The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity

My name is Paige Chambers. I am a student at Saddleback Community College, studying Psychology. I am taking this class because I need the units to transfer to a University. I chose to read the book, “Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity” by Bruce Hood. I chose this book because I thought it sounded very interesting and was curious about how we create our own identity. I always wondered how we became who we are and what influences us. I think I have always had an interest because I am still trying to figure out who I am and some of us have struggled to accept who we are.

The author Bruce Hood is a experimental psychologist, he specializes in developmental cognitive neuroscience. He is a Professor of Developmental Psychology in Society at the University of Bristol and the author of several books, including Supersense: Why We Believe the Unbelievable. He received a Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy from the University of Dundee. He received a PhD from University of Cambridge in 1991, studying the visual development of infants. He investigates various aspects of cognitive development in children. He has worked at Cambridge University, University of College London, MIT, and Harvard, and was the 2011 Royal Institution Christmas Lecturer, presenting three brain broadcasts on the BBC to an audience of over 3 million viewers.

The Self Illusion is about the all of the things in life that influence you to become who you are. Hood explains in the prologue that the self is an illusion that is created by our brain. We reinterpret our failures as successes and even as adults, we are continually developing and elaborating our self illusion. The brain is the most critical body part when it comes to who we are. We exist as the reflection of those around us.

Bruce Hood also states in his book that he refers the discussion of self illusion in terms. I, me, my, mine, you, yours, our, us and we. They are used to imply the existence of a self or in multiple selves. He wants to imply by Psychologist Susan Blackmore that the word “illusion” does not mean that it does not exist but that it is not what is seems. Looking in a glass mirror, you see a vessel that is holding the person that is inside which is you. It is called the “looking-glass self”, we exist as the reflection of those around us.

“In effect, we are our brains or at least, the brain is the most critical body part when it comes to who we are.” -Bruce Hood.

Self Illusion is the construction of self. It teaches us that we are dependent on others to create our identity. We are influenced as babies to socially communicate with people with smiles and as teenagers we are trying to be accepted by society. We are still developing in adult hood to try to find ourselves. We are looking for our self in different ways. We have who we are at home, work and as a parent. We are trying to create an identity that we hope other people will accept.

Hood starts the book off with how the brain works and why it is so important. He explains how the brain is formed, where every important thing is and where everything that we learn is developed. “Our brain, and the mind it supports, is what makes us who we really are” (pg.1). Each chapter would have sections that would go into more detail about how our brains were influenced as babies, how they were influenced as teenagers and in our adult lives. There is so much information about each milestone that a person experiences in their life. In the first couple of chapters he explains about how we are influenced by babies and teenagers. He states that babies are observers and their brains are taking in a lot of information that is causing their brain to get bigger. Teenagers are being criticized because of an imaginary audience that they believe is judging them. In the last couple of chapters, he talks about how diseases affect people and make them disconnected from themselves. How we identify ourselves from past experiences. How technology is starting to affect of behavior. He explains about how our interactions with people in our environment affects or encourages our self.

While I was reading the book, there were some parts that had a lot of information but I was enjoying it a lot. My reaction to the book about prior assumptions changed a little bit but not to much. It was very interesting. I knew that it would talk about how the self illusion is created and what creates it but I don’t think I was expecting a lot of detail about what in our lives inspires it. It made me want to learn even more about what else influences our brain. I also want to experience what others thought about self illusion and what their belief is. I don’t think it has changed my behavior that much but it defiantly peaked my interest of learning more about the self and what creates it. I would and have been recommending this book to people. I have read some pages or segments to my family and they thought it was pretty interesting as well. I will defiantly be doing some more research about self illusion.

“One can speculate how changes will impact upon the individual’s identity, but it would seem that in an ever more crowded future, we are going to need a pretty strong sense of self to survive.” -Bruce Hood

Citations

University of Bristol. (2017, December 11). Professor Bruce Hood. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from http://www.bristol.ac.uk/expsych/people/bruce-m-hood/overview.html

About Bruce. (2015, October 08). Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://brucemhood.wordpress.com/about/

What is the Self Illusion? (n.d.). Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-self-illusion/201205/what-is-the-self-illusion

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