Incognito – The Secret Lives of the Brain

It’s easy to think of “me” has “having” a brain, but this book left me thinking my brain has me. If there is a me apart from my brain, I fear it’s mostly along for the ride. Here are some ideas that brought out my highlighter.

The brain generally does not need to know most things; it merely knows how to go out andretrieve the data. It computes on a need-to-know basis. pg 28

You’re not perceiving what’s out there. You’re perceiving whatever your brain tells you. pg 33

We have no access to the rapid and automatic machinery that gathers and estimates the statistics of the world. pg 34

Your brain is in the dark but your mind constructs light. pg 40

The difference between being awake and being asleep is merely that the data coming in from the eyes anchors the perception. Asleep vision (dreaming) is perception that is not tied down to anything in the real world; waking perception is something like dreaming with a little more commitment to what’s in front of you. pg 45

It’s easy to spot a hallucination only when it’s bizarre. For all we know, we hallucinate all the time. pg 46

Our expectations influence what we see. There has to be a match between your expectations and the incoming data for you to “see” anything. Awareness of your surroundings occurs only when sensory inputs violate expectations. pg 48, 50

The brain refines its model of the world by paying attention to its mistakes. pg 49

The brain tries to see the world only as well as it needs to. We are not conscious of most things until we ask ourselves questions about them. What we perceive in the outside world is generated by parts of the brain to which we do not have access. pg 54

Instead of reality being passively recorded by the brain, it is actively constructed by it. pg 82

There are thoughts you cannot think. pg 82

Evolution has carefully carved your eyes, internal organs,sexual organs, and so on — and also the character of your thoughts and beliefs. pg 82

“In general, we’re least aware of what our minds do best.” — Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind

We are not able to see the instincts that are the very engines of our behavior. These programs are inaccessible to us not because they are unimportant, but because they’re critical. Conscious meddling would do nothing to improve them. pg88

Briefly glimpsed people are more beautiful. pg 92

We come to know our own attitudes and emotions, at least partially, by inferring them from observations of our own behavior. pg 134

David Eagleman is neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action.

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