Archive for October, 2012

Reality – The Self Illusion.

October 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Bruce Hoods book The Self Illusion is a great book about the mental constructions that makes us who we are.
According to Hood, deep down, our selves might not be all that solid.
Instead, other people influence us and changing circumstances continually update our beliefs and our sense of self.

The self is shaped by the reflected opinions of others around us.
And Hood gives us a long list of very interesting observations and psychological experiments that illustrates that our selves are not rock solid things.
From Jane Elliots experiments with a third grade class (She convinced blue eyed children that brown eyed kids were smarter or vice versa) to Solomon Aschs Conformity test (Where students would rather follow the group than give the right answer) –
Hood concludes that:

We are susceptible to group pressure, subtle priming cues, stereotyping and culturally cuing, then the notion of a true, unyielding ego cannot be sustained. If it is a self that flinches and bends with tiny changes in circumstances, then it might as well be non-existent

Indeed, selves are constructed – not born, according to Hood.
People don’t remember much from before the age of four. According to Bruce Hood, the reason for this is that our selves have not been fully build at that age:

It’s not that you have forgotten what it was like to be an infant
– You were simply not ”you” at that age because there was no constructed self, and so you cannot make sense of early experiences in the context of the person to whom these events happened.

And the self is fragile. Even thinking too much about it might be a dangerous thing? We might be confused, begin to wonder if the construction, the self, can really do anything on its own? Do we, the self, have free will?

We need the self though:
Experiences are fragmented episodes unless they are woven together in meaningful narrative. This is why the self pulls it all together.
And, we also think of others as having selves. Indeed, we have not evolved to think about others as a bundle of processes. Rather we have evolved to treat others as individual selves.

What a story. What a book, full of great insights.

For more about reality – See my reality post Self, Reality and Reason.

And, notice how reality (always) loops back to mental constructs. See Reality loops.