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The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  148 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Most of us believe that we are an independent, coherent self--an individual inside our head who thinks, watches, wonders, dreams, and makes plans for the future. This sense of our self may seem incredibly real but a wealth of recent scientific evidence reveals that it is not what it seems--it is all an illusion.

In The Self Illusion, Bruce Hood reveals how the self emerge
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published May 23rd 2012 by Oxford University Press
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This book questions our notion of self and identity, arguing they are shaped far more by other people and environments than we care to admit. Not only that, it takes this notion further….. saying that myriad impulses in the brain are what really control us – impulses which operate in our unconscious or subconscious – rather than any “self” which seems to be in the driving seat. That ‘self’ is just the mouthpiece. A convenient construct that our brains have engineered to pull all the variables to ...more
Mark Spencer
This book ought to be titled 'The self illusion illusion' as it's an illusion that Hood has addressed the issue of the self illusion.

This is such a disappointing book, considering the potential of the subject matter. I hoped for a detailed exposition on 'why there is no you inside your head' (the book subtitle). Maybe some neuroscientific perspective necessarily spliced with the appropriate philosophy, whether its Parfit's, Hume's or even Buddha's view on the absence of a self.

What I got was a
Dimitris Hall
Found out about this book from the You Are Not So Smart podcast and read it on my Kindle.

It reeked of a mechanistic, sterile, matter-of-fact "you are your brain" worldview which I must admit I'm tired of and find boring, but I should have expected as much since You Are Not So Smart comes from pretty much the same mental place.

I don't find fault with the idea that we don't have an integral self; obviously, just like Bruce Hood thoroughly and with rich supporting bibliography demonstrates in this
I liked this book a lot and I really wanted to give it four stars but what prevented me from doing so is there are horrendous grammar issues and typos. The publisher should've assigned a better proof reader. Also, though well written (grammar and typos aside), I found the central thesis of the self as an illusion got lost between chapters. In other words, a summation of what evidence has been gathered from chapter to chapter would've helped tie it all together better. Perhaps this too is an issu ...more
I read this book as part of an exploration to see that "self" doesn't exist. I've been reading Eastern philosophy and needed to temper that with some good ole Western science.

It wasn't as exciting or insightful as I had hoped, although it was interesting. Hood warns us against seeing through the illusion, which is the direct opposite of the advice from Eastern gurus. Can we operate without a self?

To the proofreaders: OMG. Some of the typos and omissions are so bad that they completely negate t
Ralph Jacob
Hood does his best to demonstrate the book's central thesis without (over-)overwhelming those uninitiated into the convoluted realm that is neuro-psychology. The self is evidenced to not actually be the autonomously singular entity we all like to believe it is. Rather it is an emergent sum of various brain processes we do not control nor consciously know of. These processes, in turn, are heavily influenced by both nature and nurture--again, factors we have very little control over.

Where this who
Nathan Hassall
The Self Illusion is a fantastic book which has reaffirmed some of my personal psychology interests, whilst it also provided me with new perspectives on some theories, experiments, and scientific explanations.

I wouldn't describe this book as 'groundbreaking' - as Bruce Hood uses many psychology studies which have weaved their way out of the exclusive academic sphere and into the accessible realms of popular knowledge. Examples of this can be found in his references to Pavlov in his famous classi
Michael Kenning
I don't think the argument that our selves are illusions has ever been put more concisely; nor has there been a more substantiated deterministic account of our being than this book (in my reading, anyway). One must remain stubborn/human in the face of this book if they remain to believe that everything we do is controlled by our own free will; one should also be reproached if upon its scrutiny we do not consider ourselves a social species. Nothing has been more elucidating, more balanced, nor mo ...more
Andy Wenman
This book is amazing, but incredibly dense. I listened to it whilst cleaning my house, tidying my garage and on the train, but it took a lot longer than the 10hr run-time to get through, because for every fifteen minutes or so of listening I had to pause to digest it's ideas. I read a lot of these neuroscience books and whilst this isn't the most original it's actually the kind that I prefer, focusing on finding interesting ways to explain concepts, amalgamating ideas and drawing conclusions rat ...more
An interesting read, although it seemed to be based on a huge contradiction - that there is no 'self' (the title) but that 'a strong sense of self is going to be essential if we are going to be able to cope with the future' (read the last sentence of the book!) Although presented in a lively, readable and informative way, there was an underlying gloom to this - 'one exists as the unique 'me' only as a construct of the brain' is probably the simplest way of putting it. Whilst this construct is fa ...more
Very interesting book - there are so many examples of theories and studies in here, from looking at how the young brain is hardwired to develop in specific ways at certain ages, to how we construct our selves, to examples of brain-damaged people who can't recognise themselves in the mirror, or form new memories, or use both right and left hemispheres of the brain because they've had surgery to sever the connecting pathways. I love finding out how people/minds work, and this book was full of thou ...more
Gilang Danu
Surprisingly readable. I was almost always hesitated to picking up book on neuropsychology because most of the time, they were written in jargon-heavy language as understood only by PhDs and professors. Bruce Hood explained the construction of self in a more basic language (but no less elegant). It was very helpful for common, less-academic, non-PhD readers like me.

The only drawback here was that Bruce Hood didn't conduct any research by himself (but it was forgivable since he put a large number
Jane Walker
Problems galore with this book. It contains a mixture of the obvious, the hackneyed (e.g. a long description of the Milgram experiments) and some genuinely interesting studies. Unfortunately a great deal of the interesting stuff is, as so often, based entirely on experiments with students. The tone is all over the place, as if Hood has no idea of who his audience is. Worst of all, though, is the central thesis. The concept of self is an illusion because the brain creates a self from reactions to ...more
Loved it. (Anything that can hold my interest while I'm on the treadmill gets a thumbs up.) I understand that the book contains a lot of grammar mistakes and typos. That would bother me a lot. Sorry to hear it. I listened to the audiobook (narrated by Hood, a big plus for me), so typos were not an issue. This book, along with David Eagleman's Incognito, gave me a better handle on the idea that free will is an illusion. Now, I think I'm ready for Metzinger's The Ego Tunnel.
A disaster.

So badly edited that I gave up after 15 pages: missing words, mis-spellings, hopeless punctuation. Massively distracting and disheartening.

The tone is also all over the place - clearly an author who needs a much more stringent, critical editor.

To put me off so completely when the subject matter is so fascinating took some doing - but the publisher succeeded.

Avoid - unless you have a massive degree of patience or don't speak English.
This is an excellent book, which could change your life!

I really enjoyed Bruce Hood's first book 'Supersense', and this follow up didn't disappoint. It's packed full of interesting facts about what makes you 'you', and Hood's friendly manner makes it easy to understand.

I would highly recommend this book if you have any interest in the concept of the self, or are just curious about why we humans sometimes behave in the strange ways we do!
Eric Norton
This was always going to be a difficult proposition to get across. How to convince "you" that there is no "you"? I think the author does a good job overall, and I think that much of it will require ongoing mulling over in order to grasp the concept more fully. The book does peter out a little in the last few chapters, but the core message is convincingly conveyed.
As a matter of fact, I didn't find this book "scientific" enough and some of the things that are written inside are a little bit old, but if you are not updated on the topic, this could be a good starting point.

Chris Elvish
Thought provoking with some interesting case studies relating to ideas about how the mind 'creates the self'. It could have been a bit more focused, as it jumps around a bit from topic to topic without going into too much detail
picked this book in a hope for a bit deep self-discovery, but ended up learn more on behaviors of humans, groups, babies and animals, which is by itself an easy and interesting read.
fascinating. provides great insight into why we think we are what we think we are (if you see what I mean) - leaves you feeling slightly less than the sum of your parts...
Generally good information - Not so much that's new, and does not spend enough time on the central question.
Lukas Vermeer
Interesting, but certainly not mind blowing.
Just stopped reading this today.
Viv JM
Entertaining and engaging
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I was born in Toronto, Canada, and my middle name is MacFarlane. This a legacy of my Scottish heritage on my father's side. My mother is Australian and has the very unusual first name of Loyale. I used to believe for many years that she had two sisters called Hope and Faith, but that was just my fertile imagination. Why Toronto I hear you ask. My father was a journalist and plied his art on variou ...more
More about Bruce M. Hood...
The Self Illusion: Why There is No 'You' Inside Your Head [Extract] SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable The Science of Superstition The Origins of Object Knowledge

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