Synopses & Reviews
If the conscious mind — the part you consider you — accounts for only a tiny fraction of the brain's function, what is all the rest doing? This is the question that David Eagleman — renowned neuroscientist and acclaimed author of Sum — answers in a book as accessible and entertaining as it is deeply informed by startling, up-to-the-minute research.
Our behavior, thoughts, and experiences are inseparably yoked to a vast, wet, electrochemical network called the nervous system. The machinery is utterly alien to us, and yet, somehow, it is us. In this dazzling journey, David Eagleman plumbs the depths of the brain to illuminate surprising mysteries: Why does the conscious mind know so little about itself? Why can your foot jump halfway to the brake pedal before you become consciously aware of danger ahead? What do Odysseus and the subprime mortgage meltdown have in common? Why do strippers make more money at certain times of the month? Why are people whose name begins with J more likely to marry other people whose name begins with J? Why did Thomas Edison electrocute an elephant? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret?
This mind-blowing voyage into the inner cosmos includes stopovers in mate-selection, synesthesia, beauty, free will, infidelity, artificial intelligence, visual illusions, dreams, and the future of criminal law. Throughout, Eagleman helps us understand how our perceptions of ourselves and our world result from the hidden workings of the most wondrous thing we have ever encountered: the human brain.
"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
"The book is full of startling examples....Eagleman has a wealth of such observations, backed up with case studies, bits of pop culture, literary references and historic examples. A book that will leave you looking at yourself — and the world — differently." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"What Eagleman seems to be calling for is a new Enlightenment, where our better understanding of the brain allows us to treat criminality differently. It’s a bold argument and perhaps just the beginning of the debate." Sunday Herald
"David Eagleman offers startling lessons in neuroscience.... His method in both Sum and his new book, Incognito, is to ask us to cast off our lazy, commonplace assumptions. In one, he delineates, with remorseless logic and clarity, what any conceivable afterlife would actually entail. In the other: you think your brain and senses reveal the world as it is?" The Guardian
"A shining example of lucid and easy-to-grasp science writing." The Independent
"A fun read by a smart person for smart people....It will attract a new generation to ponder their inner workings." New Scientist
If the conscious mind—the part you consider to be you—is just the tip of the iceberg, what is the rest doing?
In this sparkling and provocative new book, the renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman navigates the depths of the subconscious brain to illuminate surprising mysteries: Why can your foot move halfway to the brake pedal before you become consciously aware of danger ahead? Why do you hear your name being mentioned in a conversation that you didn’t think you were listening to? What do Ulysses and the credit crunch have in common? Why did Thomas Edison electrocute an elephant in 1916? Why are people whose names begin with J more likely to marry other people whose names begin 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?
Taking in brain damage, plane spotting, dating, drugs, beauty, infidelity, synesthesia, criminal law, artificial intelligence, and visual illusions, Incognito is a thrilling subsurface exploration of the mind and all its contradictions.
About the Author
David Eagleman is a neuroscientist at 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 has been published in journals from Science to Nature, and his neuroscience books include Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia (with Richard Cytowic) and the forthcoming Live-Wired. He is also the author of the internationally best-selling book of fiction Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives.