Incognito Book Summary - Incognito Book explained in key points
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Incognito summary

David Eagleman

The Secret Lives of the Brain

3.9 (209 ratings)
11 mins

Brief summary

Incognito by David Eagleman is a fascinating exploration of the unconscious mind. It reveals how much of our behavior is driven by this hidden force, and how little control we actually have over our own actions.

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    Incognito
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    Despite what we think, we’re not really in control of our thoughts, feelings and actions.

    Most people assume they’re consciously aware of and in control of pretty much all their feelings, actions and thoughts. Astonishingly, neuroscience proves them wrong.

    In fact, most of your brain activity stems from purely physical and biological processes of which you’re completely unaware, and which you’re unable to influence.

    Our helplessness can be seen in the way alterations to the brain caused, for example, by accidents and diseases, affect people.

    One shocking example was the case of a 40-year-old man whose wife of 20 years suddenly noticed he had – seemingly out of the blue – developed an obsession with child pornography. After a medical examination, it was found he had developed a massive tumor in a part of the brain responsible for decision-making: the orbitofrontal cortex. Once the tumor was removed, his sexual appetites returned to normal.

    There are also other, more subtle ways in which we lack conscious control over our mental lives, and it turns out this is often for the best: many processes in our brain, like decision-making, actually work best on autopilot, without conscious interference that would slow it down.

    For example, if you ask a musician to play a piece, but tell her to focus only on the individual movements of her fingers, she’ll find this very difficult. It is far easier for her to focus on the music, and let her fingers play it free from such vigilant, conscious control.

    Or what about baseball, where some pitchers can throw a fastball that reaches the batter in just four-tenths of a second. It takes five-tenths of a second for the batter to form a conscious awareness of where the ball is going, so why don’t batters always miss fastballs? Because they actually leave the conscious component out of their decision, and respond instinctively, much las you might duck if you saw something come at you quickly.

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    What is Incognito about?

    Unbeknownst to you, a subconscious part of your brain is constantly whirring away and wielding a tremendous influence on your thoughts, feelings and behavior. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (2011) is your guide to the other side of your brain, and how it shapes your life.

    Incognito Review

    Incognito (2011) is a thought-provoking exploration of the hidden workings of the brain. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With compelling scientific insights and research, it unveils the mysterious ways our brains operate beneath the surface of consciousness.
    • Through relatable examples and intriguing anecdotes, the book illuminates the complexities of decision-making, memory, and perception, making it a captivating read.
    • Its ability to challenge conventional notions of identity and free will keeps readers engaged, ensuring that boredom is never an issue while unraveling the mysteries of the mind.

    Best quote from Incognito

    A professional athletes goal is to not think.

    —David Eagleman
    example alt text

    Who should read Incognito?

    • Anyone interested in psychology, psychiatry or neuroscience
    • Anyone interested in what makes us see the world the way we see it, and the inner workings of our minds
    • Anyone who wonders whether there is such a thing as free will, and if criminals truly choose to commit their crimes

    About the Author

    David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and junior professor at Baylor College of Medicine who has written several popular science books, including Wednesday is Indigo Blue.

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    Incognito FAQs 

    What is the main message of Incognito?

    Incognito explores the hidden forces that shape our thoughts and behaviors, revealing the complex nature of the human brain.

    How long does it take to read Incognito?

    The reading time for Incognito varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Incognito a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Incognito is a captivating book that illuminates the mysteries of the subconscious mind. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Incognito?

    The author of Incognito is David Eagleman.

    What to read after Incognito?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Incognito, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Brain by David Eagleman
    • Learn or Die by Edward D. Hess
    • The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
    • No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer
    • Livewired by David Eagleman
    • Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon by Rahul Jandial
    • AI 2041 by Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan
    • Originals by Adam Grant
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    • A Passage to India by E. M. Forster