Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

David Eagleman

Often, we think of our conscious thoughts as the major players in our brains. But in Incognito, neuroscientist David Eagleman makes the case that our conscious minds are out of the loop in most of what we do. Our instincts, our desires, our motor functions—many of the things we think, feel, and accomplish happen in neural sub-routines outside our conscious control. “We are not at the center of ourselves,” Mr. Eagleman writes, “but instead–like the Earth in the Milky Way, and the Milky Way in the universe—far out on a distant edge, hearing little of what is transpiring.” This line of reasoning has implications for self-determination and free will: if much of what drives behavior happens beyond our conscious control, does “free will” even exist? And if not, what does it mean for our concepts of criminality, punishment, and justice? Eagleman grapples with these questions in this thought-provoking work