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Incognito: The Secret Lives Of The Brain Hardcover – May 31 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (May 31 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670063924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670063925
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #229,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“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

“Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness.” –New Yorker

“Your mind is an elaborate trick, and mastermind David Eagleman explains how the trick works with great lucidity and amazement. Your mind will thank you.” –Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine

“A fun read by a smart person for smart people…it will attract a new generation to ponder their inner workings.” –New Scientist

“Written in clear, precise language, the book is sure to appeal to readers with an interest in psychology and the human mind, but it will also please people who just want to know, with a little more clarity, what is going on inside their own skulls.” –Booklist 

“Original and provocative…Incognito is a smart, captivating book that will give you a prefrontal workout.” –Nature 
“Incognito is fun to read, full of neat factoids and clever experiments...Eagleman says he’s looking to do for neuroscience what Carl Sagan did for astrophysics, and he’s already on his way.” –Texas Monthly

"Although Incognito is face-paced, mind-bending stuff, it's a book for regular folks. Eagleman does a brilliant job refining heavy science into a compelling read. He is a gifted writer." -Houston Chronicle

“A popularizer of impressive gusto…[Eagleman] aims, grandly, to do for the study of the mind what Copernicus did for the study of the stars.” –New York Observer 

“The journey to the heart of neurological darkness is also a kind of safari, and we spend a lot of time taking in the marvelous birds…Incognito proposes a grand new account of the relationship between consciousness and the brain. It is full of dazzling ideas, as it is chockablock with facts and instances.” –The New York Observer   
“Incognito does the right thing by diving straight into the deep end and trying to swim. Eagleman, by imagining the future so vividly, puts into relief just how challenging neuroscience is, and will be.” –Boston Globe 
“Appealing and persuasive.” –Wall Street Journal

“Eagleman has a nice way with anecdotes and explanations…delightful.” –The Observer’s Very Short List
“Eagleman presents difficult neuroscience concepts in an energetic, casual voice with plenty of analogies and examples to ensure that what could easily be an overwhelming catalog of facts remains engaging and accessible…the ideas in Eagleman’s book are well-articulated and entertaining, elucidated with the intelligent, casual tone of an enthusiastic university lecturer.” –The Millions
“A fascinating, dynamic, faceted look under the hood of the conscious mind...Equal parts entertaining and illuminating, the case studies, examples and insights in Incognito are more than mere talking points to impressed at the next dinner party, poised instead to radically shift your understanding of the world, other people, and your own mind.” –Brain Pickings

“Eagleman engagingly sums up recent discoveries about the unconscious processes that dominate our mental life.” –The New York Times Book Review 
“Fascinating…Eagleman has the ability to turn hard science and jargon into interesting and relatable prose, illuminating the mind’s processes with clever analogies and metaphors.” –Salt Lake City Weekly
“A great beach read.“ –Philadelphia City Paper
“Touches on some of the more intriguing cul-de-sacs of human behavior.“ –Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Startling…It’s a book that will leave you looking at yourself—and the world—differently.” –Austin American Statesman
“Incognito feels like learning the secrets of a magician. In clear prose, Eagleman condenses complex concepts and reinforces his points through analogies, pop culture, current events, optical illusions, anecdotes, and fun facts.” –Frontier Psychiatrist
“One of those books that could change everything.” –Sam Snyder, blog

“Sparkling and provocative…a thrilling subsurface exploration of the mind and all its contradictions.” –Louisville Courier-Journal  
“Buy this book. The pithy observations, breezy language and wow-inducing anecdotes provide temporary pleasure, but the book’s real strength is in its staying power.“ –Science News
“A whirlwind, high-definition look at the neural underpinnings of our everyday thinking and perception…fascinating.” –

“Eagleman embodies what is fascinating, fun, and hopeful about modern neuroscience.” –  
“After you read Eagleman’s breezy treatment of the brain, you will marvel at how much is illusory that we think is real, and how we sometimes function out autopilot without consciously knowing what is happening…This is a fascinating book.” –The Advocate
“A pleasure to read…If a reader is looking for a fun but illuminating read, Incognito is a good choice. With its nice balance between hard science and entertaining anecdotes, it is a good alternative to the usual brainless summer blockbusters.” –Deseret News
“Funny, gripping and often shocking…Eagleman writes great sentences of the sort that you might be inclined to read to those in your general vicinity.” –

Incognito reads like a series of fascinating vignettes, offering plenty of pauses for self-reflection. Eagleman’s anecdotes are funny and easily tie to the concepts he explains. Moreover, his enthusiasm for the subject is obvious and contagious.” –Spectrum Culture

Incognito is popular science at its best…beautifully synthesized.” –Boston Globe Best of 2011

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.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It really is amazing how much of our brain's functioning occurs without our knowing about it (i.e. below our consciousness). Neuroscience has made remarkable progress ferreting out what is going on in our grey matter and Dr. Eagleman does an outstanding job of summarizing some highlights in straightforward, readily understood language. His book happily flows along and is chalk full of intriguing little anecdotes suitable for captivating your friends at cocktail parties.

For me, among the most interesting tidbits was learning that the human brain operates as a collection of competing subagents (or subroutines) each battling for control of our behaviour. As Dr. Eagleman says, the brain works rather like a representative democracy, which means familiar concepts like "arguing with yourself" or "cajoling yourself to do something," actually make a lot of sense neurologically.

Other topics touched on include; the vastness of our unconscious mind, how our vision is more a construct of our minds than a reflection of reality, the role of consciousness in setting goals for memory, when and when not to blame or hold people responsible for their behaviour and a brief look at the philosophical implications of the neuroscience examined - from a purely materialist perspective, naturally.

All in all, Incognito is a fun and fascinating book that is well worth a read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Hay on Sept. 2 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating and compelling discussion of how our brains function, all without our awareness. In addition, the author provides explanation for some very disturbing crimes -- disturbing because the causes could happen to any of us. He makes a very good case for changing how we think about and deal with criminals. I enjoyed the book and felt I learned so much that I gifted a copy to a friend.
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By Sweetpea on Jan. 16 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pretty interesting book with some neat facts. However, it did lose my interest at some points.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sean s. TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 2 2011
Format: Hardcover
Dr. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and director of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine.

Incognito asks the question "If the conscious mind - the part you consider to be you - is just the tip of the iceberg, what is the rest doing?"

As a neuroscientist, he begins by offering mind-boggling statistics about the human brain: "Your brain is built of cells called neurons and glia - hundreds of billions of them. Each one of these cells is as complicated as a city. There are as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control. The conscious you is the smallest part of what's transpiring in your brain. Your consciousness is like a tiny stowaway on a transatlantic steamship, taking credit for the journey without acknowledging the massive engineering underfoot.

Brains are in the business of gathering information and steering behavior appropriately. It doesn't matter whether consciousness is involved in the decision-making. And most of the time, it's not. Consciousness evolved because it was advantageous - but advantageous only in limited amounts."

Eagleman points out that the philosopher and polymath Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) was among the first to acknowledge the power of the unconscious mind. Leibniz suggested that there are some perceptions of which we are not aware, and he called these "petite perceptions." He went on to suggest that there were strivings and tendencies ("appetitions") of which we are also unconscious but that can nonetheless drive our actions.
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2 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Anderson on July 15 2011
Format: Hardcover
The book tries to shed some light on the subconscious. I'll save you the time though. Read the back blurb where the author quotes a tennis player who lost a Wimbledon match to Bjorn Borg. Something about Borg being a 'robot'. Of course the player was merely referring to the stoicism and absence of the visceral in Borg's play, which seemed 'robotic' to him. But this quote is presented as if to highlight the importance of the subconscious on Borg's victory; and as scientifically true as that may be, that is not what is meant by the quote. And mama always told me that those who skew other people's words in order to support their own views are either politicians or don't have anything of substance to say. And David Eagleman is no politician.
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