Friday, May 3, 2024

Review of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Psychology
Book Club Event = Book List (08/17/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Why Do People Think Differently?, 2) The Forge Called Habits,

Watch Short Review


“Before we engage our concentration, we are typically not aware that we are not aware of those details.  So not only is our perception of the world a construction that does not accurately represent the outside, but we additionally have the false impression of a full, rich picture when in fact we see only what we need to know, and no more.” – David Eagleman, Chapter 2: The Testimony of the Senses: What is Experience Really Like?, Page 31

“Synesthesia, in its dozens of varieties, highlights the amazing differences in how individuals subjectively see the world, reminding us that each brain uniquely determines what it perceives, or is capable of perceiving.  This fact brings us back to our main point here – namely, that reality is far more subjective than is commonly supposed.  Instead of reality being passively recorded by the brain, it is actively constructed by it.” – David Eagleman, Chapter 4: The Kinds of Thoughts That are Thinkable, Page 76

“Although pheromones clearly carry signals, the degree to which they influence human behavior is unknown.  Our cognition is so multilayered that these cues have been reduced to bit players.  Whatever other roles they have, pheromones serve to remind us that the brain continuously evolves: these molecules unmask the presence of outdated legacy software.” – David Eagleman, Chapter 4: The Kinds of Thoughts That are Thinkable, Page 90


Is This An Overview?

Thoughts change through physical modifications of the brain.  Changing the brain physically, changes how the brain interprets information.  The brain seeks information only when needed, to obtain knowledge useful during the circumstance.  Information might be present, but the brain will not see the information until concentration is used.  Observing only what is needed to be known, not more.  The brain gathers information and directs behavior, but the individual is rarely conscious.  The brain runs on automatic responses, habits.  Conscious awareness comes about when the individual’s expectations are violated.  Consciousness is used when dealing with novel tasks, to resolve problems not faced before, which uses more energy than similar tasks that the individual has dealt with before. 


The World Is Composed Of Subjective Experiences?

Different species have different umwelts, different ways they engage with and perceive reality.  Even within species, different brains uniquely determine what they perceive, what they are capable of perceiving.  Reality is more subjective than is understood.  Reality is actively constructed by the brain, rather than passively recorded.


Do You Trust Your Senses?

The brain spends a lot of effort and energy disambiguating information entering the senses, such as eyes.  The brains fill in missing information from eyes.  The individual perceives not what is there, but what the brain tells the individual.  People are not seeing rich details or aware of most information that enters the eyes.  The brain has change blindness, as seeing change requires attention that takes energy and effort.  Senese cannot be trusted, as they can make the individual believe things that are not true. 


The Brain Is A Team Of Rivals?

The brain has competitive rivals.  Some parts prefer gratifications, others long-term outcomes.  A conflict between emotions and rational system.  Feelings have been adjusting decisions, such as making wrong behavior feel bad.  Emotions and rationality are needed for appropriate behavior. 



This is an introductory book on how the brain processes information.  Making overt what the brain hides from the individual.  The brain is complex, with much still not understood.  What still needs to be researched is how much free will there is, for much of how the brain processes information is not independent of the various conditions and sources that cause certain decisions.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How can thoughts change? 
•What information does the brain consider?
•How conscious are people? 
•What are degrees of consciousness? 
•What is tacit knowledge? 
•How do people react when regaining sight after decades?
•How do multistable stimulus effect how the brain interprets information? 
•What is the blind spot in the eye? 
•What is change blindness? 
•What is the unconscious inference? 
•What do people see, and not see?
•What is implicit egotism? 
•How should people get into the zone?
•What makes people attractive? 
•What is the umwelt? 
•Is reality subjective? 
•What is synesthesia? 
•What is instinct blindness? 
•How do pheromones effect people? 
•What makes a virtuous person? 
•What is split-brain surgery for?  How do people with a split-brain behave? 
•How to limit the effects of Alzheimer’s? 
•Can functions be assigned to specific sections of the brain? 
•What is the point of revealing a secret? 
•How can a tumor effect behavior? 
•What is the effect of dopamine? 
•What genes make someone more likely to go to prison? 
•Is there free will? 
•How to improve the justice system?
•What is modifiability and how does it affect responsibility? 
•How to be introspective? 
•Should you trust your senses?
•What rivals make the brain work? 
•Do neurons think? 

Book Details
Publisher:               Pantheon Books [Random House]
Edition ISBN:         9780307379788
Pages to read:          199
Publication:             2011
1st Edition:              2011
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5