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Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by…

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (2011)

by David Eagleman (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The human brain is fascinating and there was some interesting information in this book, but overall I didn't enjoy it too much. I thought it was poorly organized and too wordy. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
I'm not entirely sure WHAT I thought of this book. The first three-quarters were - as books on neuroscience tend to be - very interesting. Chapter six, "Why Blameworthiness is the Wrong Question", is the one that divides reviewers. Many have responded as though he is saying that an understanding of the workings of a criminal's brain activity shifts responsibility for their actions away from their personal choice toward mere determinism; but he seems to have predicted that people would interpret his text that way, and keeps repeating that this is NOT what he's driving at. He's trying to say that a knowledge of whether a criminal act was the result of a rational choice or the inevitable outcome of altered brain chemistry should alter the STYLE of sentencing applied to those found guilty.
Still in all, I can see why some readers felt queasy during this last section - anything that questions our notions of free will has that effect.
Frankly, I was more irritated by his constant use of trite analogies. Every time he introduced some concept, he'd launch into a couple of "It's a bit like..." sentences describing some piece of everyday life. Some of the analogies were more worthwhile than others, but after a while the sheer barrage of them got a bit grating. ( )
  dtw42 | Jun 16, 2015 |
Fascinating examination of the many hidden levels at which the brain governs human behavior. In the process of discussing various brain functions (including perception, consciousness, and decision making), he demonstrates how much we are not in control of our behavior. He raises some thought provoking questions about criminal behavior and the corrections system. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Dec 22, 2014 |
20. Incognito : The Secret Lives of the Brain (Audio) by David Eagleman, read by author (2011, 300 pages in paper from, Listened Mar 23-31)

You might notice that four of my last six books completed were via audio books. Driving seems to be my best reading time lately (must of the other time is lost...or, well, given to The Book of Psalms). Anyway this was the first of those four.

This turned out be one of the most enjoyable audio books I've listened to, although I must also admit that it didn't stick quite as well I thought it would. Eagleman had me thinking about the mysterious and multiple complexities of the brain. Such as how slow and inefficient our consciousness is and about how much goes on unconsciously, and how much we depend on this to function. He discusses many striking stories about odd things that happen to people because of tumors, strokes and brain injuries (Texas trivia - Charles Whitman, the UofTexas tower shooter who shot 46 people in 1966 from the tower's 28th-floor observation deck, documented his mental changes in his diary, recognized them(!) and requested in his suicide note that his body be autopsied after his not-yet-committed suicidal episode to see if a cause could be determined. A walnut sized tumor was found in his brain). I'm sure other books cover this, but Eagleman really brought out to me just how complex the brain is, and how little we understand it (his analogy of what we know is to imagine studying human society from a space craft orbiting the earth).

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 - different parts of our brain battle against each other to lead us to the decision. Each decision is the winner of multiple unconscious battles in the brain. So, parts of us stand in completely opposing sides in any decision, and we really have very little conscious control on which part wins. (This is why it is so hard to eat healthy, for example)

This is a bit of a scatter shot review. There were just a lot of interesting pieces that I somehow feel the need to share (or maybe preserve for my own memory). Eagleman did a great of job getting me excited everything here. The books is really perfect for audio - lots of small parts, never too complicated to listen to, but still fascinating, thought-provoking and reads very nicely.

Eagleman reads it himself. His voice takes a little getting used to, but otherwise he is the perfect reader. It comes across as if he's just talking and not reading. ( )
3 vote dchaikin | Apr 26, 2014 |
Somewhat dry, but nonetheless enlightening. Some things I learned:

We don't actually see our environment around us at every moment. Our mind creates internal models and we only become aware of our surroundings if something unexpected occurs. This is how we can drive to work and not remember it. This is also why people (except schizophrenics) are not able to tickle themselves... it is not unexpected.

The 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."

What we think of as human nature is the collection of all of our instincts. Our minds work as well as they do precisely because most of our processes are automated.

Unlike machines, we have inner conflicts due to multiple systems combatting each other, such as emotion and reason.

The author spends a great deal of time discussing blameworthiness and justice. The new understanding of our brains shows us that the justice system is entirely wrong, and that since everyone's brain is different, the punishments and rehabilitation efforts must be different for each person. Since we know that emotion and reason can sometimes conflict, we can rehabilitate some criminals by helping one system gain an edge over the other.

When we first learn new things, our brains burn lots of energy, but as we get better, less brain activity is required due to our brains figuring out how to be energy efficient.

Who are we? Our thinking and personality are influenced by so many things out of our control. In addition to our unconscious processes in general, any microscopic change in neurotransmitters, hormones, bacteria, gene mutations, etc. causes us to be completely different people.

Most of history's prophets and martyrs probably suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy. Anti-epileptic medications cause those voices and that hyperreligiosity to disappear.

Research in genetics is proving the inseparability of nature and nurture. Different allele combinations within genes predispose people to certain behaviors, but the behaviors only surface if they experience certain life events.

Emergence = "When you put together large numbers of pieces and parts, the whole can become something greater than the sum" = parts of the brain vs. our "selves". ( )
1 vote heike6 | May 2, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eagleman, DavidAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barth, BrianCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mendelsund, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.

Blaise Pascal, Pensées
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Take a close look at yourself in the mirror.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307377334, Hardcover)

If the conscious mind—the part you consider to be you—is just the tip of the iceberg, what is the rest doing?
In this sparkling and provocative new book, the renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman navigates the depths of the subconscious brain to illuminate surprising mysteries: 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? What do Ulysses and the credit crunch have in common? Why did Thomas Edison electrocute an elephant in 1916? Why are people whose names begin with J more likely to marry other people whose names begin with J? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret? And how is it possible to get angry at yourself—who, exactly, is mad at whom?
Taking in brain damage, plane spotting, dating, drugs, beauty, infidelity, synesthesia, criminal law, artificial intelligence, and visual illusions, Incognito is a thrilling subsurface exploration of the mind and all its contradictions.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:15 -0400)

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A leading neuroscientist reveals the functions of the unconscious regions of the brain, drawing on up-to-the-minute research to identify the significance of brain areas outside of our awareness.

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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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