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Incognito: The Secret Lives of The Brain [Paperback]

David Eagleman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

26 April 2012
*Why does your foot hit the brake pedal before you are conscious of danger ahead? *Why do you hear your name is mentioned in a conversation that you didn't think you were listening to? *Why is a person whose name begins with J more likely to marry another person whose name begins 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? A thrilling subsurface exploration of the mind and all its contradictions. A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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Incognito: The Secret Lives of The Brain + The Tell-Tale Brain: Unlocking the Mystery of Human Nature
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Product details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847679404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847679406
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Eagleman, PHD, is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas where his research laboratory is developing a reputation for doing some of the most unusual experiments in contemporary neuroscience. He has had essays published in all manner of journals including Nature and Science. He also lectures widely and continues to be invited to speak at universities all around the world.

Product Description


'Stunningly original... You can get through it in an hour, but you'd be mad to hurry, and you will certainly want to return to it many times...Sum has the unaccountable, jaw-dropping quality of genius. It seems exquisitely adapted to fill the contemporary longing for a kind of secular holy book' -- Observer

'A stunning exploration of the 'we' behind the 'I'. Eagleman reveals, with his typical grace and eloquence, all the neural magic tricks behind the cognitive illusion we call reality' -- Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide

'A dream to read... I couldn't resist telling people about a couple of things I read here' -- Brian Clegg, Popular Science

'A well-written popular science book, with a clear narrative, friendly explanations that respect both the lay-reader's intelligence and their ignorance, and a plethora of weird facts that make you nudge the person next to you and say 'Listen to this!'' -- Brandon Robshaw, Independent on Sunday

'I was completely immersed. Eagleman writes well and has brought together great stories from the wild shores of neuroresearch, taking a field that is enormously complex and creating a clear path through it. ... A book that will stay with you' -- Michael Mosley, BBC Focus

'Eagleman provides an excellent overview of the workings of our most vital organ' -- Ian Critchley, Sunday Times

'A shining example of lucid and easy-to-grasp science writing' --Laurence Phelan, Independent on Sunday

About the Author

David Eagleman, Ph.D. is a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action as well as the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. His scientific research is published in journals from Science to Nature, and his neuroscience books include Re-wire: The Shape-Shifting Brain and Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. He is also the author of the international fiction bestseller, Sum.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you enjoy a book that makes you think? 19 May 2011
This is the kind of book that I really enjoy because so often I wanted to stop and think about the information it gives you. There is something ironic about that, as you will discover if you read 'Incognito,' as you learn how little you do is actually governed by conscious thought!

The book is an easy read for a serious, factual book but impeccably based in a very wide range of research, as the 26-page bibliography demonstrates. In the latter chapters Eagleman focuses heavily on the legal implications of the research which calls into question how meaningful it is to conduct trials and impose punishments operating on the concept of "blameworthiness." This effectively challenges most of us, I suspect, but does mean the discussion moves away from the broader attempt to understand the concepts of self and consciousness we commonly hold.

For anyone not already an expert in neurology, I recommend 'Incognito' without reservation as likely to be an enlightening, challenging and intensely thought-provoking read.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, surprising and exciting 7 April 2011
I'm wondering whether the last reviewer actually read the same book as me. Eagleman draws on years of experience as a neuroscientist, citing hundreds of experiments, cases and examples. Through these he makes his fascinating topic - the unconscious brain - easily accessible to a lay reader without ever patronising, explaining everything from why you can argue with yourself to the best way to win a game of tennis. Popular science it may be (albeit with credentials aplenty), but pop psychology it definitely is not.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 14 Jun 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have a keen interest in all things 'brainy' and it's difficult to find a book that isn't so far 'pop' psychology that it might have been written by Mystic Meg or so far medical that I find it too difficult to get through: This book strikes just the right note and offers some interesting and new viewpoints.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By J. Coulton VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This must be the first time I have actually picked up a science book out of choice, and the first time I have read anything scientific since school, but after hearing neuroscientist David Eagleman interviewed on the radio about his new book I was hooked. And it has not disappointed at all - in fact it is something that I would never have believed could exist, a real science page turner.

Eagleman possesses that rare skill of explaining complex scientific concepts to non scientists, in a way that makes them fascinating, and weaves in references to literature, philosophy and history, to create a fabulously rich book. And his subject is one which should really interest everyone, as it is all about us, and more specifically, the way our brains work.
The work looks at what makes our brain work the way it does, and includes a clever and enjoyable series of interactive tests for the reader to illustrate its point that what we see is not always the same, and our reality is very much manipulated and filtered by our brains themselves. It links these processes to some practical and everyday life choices that we make - we are, apparently and amazingly, more likely to like and have relationships with people who share our own details such as the first initial of our name, or our birthday.

There are thought provoking insights into the world of people who cannot see at all, as Eagleman argues that congenitally blind people are not missing anything that sighted people have, they just have a very different reality where other senses are much more heightened and sharp. So it seems that even our everyday realities are completely subjective.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 19 Jun 2011
By David
A very good introduction to the working of the brain and the role of the conscious mind. For anyone that enjoys this I would recommend "The Blank Slate" by Stephen Pinker and "Consciousness Explained" by Daniel Dennett for a more detailed discussion of these topics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half brilliant 3 Jan 2014
By Matt P
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The first half of this book is amazing - full of fascinating insights. There's so much good stuff, he nearly throws away one of the best and simplest theories into why we dream. It's probably worth buying for the first half alone. However in the second half he moves into the philosophy of crime and punishment. While the first half of the book is peppered with all his references, carefully collated, in the second half it really is just an essay of his ideas. So if you are interested in neuroscience and philosophy you may find this enjoyable; I certainly didn't.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating as far as it goes... 2 May 2011
By Aubyn
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Highly enjoyable, often fascinating, sometimes mind-expanding read. Would recommend to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of how human beings work from an up to date neuroscience perspective. I would agree with other reviewers that Eagleman knows how to explain science to the lay reader without over-complication or condescension. Sometimes it feels like Eagleman takes quite a long time to convey his key ideas, albeit with many fascinating examples. These key ideas include; that conscious volition or choice has much less to do with our behaviour than we think and that we are certainly less rational that we like to believe; that most behaviour is handled by ingrained and unconscious `zombie' programmes, some of which arrive ready packaged as our species inheritance and others which are laid down by repeated practice; that what we experience as reality `out there' is actually pictures created by our brains and some or much of which our minds make up entirely depending upon a whole bunch of influences; that our consciousness is largely concerned with setting directions rather than with handling details and that even our thoughts are generated by unconscious machinery to which we have no direct access; that our minds contain multitudes of sub-personas rather than a single coherent self. He goes on to question our notions of blame-worthiness, using examples of how brains that been altered by damage, drugs or disease, and proposes a new blueprint for our legal systems based upon the knowledge neuroscience is unearthing.

In the final chapter Eagleman shifts gear entirely and provides some well-needed context setting about the neuro-scientific perspective from which the book is largely written and acknowledges that it doesn't and can't tell the whole story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 days ago by rowan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating piece of writing...
With it being one of the most complex of organs the human body has, the brain and mind work in tremendous ways. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Pamela Helm
5.0 out of 5 stars A no-brainer!
For anyone interested in how the brain works but hasn't got a Ph.D in neuro science. The is a well-organised trip through the synapses you never knew you had. Read more
Published 2 months ago by W.E.HOLLOWAY
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazind book
This is the most thought provoking book I have ever read , by the end it had me questioning my whole view of how our brains work & my own sense of self .
Published 2 months ago by Mark Bell
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and engaging read
This is a very enjoyable book and seems a good introduction for anyone wanting to know about what's hot in neuroscience. Read more
Published 4 months ago by S. Gibbons
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious and Verbose
OK, just.

Takes a lot of words to explain some pretty obvious and simple facts about the human brain. It's also almost entirely descriptive.
Published 4 months ago by MR K W EDMUNDS
5.0 out of 5 stars Brain expanding !
This book opened my eyes, broadened my mind, and deepened my understanding of how and why we do what we do. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sunskipper
5.0 out of 5 stars A real brain buster
This book constantly makes you smile and think. I have never read a book and come away so confused with my own state of being and so many more questions than when I started... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Matt de Moraes
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
We heard an interview by David Engleman on our car radio and this led us to buying the book. The facts are fascinating and it is the type of book you can read in small chunks -... Read more
Published 7 months ago by gph
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating to discover how little free thought (of actions) we...
A very interesting book. But by half way through I was running out of stamina to complete and I haven't.
Published 9 months ago by sarah williams
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