Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

4.0 61
by David Eagleman

ISBN-10: 0307377334

ISBN-13: 9780307377333

Pub. Date: 05/31/2011

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

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…  See more details below


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.
Our behavior, thoughts, and experiences are inseparably yoked to a vast, wet, electrochemical network called the nervous system. The machinery is utterly alien to us, and yet, somehow, it is us. In this dazzling journey, David Eagleman plumbs the depths of the brain to illuminate surprising mysteries: Why does the conscious mind know so little about itself? Why can your foot jump halfway to the brake pedal before you become consciously aware of danger ahead? What do Odysseus and the subprime mortgage meltdown have in common? Why do strippers make more money at certain times of the month? Why are people whose name begins with J more likely to marry other people whose name begins with J? Why did Thomas Edison electrocute an elephant? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret?
This mind-blowing voyage into the inner cosmos includes stopovers in mate-selection, synesthesia, beauty, free will, infidelity, artificial intelligence, visual illusions, dreams, and the future of criminal law. Throughout, Eagleman helps us understand how our perceptions of ourselves and our world result from the hidden workings of the most wondrous thing we have ever encountered: the human brain.

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
9.34(w) x 6.34(h) x 1.12(d)

Table of Contents

1 There's Someone In My Head, But It's Not Me 1

2 The Testimony of the Senses: What Is Experience Really Like? 20

3 Mind: The Gap 55

4 The Kinds of Thoughts That Are Thinkable 75

5 The Brain Is a Team of Rivals 101

6 Why Blameworthiness Is the Wrong Question 151

7 Life After the Monarchy 193

Appendix 225

Acknowledgments 227

Notes 229

Bibliography 255

Index 281

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Incognito 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 61 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting read. As anticipated Mr. Eagleman attributes our known and unknown brain functionality to accidental organic evolutionary self design....intelligence without intelligence...hmmm. Also, It wasn't clear to me in his alternative plan for prison inmate rehabilitation what would motivate a career criminal to use his proposed self help technique. I enjoyed reading this book with the perspective that science is mans tool to discover what God has created and set in motion rather than using it to explain Him away. Yes, I would recommend this book.
DannyKester More than 1 year ago
One if the most interesting books i've read in a long time! Filled with ideas that will have you re-thinking everything you've come to know about how your mind works. Very well written and adds science to what you may have suspected all along but couldnt prove it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I already knew most of what Eagleman presents, having read the original articles and books by the researchers he discusses. As a professor, I taught language and the brain, and one of my fields of research was schizophrenia. Even so, it was a delight to read Eagleman's flowing, lucid prose. What's even better is that he relates brain functions to everyday behavior, explaining why we behave irrationally, for instance, as when we deliberately don't claim a dependent on our income tax deduction, so that we get a larger tax refund later on. I was especially taken by his insights into the evolutionary basis of consciousness. Even if you don't believe in evolution, his discussion of the reasons for consciousness is convincing. Most important is this book's presentation of the complexity of the brain, the different subsystems working on the same stimuli. Eagleman likens our brain to a team of rivals. He explains why we have hunches, why we're attracted to certain people, even why so many marriages fail in their 4th year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the brain and how what we are learning about the brain could be used to understand ourselves and society better. There's no jargon to wade through and the ideas are simple enough that it's easy to miss how profound they are. Many real-world examples and case studies strongly call into question some very fundamental ideas (and some commonly held beliefs upon which our legal system is based) about the extent to which we are responsible for, or are even aware of, what we are doing. The author clearly and convincingly illustrates why our concepts of consciousness and "self" are a lot more suspect than many people may want to believe. The idea about the brain being a series of cooperating rivals is also very interesting (it "feels" true, for what it's worth) and was what drew me to the book when I heard the author interviewed on Fresh Air.
watkd25 More than 1 year ago
Before purchasing this book, I read some of the reviews on this site and elsewhere. I noticed that this book was rated as a "hit-or-miss." A hit, for people that do not know much about neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, etc. A miss, for people who are the opposite; very knowledgeable in these topics and feel that the information within the book seems to be repetitive to what they already know. Because of this, I almost decided to pass on purchasing and reading this book. I am glad I chose to do otherwise. It is very informative and thought provoking. Some people have made comments on the chapter before the last discussing neuroscience/cognition and law and how this chapter is out of place. I saw nothing out of the ordinary with this chapter being placed within the book as the author has some expertise in law within the neuroscience field. This is a recommended read more so for people who lack knowledge in this field like myself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read over 15 books about cognitive science, by 13 different authors. This author is excellent at keeping the reader in touch with his points, consistently throughout the book, I did not come to a point, in any of the chapters, where he lost my attention by over explaining or losing sight on connecting his points back to his concepts. The book is written in colloquial easy to understand grammar, he minimizes the use of complex scientific terms. It's a great book with tons of insight to concepts that you can apply to your everyday life and casual perception
Jollywatson More than 1 year ago
Wonderful look into how the brain works with and without our conscious awareness. The exploration of inner space is an adventure trip worth taking with the author as an engaging guide. Energizing and uplifting look at who we are.
CoreePrice More than 1 year ago
What a great book. If you are fascinated with the human mind and human behavior, this book is for you.
mlcap123 More than 1 year ago
While I do appreciate David Eagleman's argument that an understanding of how the brain works could help to reform our justice system, I really did not appreciate his argument that we can somehow scientifically disprove the need to believe that human beings have a soul. One minute he is saying we know so little about the brain and even detecting small tumors that could be causing changes in behavior is something that we are not yet able to do with the technology we have; the next he is claiming a full understanding of the brain and how it functions leads us to the conclusion that we really don't have "free will" given that all of our decisions begin in our "zombie systems" and then are regulated by our conscious minds. I've read other reviews on this book and I have seen a lot of criticism of the choice of audience, the structure, and the use of anecdotes; I must agree. I have yet to see one positive review from a neuroscientist. The audience appears to be for the layperson, but I am not a neuroscientist and I found the book incredibly dumbed down. It was complicated only in that the anecdotes often went off track from the argument and supporting details which were in themselves vague. The use of anecdotes felt almost like sensational or exceptional examples to draw back to a poorly constructed theory. As far as structure, the overall structure and sentence structure needs work. As an aspiring editor, this is good news for me that Vintage, an imprint of Random House, is willing to take on editors who do a mediocre job. I shouldn't have trouble finding work. I enjoyed the use of anecdotes, such as the details of Charles Whitman, "the tower sniper", and his suspicions of having a brain tumor. It was a compelling detail that supported Eagleman's view that mental health is physical health and behavior and decision making are the result of mental processes. But still, without further evidence of the direct correlation between mental processes and decision making, absent of any other potential factor, it is difficult for me to believe that this man had no control over preventing the murders that he committed. Could someone with mental health issues be rehabilitated under the proper care, given the appropriate medications, and after undergoing necessary surgery? I absolutely believe that is possible. I found his argument about improving the way we hold criminals accountable for their actions to be compelling, but nothing I haven't heard before. Of course it would be ideal to rehabilitate any criminal that could be scientifically proven to be capable of reentering society and not commit future criminal offenses. Some criminals will never be rehabilitated. I don't think anyone disagrees with that. But even if they can reenter society, if their actions were the result of a brain tumor or other mental health issue, does that mean they shouldn't have to "do the time"? Can we ever really prove that their con
Anil1 More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read in a while that's full of information, fun to read, and the perfect length for both.
SandmanSlim More than 1 year ago
This book went well alongside two others I've read recently, Brain Rules and The Head Trip. Incognito straddles the middle ground between these other two books and, while it covers much of the same ground and actually many of the same scientific examples and case studies, it makes a good starting point for learning about the brain and cognition. The three books together actually make a great triumverate of knowledge. The Head Trip tackles the brain from a consciousness perspective, and Brain Rules is more of a owner's manual to the brain.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Written in a very entertaining yet scientifically based manner that explains how and why we think and do so many very common things. I now more clearly understand myself and others. I did briefly resort to speed reading in a too long section concerning the judicial system sentencing and the mind. It almost became preachy... but then Eagleman returned to his previous comfortable and enjoyable rhythm. I put it in the Must Read Category.
Rita_Poole More than 1 year ago
Startling in it's scope, thoroughness and importance. You have never read a book that will change the way you think of thinking as much as this one. The one negative...the title sounds like a thriller suspense novel...or is it just me?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
David Eagleman is brilliant. I purchased this book because I heard him speak on NPR radio and wanted to learn more. The book is concise in topics covered and allows the reader a new understanding of this organ found, "under the hood" as Mr. Eagleman explains. He opens new avenues to learning about the science of the human mind.
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Well written, easy for the lay person to understand. Excellent book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very intresting book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book discussing the operation of the brain. Quick read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago