Neuroscience Clues to Who You Aren’t
The problem of the self – what it is that makes you you – has exercised philosophers and theologians for millennia. Today it is also a hotly contested scientific question, and the science is confirming what the Buddha, Scottish philosopher David Hume and many other thinkers maintained: that there is no concrete identity at the core of our being, and that our sense of self is an illusion spun from narratives we construct about our lives.
Bruce Hood’s The Self Illusion is an account of the developments in psychology and neuroscience that are helping to substantiate this unsettling vision of selfhood. He casts a long line, exploring subjects such as free will, the unconscious, the role of (false) memories in building identity, as well as myriad social psychology experiments showing how people behave differently according to the situation they are in. His aim is to illustrate the interchangeability of our multiple selves, and why much of our cognition seems to have evolved to protect the illusion that we are who we think we are.