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The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  533 Ratings  ·  67 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, USA (first published January 1st 2012)
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May 20, 2015 Caroline rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: miscellaneous
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
Paul R. Fleischman
This book confuses an abstract existential truth with psychological reality. It has no originality, and is potentially destructive to suffering people or as literature for their psychotherapeutic guides.
The main argument of this book is that the sense of self is an illusion. The entire volume is a polemic organized around this single point. Of course it is true that nothing in the universe is enduring and permanent, since even the universe is not. But Bruce Hood confuses the kind of thinking
Sinduja Ragunathan
Bruce Hood gives us a crash course of sorts on all major aspects of the psychology of the mind. His writing is easy to read and keeps one engrossed. However, he has simply woven together different studies and research findings with few inputs of his own. This book is a more interesting version of a psychology textbook. Any reader who is already familiar with the major theories of psychology will be familiar with most of the content in this book.
The answer to the main question of why the self is
Zhiyar Qadri
A super book!
Unlike the popular rhetorical claims about the self and free will which have resulted in various identity disorders in the last decade. This book provides both scientific and experimental explanation of the "self" being an illusion and a mere reflection of it's context. It is empowering to have this insight, we can go through life with less attachment to the perceived core self and the need to prove it. Consequently living with more self discipline,mind clarity,success and happiness
Dimitris Hall
Oct 25, 2014 Dimitris Hall rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
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 thi
Mark Spencer
Jan 23, 2014 Mark Spencer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Billie Pritchett
I read popular science constantly, so I was largely familiar with the psychological and neurophysiological examples that Bruce Hood gave in his book The Self Illusion, yet I had never thought about these examples in the way that Hood has. Hood has provided a beautiful synthesis of (some) familiar examples in the psychological literature to argue that the idea that human beings have a sense of self is an illusion. He writes that this of course does not mean that it "does not exist." By way of ana ...more
Clark Hays
Apr 09, 2016 Clark Hays rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“We Must Believe in Free Will—We have No Choice.” Singer

This is an interesting, fast-moving inquiry into the concept of self, the belief (misguided in the opinion of the author) that there is a distinct “me” in charge of my thoughts and actions. Using a variety of classic and not-so-classic psychological studies, case histories of patients with uniquely damaged brains, an audit of historical beliefs and his own keen insights, the author slowly, methodically takes that theory apart.

What’s left i
Linh G. Luu
Dec 09, 2015 Linh G. Luu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Understand more about human mind. Some of the most interesting I like the most from this book are
"I am not what I think and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think that you think I am."
"The mirror neurons" fire when watching someone else's actions then because my actions are already linked to my own mind I simply have to know what is on my mind to know what you are thinking."
"Mimicry binds us in an intimate relationship with others."
"If you smile I automatically smile back at you this tr
Ralph Jacob
Mar 20, 2014 Ralph Jacob rated it liked it
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
It's not a bad book, and the writing is decent. However, the chapters don't really build on one another to culminate into a conclusion. The reader isn't lead along to the authors way of thinking. The chapters are more or less just a collection of behavioral studies and the results of those studies. Some of the studies mentioned contains some fascinating stuff, but the author doesn't really make much of his case.

Also, the last two chapters of the book spend way to much time explaining, the Inter
Dec 11, 2013 Diana rated it liked it
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
Mar 20, 2014 Abhinav rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cognition
What is the "Self"? Eastern philosophy give us a spiritual outlook. But Behavioural Neurosciences gives us a pinpointed answer. The author has endowed the book wuth the superpowers of cutting edge modern day research to understand our "Self". Though a part of the presented research data is already in works of other authors such as V. S. Ramachandran and Dan Ariely, this book has stuck to what has been promised.

Do we really know who we are? Do we really think we know everything about our behaviou
Apr 17, 2013 Roxanne rated it liked it
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
Zahra Tahsin
Oct 22, 2015 Zahra Tahsin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No doubt this book changed the way i was looking to myself , it redefined illusion and yes everyone has self illusion ,but at the end the aim of the book was not to know your illusion and get rid of it, it just let you know where is it and how it's important to make you, you.
Menglong Youk
4.5 stars

In the last two weeks, "The Self Illusion" took for a ride in free-will roller coaster. I'm kidding. Unlike many self-help books out there reasoning that you have total control of yourself, this book challenges that hypothesis and consider it as an illusion, underscoring our lives under the false belief of our free will. Our decisions are sharpened by our surrounding environment and people around us.

A chapter that tightly grabbed my attention the most is "Caught in the Web". Like the ti
Jun 27, 2015 H.J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book taught me a lot. It's filled with interesting facts and interpretations. Often, though, I had trouble identifying exactly how this piece of information contributed to the overarching argument: that the 'Self' that holds our identity is basically a (useful) illusion constructed by the brain. A bit of a postmodern book, then, you could say, which is quite meta, because the construction of the book appears to be as fragmentary as it claims the 'Self' is. Which is not necessarily a bad thi ...more
Ian Greener
A more thoughtful treatment than most of the books claiming free will as an illusion, but seems to lose its central focus as you get towards the end and the author moves on to other areas. Early chapters then are very good, but the book ends up a little unbalanced for me.
Martin Waterhouse
A very interesting book that certainly challenges the idea of the individual as a discrete and autonomous creature. The tendency to think of us humans as a group of individual billiard balls bouncing around the table, interacting and affecting each other, may be okay for everyday life but science is showing that we are much more profoundly affected by our environment and other people than we would like to acknowledge. We are much more reactors than actors in this world, and not only is no human ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Riley rated it really liked it
A provocative read that bridges the gap between science and philosophy, diving deep into the heart of what it means to be a unique individual in a dynamic environment, and illustrating just how easily one's choices, behaviours, perceptions and even one's memories--those most fundamental of factors to a "core" sense of self--can be (and very much are) both shaped and influenced by innumerable factors beyond one's control--specifically the presence and actions of other people. Whether or not you a ...more
Katrina Sark
p.5 – There are three major types of neurons. Sensory neurons respond to information picked from the environment through our senses. Motor neurons relay information that controls out movement outputs. But it is the third class of neuron that makes up the majority – the interneurons, which connect the input and the output of the brain into an internal network where all the really clever stuff happens. It is this internal network that stores information and performs all the operations that we reco ...more
Culadasa Ph.D.)
Sep 02, 2014 Culadasa Ph.D.) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
Most of us believe that we have 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 scientific evidence reveals that it is not what it seems – it is all an illusion.
Hood tracks how the self emerges during childhood, during which time we not only learn from others, but learn to become like others. We learn to create a self, and, more importantly, to beco
Nathan Hassall
Jan 06, 2013 Nathan Hassall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 03, 2014 Michael Kenning rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-science
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
Aug 11, 2012 Andy Wenman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Niall Woan
Mar 03, 2015 Niall Woan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Hood gives a great overview into the current theories surrounding the 'self' from neuroscientists view point. He covers most topics relevant to the subject with out going into laborious detail, thus portraying his idea with a depth of knowledge most people will understand (it's a pop-science book not a university standard psych text book). Thus, the book remains entertaining as the concepts are both comprehendible and the arguments supporting them are not succinctly written. The only downs ...more
The Book
Jan 04, 2013 The Book rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 12, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book summarizes the all the usual research you see in popular books on neuroscience, behavioral economics, psychology, etc (and is pretty thorough), the broader argument is interesting.
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Do we choose our beliefs? 1 10 Mar 26, 2013 07:34AM  
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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
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“Our self illusion is so interwoven with personal memories that when we recall an event, we believe we are retrieving a reliable episode from our history like opening a photograph album and examining a snapshot in time. If we then discover the episode never really happened, then our whole self is called into question. But that's only because we are so committed to the illusion that our self is a reliable story in the first place.” 3 likes
“When did this game of life become so unfair that we blame individuals rather than the circumstances that prevent them from achievement? This is know as the fundamental attribution error in human reason. When other people screw up, it's because they are stupid or losers, but when I screw up it's because of my circumstances.” 3 likes
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