The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity

Date Sat, May 5 2012

The Self Illusion

The Self Illusion

I want to write a fantastically smart review for this book because it is fantastically smart. Unfortunately, I know it will fall short. This is because I wasn’t really familiar with any of the theories about neuropsychology that the author, Bruce Hood, presents. However, I am always interested in how the brain works, and that’s exactly why I requested a copy for review. With that said, this book isn’t a narrative, so it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

So, the book basically takes a stab at explaining how the brain develops the sense of self and identity. How do we come by the “I” that is so pivotal to our existence? Hood breaks down how the brain develops, how we socialize, how society has developed and how humans differ from other animals, to name a few concepts. It’s pretty interesting. He references other studies and, when applicable, gives examples from his own life. The mention of his family makes the author seem personal and, I think, makes this book a little easier read than it otherwise would be. It’s shorter than it looks, when you exclude the credits and references at the end, but still took a little brain power for me to get through.

Bruce argues that there is no “I.” Rather, the sense of self is a product of all the processes that occur in our brains as well as influences by our surroundings and people in it. In fact, some of the studies that have shown just how much we can be influenced by other factors, rather than the internalize sense of self, is pretty astounding. It also clearly exemplifies why the sense of an unchanging self is, to put it bluntly, bologna.

Hood talks about some of the very famous studies from the 60s and 70s, like the one by Solomon Asch, so not everything in this book was new, even though the basic concept was foreign to me. I found myself nodding along as I read, understanding his points but simply shocked at how much I believed in my own self only to realize that my brain has been painting a picture to fill in the holes left by its processes and other influences, much like our eyes do with optical illusions.

Some people might not like the implication that our lack of control equals a lack of free will but I think the author did a nice job of explaining that no matter what science says, sometimes the way society works and humans think or act, doesn’t quite follow the plan. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to distance ourselves from our selves sometimes, too.

Of particular interest to me, was the chapter on how the Internet is changing our senses of identity, not just the way we communicate or live. It’s obvious — and it’s obvious to see that Bruce is excited about this — that the technology we are readily accepting is having a much more profound affect on us than most people will ever realize.

This isn’t the type of book that I’d recommend to everyone. However, it is the type of book that I’d recommend to anyone who wanted to learn more about identities and how the brain works. The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity a good refresher of neuropsychology at the very least. Anyone who works or studies in this field will have a more educated opinion, I’m sure. I found it fascinating nonetheless.

One Response

  1. N. May 12 2012 @ 9:58 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately oddly enough. I like to think of my self as that area between tons of overlapping rings: Not separate, but a combination that is differentiated. Sounds like a great book.

Leave a Reply

BustedTees Funny Shirts Awesome T-Shirts Cool T-Shirts