), priming, synesthesia, etc. It introduces a theory of mind based on a team of rivals, which is pretty neat. The author puts in his two cents on the justice system. He calls for less emphasis on modifiability rather than culpability in a well-made argument. Arguably, though, he leaves out due consideration for the effect of deterrence. Inexplicably, a lot of time is spent on cosmology in the first part of the book. Eagleman introduces Leibniz as the father of calculus and the idea of a subconscious mind. Both of these are a little misleading. He also says the visible universe is "15 billion light years across". In doing so, he makes three, separate mistakes. First, the visible universe is 13.7 billion years old, and the estimate of 15 billion years is very out-dated for a book published in this decade. Second, he makes a mistake of geometry. The observable universe is a sphere, with us at the center. A sphere is twice the distance "across" as it's radius, so he should have said "30 billion light years across". Finally, the universe is expanding. This means distant objects are actually much farther away than their light-travel-time would suggest. Taking expansion into account, the observable universe is more like 93 billion light years across. Error 1: Three pounds of the most complex material we have discovered in the universe. It's hard to argue against statements like this, because it isn't clear what definition of "complex" is being used. First, let's assume Eagleman means to use information as the measure of complexity. There is more quantum information per unit volume in a black hole than any other object, including the human brain. Maybe he's talking about digital storage? If you say each synapse stores one bit, the human brain has a digital information density of 10^13 bits per cubic centimeter. That's about twice as dense as the theoretical upper limit of 4 gigabits per cubic millimeter for digital, holographic storage. Maybe this is where he gets the claim, but he's still wrong, because synapses do not store digital information! Neurological processes are messy and unreliable for digital computing, obviously. Maybe he's talking about branching complexity? The network of neutrons in the human brain contains hundreds of trillions of linkages, after all. What could be so huge as that, without falling apart? Hyphae are the microscopic, hairlike roots of a fungus. The interconnected hyphae of the Armillaria solidipes cover 3.4 square miles of forest! This single fungal organism is thousands of years old, and I suspect a network diagram of its hyphae would be far more complex than a network diagram of a human brain. Also, consider the Huge-LQG, the largest known structure in the universe. It has a mass of 6 * 10^18 solar masses! The average mass of a star in our galaxy is:m = (mass of milky way) / (number of stars) m = (1,250 billion) / (300 billion) m = 4.17 solar masses per starSo, the number of stars in Huge-LQG is of the order 10^18. Each one of those stars influences its neighbors by gravitation and radiation. Therefore, I claim that this system has a "complexity" on an order (much) greater than 10^18. That's a thousand times more "complex" than the human brain, which has on the order of 10^15 connections. No matter how you define complexity, Eagleman's claim is wrong. Error 2: If you represented these trillions and trillions of pulses in your brain, by a single photon of light, the combined output would be blinding. Really? Let's do the math. First, Eagleman estimates there to be 100 billion neurons in the human brain. He also states that there are on the order of 100 firings per second. So, we can calculate the number of photons per second as: N = (100 billion) * (100 per second) = 10^13 s^-1Let's be generous and assume this light comes from a red laser: E = h * c / v E = (6.626 * 10^-34) * (3 * 10^8) / (635 * 10^-9) E = 3.13 * 10^-19 J The power output of the brain-equivalent laser is: E * N = 3.13 * 10^-6 wattsThat's one thousandth of a milliwatt! Only 0.1% the brightness of our red laser pointer. Far form being "blinding", the human eye can hardly see it. You see, Plank's constant is very small, even more small than the human brain is big. Eagleman is trying to use big numbers to fascinate his readers. Unfortunately for him, physics has neuroscience beet on that front. I don't expect Eagleman to know about things like holographic storage, hyphae, superclusters, or Planck's constant. I do expect him to stick to his subject, and not make grandiose claims outside his area of expertise, in the name of selling books. That's called intellectual fraud.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Martha Love

    Eagleman raises more questions about the human condition than answers and I find this delightful. I am giving this book a 5 star rating because I think he did a superior job of citing and giving his opinions of the research in neuroscience at the time of the writing of it and because he intrigues my own mind to explore his ideas further. I particularly like what Eagleman has to say about the enteric nervous system and it's importance as an example of running as a human system that is not regulat Eagleman raises more questions about the human condition than answers and I find this delightful. I am giving this book a 5 star rating because I think he did a superior job of citing and giving his opinions of the research in neuroscience at the time of the writing of it and because he intrigues my own mind to explore his ideas further. I particularly like what Eagleman has to say about the enteric nervous system and it's importance as an example of running as a human system that is not regulated by our mental ideas, nor is even accessed completely through our thinking brain. He appropriately puts this awareness in the section on "Knowing Thyself" and points out that the conscious "you" has little control over the greater physical part of oneself. As a second brain and somatic reflection enthusiast, I find his idea that you can not really know thyself simply through thinking who you are to be quite accurate and perhaps one of the most important concepts that science needs to explore further to pave the road toward healthy living. Martha Love arthor of What's Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct and Increasing Intuitional Intelligence: How the Awareness of Instinctual Gut Feelings Fosters Human Learning, Intuition, and Longevity

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This was very enlightening - and I don’t think I’ll be able to think the same way about driving, or making choices, or anything I do or think again! I’ve mentioned this book in several conversations I’ve had with people recently, but now that I’m sitting down to write a review, I’m not sure that I can actually put my finger on exactly what I liked about this book - there was so much to take in, that a brief review can hardly do it justice. Some of the things I thought were especially interesting This was very enlightening - and I don’t think I’ll be able to think the same way about driving, or making choices, or anything I do or think again! I’ve mentioned this book in several conversations I’ve had with people recently, but now that I’m sitting down to write a review, I’m not sure that I can actually put my finger on exactly what I liked about this book - there was so much to take in, that a brief review can hardly do it justice. Some of the things I thought were especially interesting were points the author made about free will - and that to a certain extent, none of us are free to do anything - we are held captive by our neural chemistry and neural connections and we do what they make us do - that is a very simplistic view - he explains it much better than I can! Also interesting was his point that we have kind of warring forces inside of our brains - which is why we can argue with ourselves, justify actions, get angry with ourselves etc. Which I knew anyway, but as he points out, it is this ability that makes us who we are - whether our conservative side tends to win out in these discussions or our liberal side. Lots of food for thought here - sparks to ignite our neural circuitry! I think I’ll have to read more books about this subject. 3.5 stars.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lynne King

    I'm fascinated with anything to do with the brain and this was recommended to me. So when I saw all the reviews and that it was a New York Times best seller, I thought this has got to be good and immediately ordered the book. I soon discovered I just didn't like the style of writing, the way in which the subject was explained, skim-read looking for something really good to catch my interest, found very little, and sailed through to the end of the book at page 254. What did interest me though were I'm fascinated with anything to do with the brain and this was recommended to me. So when I saw all the reviews and that it was a New York Times best seller, I thought this has got to be good and immediately ordered the book. I soon discovered I just didn't like the style of writing, the way in which the subject was explained, skim-read looking for something really good to catch my interest, found very little, and sailed through to the end of the book at page 254. What did interest me though were the 26 pages in the bibliography. I know that authors need to give references but surely when you are quoting so many other people, where is the original thought? Just a minor point I guess.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    It's the same-old, same-old (if you've ever read a book about the brain) for the first 75%, and then some new stuff about how neuroscience can and should change the criminal justice system in the last part. I did like this comparison: finding out that we don't have as much control over ourselves as we thought we did is like astronomers discovering that the earth was not the center of the universe. It shouldn't depress us; it should invigorate further study. Not too much to apply to teaching in t It's the same-old, same-old (if you've ever read a book about the brain) for the first 75%, and then some new stuff about how neuroscience can and should change the criminal justice system in the last part. I did like this comparison: finding out that we don't have as much control over ourselves as we thought we did is like astronomers discovering that the earth was not the center of the universe. It shouldn't depress us; it should invigorate further study. Not too much to apply to teaching in this one, but overall decently thought-provoking.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Milan

    Incognito by David Eagleman shows us how the human mind works at a deeper level. The author is a neuroscientist and a professor at Stanford University. Though the book has been written for the general reader, it is more than a 'pop-neuroscience' book. He raises interesting as well as disturbing questions about crime, punishment, the organization of society and 'the myth of human equality'. There are quite a few insights to glean from it: • Our conscious mind is only aware of a tiny fraction of wh Incognito by David Eagleman shows us how the human mind works at a deeper level. The author is a neuroscientist and a professor at Stanford University. Though the book has been written for the general reader, it is more than a 'pop-neuroscience' book. He raises interesting as well as disturbing questions about crime, punishment, the organization of society and 'the myth of human equality'. There are quite a few insights to glean from it: • Our conscious mind is only aware of a tiny fraction of what goes on inside our mind. • Our brain is made up of competing forces and there is no one brain. • Even when we think that we came up with a new idea, it wasn’t probably a moment of genius, but our brain did all the work behind it for days, weeks or months before the answer finally came up to the conscious part of the brain. • We tend to like what we are familiar with. • Our brain is very active and burns a lot of energy when we are learning something new. • The conscious part of our brain acts like a CEO, though it knows nothing or very less about the functions being performed inside the brain. • We are quite poor observers of our own experience. • A large chunk of the human brain is allocated to vision only. • The mere exposure effect proves that our brain starts to like things that we come across often. • Humans have an incredible ability to learn and, with enough practice can automate almost any skill into our subconscious. • Reality is far more subjective than we suppose. • We are blind to our own instincts. They are burned down deep into our genetic code that we don't even notice them properly. • We often assume instinct is not proper thinking, but it was honed by millions of years of evolution. • The more simple something seems to us, the more neural activity there usually is behind its functioning. • Our behavior is the end product of the battles between short and long-term desires. • Human brains always seek patterns to create meaning. • Our perceptions and behaviors are controlled by various neurobiological factors most of them outside our conscious control. My fascination for neuroscience lies to learn the fine details of brain function, instances of the mind-brain complications and the numerous of case histories drawn from psychology, behavioral economics and evolutionary biology. There is no better rabbit hole than our own brain.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Loy Machedo

    Loy Machedo’s Book Review – Incognito by David Eagleman 1. Why does your foot hit the break pedal before you are conscious of danger ahead? 2. Why do you hear your name in a conversation that you didn’t think you were listening to? 3. Why is a person whose name begins with J more likely to marry another person whose name begins with J? 4. Why is it so difficult to keep a secret? 5. How is it possible to get angry at yourself: who, exactly is mad at whom? 6. Are some marriage partners more likely to ch Loy Machedo’s Book Review – Incognito by David Eagleman 1. Why does your foot hit the break pedal before you are conscious of danger ahead? 2. Why do you hear your name in a conversation that you didn’t think you were listening to? 3. Why is a person whose name begins with J more likely to marry another person whose name begins with J? 4. Why is it so difficult to keep a secret? 5. How is it possible to get angry at yourself: who, exactly is mad at whom? 6. Are some marriage partners more likely to cheat? 7. Why do patients on Parkinson’s medications become compulsive gamblers? 8. Why did Charles Whitman, a high-IQ bank teller and former Eagle Scout, suddenly decide to shoot forty-eight people from the University of Texas Tower in Austin?” Find these questions thought-provoking? What about these statements: 1. The best way to mess up your piano piece is to concentrate on your fingers … the best way to miss the golf ball is to analyze your swing. 2. When a professional baseball player connects his bat with a pitch that is traveling too fast for his conscious mind to track, he is leveraging a well-honed alien subroutine. 3. No one can prove the existence of free will, our current legal system — which assumes free will when assigning blame — needs an overhaul. 4. A patient suffering from Alien Hand Syndrome, for instance, may experience one hand picking up a cookie (yum) only to have the other grab it and toss it away (don't forget the diet). 5. We are not born equal. 6. Tiny changes in the brain, even a unexpected accident or medicine intake can cause colossal changes in behavior 7. During World War II, expert British "spotters" used rapid visual-pattern analysis to recognize friendly and enemy aircraft at great distances. A method that cannot be taught or explained but can be manifested by a few. 8. One in a hundred otherwise normal people, may experience something called Synesthesia – where a person may ‘hear’ colors, ‘taste’ shapes, or ‘feel’ sounds. If yes, then the book Incognito by David Eagleman is a Must Read for you. First things first: Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine and directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action. He is also the author of Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia and Sum: Forty Takes from the Afterlives. Rated by The Times as ‘The Hottest Thing in Neuroscience’, Incognito examines the unconscious part of our brains - the complex neural networks that are constantly fighting one another and influencing how we act, the things we're attracted to, and the thoughts that we have. In fact the part I loved the most was how we can learn more about our perception of reality, religion, time, consciousness and crime – all by studying just our unconscious brain! In "Incognito," the neuroscientist and polymath David Eagleman argues that the actions of the unconscious are so powerful and persuasive that when combined with the inescapable influences of genes, undermine our traditional ideas of self-control and free will. The ideas in the book have been presented in pithy observations, simplistic language and amazing anecdotes that leaves you absolutely convinced in what the author is trying to say. The book culminates in an argument for altering social policy and the legal system to acknowledge that we are less than fully responsible for what we do. Towards the end, you will have nothing but a total admiration for what the author has left you with so much so, that the works of Sam Harris ‘Free Will’ would come into play Eagleman, by imagining the future so vividly, puts into relief just how challenging neuroscience is, and will be. Overall, a simply amazing book with a great author and fantastic teacher. I loved the book to bits. Final Ratings – 10 out of 10. Loy Machedo loymachedo.com

  28. 4 out of 5

    M0rningstar

    Ever land on a question in the Never-Ending Book Quiz about a book that you've read but remember very little of? Ever find that, despite drawing a blank on the multiple choice answers, you usually get it right if you just go with the first choice that pops into your head? Ever wonder why? Then this book is for you. Incognito is an engaging and eye-opening romp through fundamental questions related to human consciousness, perception, and free will, as seen through the lens of neuroscientific resea Ever land on a question in the Never-Ending Book Quiz about a book that you've read but remember very little of? Ever find that, despite drawing a blank on the multiple choice answers, you usually get it right if you just go with the first choice that pops into your head? Ever wonder why? Then this book is for you. Incognito is an engaging and eye-opening romp through fundamental questions related to human consciousness, perception, and free will, as seen through the lens of neuroscientific research. The answers are often surprising and have the potential to affect all aspects of our lives, from re-framing our understanding of the passage of time, to offering evidenced-based sentencing options in our criminal justice system. Despite its complex subject matter, the book's language is very accessible. It is a quick, enjoyable read. In fact, Incognito took me longer than usual to get through for a book of this length, because I'm reading it together with a friend, and some of the content is so thought-provoking that we often have to stop and discuss the topic at hand, before returning to the book an hour or two later. The only complaints I have are not really about the book itself. I received an uncorrected proof of Incognito as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway. The figures in the proof copy are of poor quality and sometimes missing altogether, which is particularly frustrating in this book because they can be crucial to understanding the text (many of them contain optical illusions, for instance.) There are of course the usual typos. Neither of these problems should affect the retail version of this book. Aside from these minor quibbles, Eagleman's writing can be a tad pedantic and repetitive at times. However, these passages can be skimmed over easily once you become accustomed to his style. Overall, Incognito is a fun, accessible, and thought-provoking peek into the current scientific understanding of the human consciousness.

  29. 5 out of 5

    keith koenigsberg

    The first downfall of this book is, it is Malcolm Gladwellian in construction. The author pulls in anecdotes and creates his own analogies from "common sense" to make his point. After a while, you get the sense that he is just using the stories and studies which suit his purposes, and leaving the rest out. Very anecdotal. A quick look online and I found a few of his scientific assertions to be half-truths at best. What a shame. The second downfall is that the author isn't half the writer that Mal The first downfall of this book is, it is Malcolm Gladwellian in construction. The author pulls in anecdotes and creates his own analogies from "common sense" to make his point. After a while, you get the sense that he is just using the stories and studies which suit his purposes, and leaving the rest out. Very anecdotal. A quick look online and I found a few of his scientific assertions to be half-truths at best. What a shame. The second downfall is that the author isn't half the writer that Malcolm Gladwell is! So he fills too many pages with fluff, and writes unpersuasively. He doesn't pull you in like Gladwell (or Freud!). The third downfall, (and does the author even realize it?) is that he sets out telling is in the first few chapters just how much the brain lives "a life of its own", filling in information and imagining the outside world world, when, for example, our senses are inadequate to provide details, or when disorders effect the senses. Then, in perfect parallel fashion, he goes on to draw his own conclusions and fill in a lot of philosophy that doesn't necessarily flow from the inadequate research! Eagleman is like the world-fabricating brain in his own book. Oh the irony!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    This book is mostly a very readable account of some of the standard weird things your brain does, but it does contain a very valuable discussion of a serious nature, too. David Eagleman shows through examples how often our behaviour is ruled by factors we don’t control — things in our brain that we may not even know about, but which nonetheless change us. And of course that poses a big question when it comes to criminal behaviour: can we be blamed for “choosing” to do something when we only “cho This book is mostly a very readable account of some of the standard weird things your brain does, but it does contain a very valuable discussion of a serious nature, too. David Eagleman shows through examples how often our behaviour is ruled by factors we don’t control — things in our brain that we may not even know about, but which nonetheless change us. And of course that poses a big question when it comes to criminal behaviour: can we be blamed for “choosing” to do something when we only “choose” to do so because we have a brain tumour? He gives a decent amount of space to a discussion of how the criminal justice system should work given that we know this, and while other reviewers think that what he suggests impinges on civil liberties, I’m not so sure. By my reading, he’s suggested that people can either just sit in prison for as long as necessary, to remove them from society, or they can voluntarily choose to undergo therapies to help them change their behaviour. If that doesn’t work, then they may have to remain incarcerated because otherwise they would reoffend. As long as it is a choice, I don’t see why such an intervention would be inethical — at least no more inethical than letting someone rot in prison for the rest of their life. There are some people for whom that’d be worse than death, after all. At any rate, this book might make you feel a little bit uncomfortable as regards how much free will you have and what your brain is doing behind your back. Still worth a read! I’d probably rate it higher if it had more info that’s new to me. Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

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