The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity

Overview


Most of us believe that we are unique and coherent individuals, but are we? The idea of a "self" has existed ever since humans began to live in groups and become sociable. Those who embrace the self as an individual in the West, or a member of the group in the East, feel fulfilled and purposeful. This experience seems incredibly real but a wealth of recent scientific evidence reveals that this notion of the independent, coherent self is an illusion - it is not what it seems. Reality as we perceive it is not ...
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The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity

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Overview


Most of us believe that we are unique and coherent individuals, but are we? The idea of a "self" has existed ever since humans began to live in groups and become sociable. Those who embrace the self as an individual in the West, or a member of the group in the East, feel fulfilled and purposeful. This experience seems incredibly real but a wealth of recent scientific evidence reveals that this notion of the independent, coherent self is an illusion - it is not what it seems. Reality as we perceive it is not something that objectively exists, but something that our brains construct from moment to moment, interpreting, summarizing, and substituting information along the way. Like a science fiction movie, we are living in a matrix that is our mind.
In The Self Illusion, Dr. 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. He explains that self is the product of our relationships and interactions with others, and it exists only in our brains. The author argues, however, that though the self is an illusion, it is one that humans cannot live without.
But things are changing as our technology develops and shapes society. The social bonds and relationships that used to take time and effort to form are now undergoing a revolution as we start to put our self online. Social networking activities such as blogging, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter threaten to change the way we behave. Social networking is fast becoming socialization on steroids. The speed and ease at which we can form alliances and relationships is outstripping the same selection processes that shaped our self prior to the internet era. This book ventures into unchartered territory to explain how the idea of the self will never be the same again in the online social world.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"After exploring various definitions of self--a soul, an agent with free will, some essential and unique set of qualities--he concludes that what we experience as a self is actually a narrative spun by our brain." -Daisy Yuhas, Scientific American

"Bruce Hood, professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Bristol, marshals an expanse of research to convincingly argue that the self - while very much real in our experience - is in fact a useful illusion, one necessitated by the brain that gives it life." -David DiSalvo, The PopScience Review

"Bruce Hood's The Self Illusion is a thoroughly researched and skillfully organised account of the developments in psychology and neuroscience that are helping to substantiate this unsettling vision of selfhoodELHood is well placed to tackle all this: he is an experimental psychologist and expert on child development." -Michael Bond, CultureLab

Publishers Weekly
In his fascinating newest, Hood, director of the Cognitive Development Centre at Bristol University, explores the ways in which the human brain tricks itself and uses others to create an identity. But while we are hardwired with the ability to construct a sense of self, Hood argues that it is our environment-and the people contained therein-that ultimately directs how we do it. The author writes, "People shape themselves to fit other people's perceptions." The definable self, then, is illusory. Using thought experiments, case studies, and research, Hood presents compelling, if sometimes disturbing, arguments. Along the way he touches on the creation and function of memory, free will, the Whitmanesque multitudes contained behind the "I," and the timely topic of digital avatars and Facebook profiles. As complicated as it is to be oneself in the world, Hood's work doesn't make it any easier, but it does make it very interesting. While the notion of the self as illusion might seem disheartening, Hood maintains that our carefully constructed selves are what allow us to continue operating as social animals, "And that, in the end, is a good thing."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199988785
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 397,200
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Hood is currently the Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol. He has previously been a research fellow at Cambridge University and University College London, a visiting scientist at MIT, and a faculty professor at Harvard University. He has been awarded an Alfred Sloan Fellowship in neuroscience, the Young Investigator Award from the International Society of Infancy Researchers, the Robert Fantz memorial award, and was recently voted to Fellowship status by the society of American Psychological Science.

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Table of Contents

1. Building a Brain
2. The Machiavellian Baby
3. Who Am I?
4. The True Cost of Free Will
5. Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
6. The Madness of Crowds
7. The Stories We Live By
8. Identity Crisis
9. Pulling Yourself Together

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