Monday, April 15, 2013

Bruce Hood - The Self Illusion: The Brain's Greatest Con Trick?

Bruce Hood's The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity was one of my Best Books from 2012. Here is the publisher's description of the book:
Most of us believe that we are an independent, coherent self--an individual inside our head who thinks, watches, wonders, dreams, and makes plans for the future. This sense of our self may seem incredibly real but a wealth of recent scientific evidence reveals that it is not what it seems--it is all an illusion.

In The Self Illusion, Bruce Hood reveals how the self emerges during childhood and how the architecture of the developing brain enables us to become social animals dependent on each other. Humans spend proportionally the greatest amount of time in childhood compared to any other animal. It's not only to learn from others, Hood notes, but also to learn to become like others. We learn to become our self. Even as adults we are continually developing and elaborating this story, learning to become different selves in different situations--the work self, the home self, the parent self. Moreover, Hood shows that this already fluid process--the construction of self--has dramatically changed in recent years. Social networking activities--such as blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter--are fast becoming socialization on steroids. The speed and ease at which we can form alliances and relationships are outstripping the same selection processes that shaped our self prior to the internet era. Things will never be the same again in the online social world. Hood offers our first glimpse into this unchartered territory.

Who we are is, in short, a story of our self--a narrative that our brain creates. Like the science fiction movie, we are living in a matrix that is our mind. But Hood concludes that though the self is an illusion, it is an illusion we must continue to embrace to live happily in human society.
Professor Hood recently stopped by The RSA ans spoke about the book, and more specifically, about hoiw the brain creates the illusion of a unitary self, but in the end that's all it is - an illusion.

The Self Illusion: The brain's greatest con trick?

11th Apr 2013

Listen to the audio
(full recording including audience Q&A)

RSA Thursday

Most of us consider ourselves to be integrated individuals inhabiting a body that we control like the operator of a sophisticated meat machine. We have a concept of this internal individual making decisions, authoring actions and possessing free will. The feeling that a single, unified, enduring self inhabits the body - the 'me' inside me - is compelling and inescapable. This is how we interact as a social animal and judge each other's actions and deeds.

Professor Bruce Hood, the director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre, visits the RSA to show that the driver of this vehicle is a figment of the brain, generated as a character to weave the narrative of the self together into a coherent story. But if the self is an illusion, where does it come from, and does it matter when it comes to the way humans treat each other? Deep thoughts and deep questions to ponder in this talk of self-construction.

Speaker: Bruce Hood, director, the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre.

Chair: Matthew Taylor, chief executive, RSA.

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