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Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain Hardcover – May 31, 2011
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“Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness.” –New Yorker
“Your mind is an elaborate trick, and mastermind David Eagleman explains how the trick works with great lucidity and amazement. Your mind will thank you.” –Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine
“A fun read by a smart person for smart people…it will attract a new generation to ponder their inner workings.” –New Scientist
“Written in clear, precise language, the book is sure to appeal to readers with an interest in psychology and the human mind, but it will also please people who just want to know, with a little more clarity, what is going on inside their own skulls.” –Booklist
“Original and provocative…Incognito is a smart, captivating book that will give you a prefrontal workout.” –Nature
“Incognito is fun to read, full of neat factoids and clever experiments...Eagleman says he’s looking to do for neuroscience what Carl Sagan did for astrophysics, and he’s already on his way.” –Texas Monthly
"Although Incognito is face-paced, mind-bending stuff, it's a book for regular folks. Eagleman does a brilliant job refining heavy science into a compelling read. He is a gifted writer." -Houston Chronicle
“A popularizer of impressive gusto…[Eagleman] aims, grandly, to do for the study of the mind what Copernicus did for the study of the stars.” –New York Observer
“The journey to the heart of neurological darkness is also a kind of safari, and we spend a lot of time taking in the marvelous birds…Incognito proposes a grand new account of the relationship between consciousness and the brain. It is full of dazzling ideas, as it is chockablock with facts and instances.” –The New York Observer
“Incognito does the right thing by diving straight into the deep end and trying to swim. Eagleman, by imagining the future so vividly, puts into relief just how challenging neuroscience is, and will be.” –Boston Globe
“Appealing and persuasive.” –Wall Street Journal
“Eagleman has a nice way with anecdotes and explanations…delightful.” –The Observer’s Very Short List
“Eagleman presents difficult neuroscience concepts in an energetic, casual voice with plenty of analogies and examples to ensure that what could easily be an overwhelming catalog of facts remains engaging and accessible…the ideas in Eagleman’s book are well-articulated and entertaining, elucidated with the intelligent, casual tone of an enthusiastic university lecturer.” –The Millions
“A fascinating, dynamic, faceted look under the hood of the conscious mind...Equal parts entertaining and illuminating, the case studies, examples and insights in Incognito are more than mere talking points to impressed at the next dinner party, poised instead to radically shift your understanding of the world, other people, and your own mind.” –Brain Pickings
“Eagleman engagingly sums up recent discoveries about the unconscious processes that dominate our mental life.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating…Eagleman has the ability to turn hard science and jargon into interesting and relatable prose, illuminating the mind’s processes with clever analogies and metaphors.” –Salt Lake City Weekly
“A great beach read.“ –Philadelphia City Paper
“Touches on some of the more intriguing cul-de-sacs of human behavior.“ –Santa Cruz Sentinel
“Startling…It’s a book that will leave you looking at yourself—and the world—differently.” –Austin American Statesman
“Incognito feels like learning the secrets of a magician. In clear prose, Eagleman condenses complex concepts and reinforces his points through analogies, pop culture, current events, optical illusions, anecdotes, and fun facts.” –Frontier Psychiatrist
“One of those books that could change everything.” –Sam Snyder, blog
“Sparkling and provocative…a thrilling subsurface exploration of the mind and all its contradictions.” –Louisville Courier-Journal
“Buy this book. The pithy observations, breezy language and wow-inducing anecdotes provide temporary pleasure, but the book’s real strength is in its staying power.“ –Science News
“A whirlwind, high-definition look at the neural underpinnings of our everyday thinking and perception…fascinating.” –Brettworks.com
“Eagleman embodies what is fascinating, fun, and hopeful about modern neuroscience.” –Brainstorm.com
“After you read Eagleman’s breezy treatment of the brain, you will marvel at how much is illusory that we think is real, and how we sometimes function out autopilot without consciously knowing what is happening…This is a fascinating book.” –The Advocate
“A pleasure to read…If a reader is looking for a fun but illuminating read, Incognito is a good choice. With its nice balance between hard science and entertaining anecdotes, it is a good alternative to the usual brainless summer blockbusters.” –Deseret News
“Funny, gripping and often shocking…Eagleman writes great sentences of the sort that you might be inclined to read to those in your general vicinity.” –bookotron.com
“Incognito reads like a series of fascinating vignettes, offering plenty of pauses for self-reflection. Eagleman’s anecdotes are funny and easily tie to the concepts he explains. Moreover, his enthusiasm for the subject is obvious and contagious.” –Spectrum Culture
“Incognito is popular science at its best…beautifully synthesized.” –Boston Globe Best of 2011
About the Author
DAVID EAGLEMAN is a neuroscientist, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a New York Times bestselling author. His books have been translated into 27 languages. Eagleman heads the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine, and is the founding Director of the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is the author and presenter of the PBS series The Brain.
- Publisher : Pantheon; 1st edition (May 31, 2011)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307377334
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307377333
- Item Weight : 1.35 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.42 x 1.17 x 9.52 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #137,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Some of my mental subroutines took offense at being thought of as zombies. They insist that they're fully conscious and that their thoughts are just as real as mine, regardless of what they decide to pass on up the chain of command. Many of them even claim that their consciousness is more visceral, more detailed, more real than mine. But they're crazy and I usually just ignore them.
I actually referred this book to a friend of mine who was having problems with her teenage daughter, and guess what, they're best of friends now. That speaks volumes in my world! I've never seen a book do that, and my explanation of what's in the book would have just watered down its value! Great work Mr. Eagleman!
In high school math, I knew something I did not quite understand until reading this book, and did not verbalize until writing this review: that we can know before we can say, that our reasoning can be at first non-conscious, and then, with effort, be piped up to our feeble consciousness, as if it had taken place there.
We give great credit to our consciousness, very little credit to our brains. It should be the other way around. As it turns out, our conscious experience is a small, dim fragment of our actual experience. When a perception finally reaches our consciousness, it has been washed clean of noise, twisted according to our expectations and prejudices, and packaged into something more familiar. Most everything that happens in that brain never reaches the surface of awareness.
If you think your brain is a second class citizen, and your consciousness is driving things, then read Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman. Turns out that much of the action is below consciousness. You know this from your reactions to brake in a dangerous situation before you are fully aware of the danger, or to pull your hand from the stove before you become aware of the pain. The decision-making process of the unconscious brain is not always revealed to our consciousness. In one study, men rated some women as more attractive than others from photographs, but couldn't explain why. Turns out, the pupils of the more attractive women had been artificially dilated with Photoshop. The unconscious brain knows that dilated pupils are an indicator of sexual arousal.
You must read Eagleman's book. When you are finished, you will marvel even more at what the hundreds of billions of neurons in your head can do, understand yourself a bit better, and maybe even understand that your "self" is just a constructed reality.
Top reviews from other countries
It all starts with the UK cover, which has a lovely bit of op art in the squirly bit (not really obvious in the reduced version here), but the book was a dream to read. It explores how much of our actions are out of the control of our conscious mind and takes us through the wonders that are the various half-understood and often competing systems that handle the many aspects of thought and our interaction with our senses body as a whole.
The first few chapters are packed with absolutely fascinating little examples (some of them practical things you can try yourself) that demonstrate just how much disconnection there is between our relatively puny consciousness and everything else the brain does. David Eagleman describes what’s going on in there as a bit like a parliament, rather than a dictatorship of the conscious mind. There is then a really thought provoking chapter on the crime and punishment. If, as Eagleman suggests seems likely, all actions can be linked to states of the brain rather than an individual’s choice, where does that leave our attitude to offenders? Eagleman argues we shouldn’t punish them, but some we can rehabilitate through specific mental processes, while others will have to be locked away for everyone’s protection because there is no way to change things.
Of course, the book isn’t perfect. The introduction has some rather loose information in an attempt to make sweeping, involving statements. We are told that the visible universe is 15 billion light years across – probably a factor of 5 out. Eagleman suggests that Galileo’s near-contemporary Bruno was burned at the stake for rejecting an Earth-centered universe – which he wasn’t. (He was burned at the stake, but for heretical religious views, not his science.) And there’s a dramatic error in an attempt to show how our brains mishandle logic. Of themselves these aren’t huge errors, but it’s difficult not to think ‘If there are these mistakes in the bits I know about, what could be wrong in the stuff about brains that comes as a great surprise to me?’ My suspicion is that Eagleman knows his stuff, though – and he tells a great story.
One good mark of the effectiveness of this book was that I couldn’t resist telling people about a couple of things I read here. One was that a percentage of women have a fourth colour receptor in their eyes, so would see colours and colour matches differently. Lovely factoid. The other you’ll have to spot when you read it. All in all this was a hugely enjoyable book, and despite sometimes seeming like a TV science show in its focus on style, it really delivers on information we’re all interested in about our favourite topic – ourselves. Recommended.
If you want to become a more forgiving person, or you just want to understand more about what your brain does, then read this book. The style is easy and the content is not academic or scientific, so it is accessible to everyone.