53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read but a glaring error
I enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and provides excellent stories and research that justify the point of the book that ultimately the self is an illusion. You will be thoroughly entertained and thought provoked by finding out why your identity is made up of a multitude of external and internal factors that you never knew could provide such an influence on who...
Published on 2 Sept. 2012 by Matthew Hunter
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is ultimately a very poor book. Hood sets up a straw man
This is ultimately a very poor book. Hood sets up a straw man, a set of very specific definitions of Self and Free Will, then lists a lot of evidence to prove they are wrong. However, replace the definitions with more well thought out ones, and all you have is a list of - at first sight - interesting experimental evidence that throws light onto the issues of self, and...
Published 29 days ago by Dave
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read but a glaring error,
I enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and provides excellent stories and research that justify the point of the book that ultimately the self is an illusion. You will be thoroughly entertained and thought provoked by finding out why your identity is made up of a multitude of external and internal factors that you never knew could provide such an influence on who you think you are.
However this is a popular science book and not a journal based literature review and there are obvious instances where Bruce's personal opinions are presented without strong evidence and one could be forgiven for taken that as fact given the research he does display. For example when talking about free will he cites a well known study where the brain has already decided on the choice of pressing a button before the conscious mind has decided. This is great evidence to support an arguement against free will but then concludes that because he can plan for a future event that free will isn't always an illusion. Whether he is right or not is not the point but simply that he makes a conclusion without supporting literary evidence.
The glaring error that the book contains is simply this: Bruce assumes that a self illusion is a good thing. He somehow assumes that its those people with a strong sense of self that are better off. This is true for the minority of people who believe they are confident, smart, successful, or positive. But in my experience (and I have a lot!) is that most people's identity is negative and their sense of self is often seen as weak, unconfident, stressed, sad, unhappy and so on. Bruce doesn't acknowledge that a strong sense self can be bad as well as good. In fact his closing statement is that one needs a strong sense of self to survive. However the happiest free-ist people I know are those who have been liberated from 'their' self.
Conclusion: This is a great entertaining read with an abundance of fascinating research. Just be careful what conclusions are made! :-)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Self Illusions,
Bruce Hoods book The Self Illusion is a great book about the mental constructions that makes us who we are.
According to Hood, deep down, our selves might not be all that solid. Instead, other people influence us and changing circumstances continually update our beliefs and our sense of self.
The self is shaped by the reflected opinions of others around us.
And Hood gives us a long list of very interesting observations and psychological experiments that illustrates that our selves are not rock solid things.
From Jane Elliots experiments with a third grade class (She convinced blue eyed
children that brown eyed kids were smarter or vice versa) to Solomon Aschs Conformity test (where students would rather follow the group than give the right answer).
Hood concludes that ''we are susceptible to group pressure, subtle priming cues, stereotyping and culturally cuing, then the notion of a true, unyielding ego cannot be sustained. If it is a self that flinches and bends with tiny changes in circumstances, then it might as well be non-existent''
Indeed, selves are constructed not born, according to Hood.
People don't remember much from before the age of four. According to Bruce Hood, the reason for this is that our selves have not been fully build at that age:
It's not that you have forgotten what it was like to be an infant
- You were simply not ''you'' at that age because there was no constructed self,
and so you cannot make sense of early experiences in the context of the person to
whom these events happened.
And the self is fragile. Even thinking too much about it might be a dangerous thing?
We might be confused, begin to wonder if the construction, the self, can really do anything on its own? Do we, the self, have free will?
We need the self though: Experiences are fragmented episodes unless they are woven together in meaningful narrative. This is why the self pulls it all together.
And, we also think of others as having selves. Indeed, We have not evolved to think about others as a bundle of processes. Rather we have evolved to treat others as individual selves.
What a story. What a book, full of great insights.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and easy to read,
I really enjoyed this book and found it a pleasure to read (albeit you do need to concentrate in parts). The concept that there is no "self" is a pretty hard one to get your head around, although it certainly makes sense to me - and even more so given the evidence that Bruce Hood outlines.
The reason I haven't given the book 5 stars is that I would like to have seen a section/chapter that explores what the concept of "no self" means for the way that we live our lives. That is to say, the fact that we have no consistent personality and are not much more than our brains, which in turn is a collection of (changing) memories, must be a very valuable piece of information when it comes to informing the way we live our lives. The other small criticism I had of the book is that the version I read (the Kindle version) had quite a number of typos which makes me wonder whether the book had been rather rushed into publication.
However, overall, I would strongly recommend this book. It has proved, to me, to be a great introduction to the otherwise illusive and mystical concept of there being "no self".
50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No kidding,
This book examines the basic nature of our personal identity from the point of view of neuropsychology. Julian Baggini gave us a fascinating account of it from the point of view of philosophy last year in his book "The Ego Trick". Hood writes an equally fascinating account to address the question, "What (or who) is the `I' that Descartes refers to when he wrote `I think. Therefore I am'"? The inroads into neuroscience is paving the way we look at things, the way we see others, and most importantly, the way we see ourselves. A decade ago the phrase "My brain made me do it" would have brought howls of laughter from people thinking it might be a spoof on criminal conduct. Read Hood and you may see the serious studies in this field.
The competing theories of Galen Strawson (the "pearl view") and Hume's (the "bundle theory") are examined and Hood tells us that modern science is inclining towards the "bundle theory", namely that our "self" emerges not from an accretion of our past experiences - "a bundling together of these experiences". The "pearl theory" holds that our self is a single immovable entity at the core of our existence.
Arising from this, it will become apparent that if the self is a bundling of one's past experiences, then one's memory is an important factor to be studied. Hood tells us that neuroscience shows that possession of memory and identity is what makes us unique individuals. Hood lucidly explains how experiments show this connection that starts with children from about five years of age. He also tells us how the self of the "moment" differs from the self of the "memory". Citing Daniel Kahnemann (whose book `Thinking Fast & Slow' is an essential reading material for all professionals who make judgments for a living - lawyers, doctors, economists etc), he explains that we have about 600,000 experiencing moments a month, each of which lasts about 2 or 3 seconds, but most are lost. That is why our memory is always fragmented, and why we often believe so strongly that our recollection is correct when it is not.
Next, the nature of human learning is also a critical factor in the development of the self. Hood draws on the studies as to how babies learn things, how adults learn things, and using examples of groupthink - shows how and why we think like the group we are in when, if left alone, we actually think differently. If the self - our self - is an accretion of experiences, built up layer by layer, then the question must arise - are we really in control of our thoughts? Hood spends a couple of chapters on his belief that neuroscience indicates that we do not really have free-will. This is, of course, a controversial topic, but if we are to see both sides of the question, we ought to see Hood's view. Right or wrong, it has the merits of clarity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most thorough and gently persuasive case yet for Free Will being an illusion,
Having read and loved Hood's previous book, Supersense, I knew I'd be in for a treat with this, and I wasn't disappointed. Over the last few years, I'd already gradually come to the disconcerting conclusion that Free will is indeed an illusion, but until reading this book, I hadn't fully realised how much neuroscientific evidence exists to support this stance.
Unlike the more contrarian approach of Sam Harris (whom I also admire and whose book on this subject I also enjoyed), Bruce Hood uses a much gentler, but I think ultimately more effective style of persuasion which is to simply stack increasing quantities of well supported evidence in favour of his position, until you realise there is really no other reasonable conclusion. Even those committed to dualism, or those reluctant for some other reason to let go of the notion of an independent "self", should still, I think, find plenty here to fascinate until the very last page.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read for the Non-Specialist,
As a non-specialist i.e. not in the field of neuroscience, I was a little concerned I would find this book dry and a difficult concept to understand. I could not have been more wrong. It was enlightening, interesting and full of fascinating anecdotes and illustrations. Bruce Hood has a natural gift as a writer for the general public. His style is accessible, funny and yet educational. I have learned more about my "self" than I thought I would and also understand more about your "self". I read SuperSense also by Hood with interest and I can honestly say if you enjoyed that or even found it a little controversial, this matches it easily. Hood is an expert in his field and translates ideas and concepts to the general public with ease and aplomb.
I would recommend this book to anyone thinking of exploring what it means to be a human being even if you have little previous experience in reading this sort of literature.
Highly entertaining, hugely enjoyable, a must have.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is ultimately a very poor book. Hood sets up a straw man,
This review is from: The Self Illusion: Why There is No 'You' Inside Your Head (Paperback)
This is ultimately a very poor book. Hood sets up a straw man, a set of very specific definitions of Self and Free Will, then lists a lot of evidence to prove they are wrong. However, replace the definitions with more well thought out ones, and all you have is a list of - at first sight - interesting experimental evidence that throws light onto the issues of self, and free will, but provide no real in depth insight to this.
I say on first sight, because as a scientist and physicist, what strikes me most about a large number of the experiments described is the very poor quality of science. Many of them show poor experimental design (in terms of how the experiment will test the hypothesis), poor or nonexistent use for controls, and a lot of confirmation bias in the analysis of the result. There is also some bias in the reporting of experiments -- some of the results have been shown to be unlikely by further more sophisticated research (as is normal in Science) but his is not reported....
So, an entertaining light read, very little to be learned from it!
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Thought Provoking and Readable,
As a Buddhist who has a passion for trying to understand myself and others I was most keen to read this book, and I was not disappointed. It is written in a way that is engaging and fascinating. This is a book that should be read, reflected upon and the ideas within it explored so we can better understand our own internal world and in turn those around us, be they family, friends or enemies. Wonderful stuff.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great concept but poorly delivered,
My son recommended this book and I'm glad I read it as I was introduced to a concept I was not really aware of. Certainly the author persuaded me of the basic premise: that when born our brains are largely a blank slate. Thus all the experiences we have, shape the kind of person we shall grow up to become.
I think the author had made that theory stand up for the general reader in the first three chapters. After that it got just a bit boring. It was though he had been trawling through all the studies and reports he could find and fetching up gobbets of interesting fact. Some were, some weren't and few were relevant to his general thesis. They were almost universally based on research at North American and European universities, using students as subjects. Hardly representative
Despite all the shortcomings of the book, I shall always be grateful for being introduced to the concept of the 'memory as a compost heap' with graphic examples of false memory.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terribly Edited - Shameful,
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.
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The Self Illusion: Why There is No 'You' Inside Your Head by Bruce Hood (Paperback - 7 Mar. 2013)