Hooked on Mind & Brain

Welcome to my blog world! Here I’ll be sharing my passion for the psychological science of mind & brain, especially the psychology of our unconscious emotional brain that drives so much of what we consciously feel, think and do. Rumors to the contrary, we’re in charge of little or none of it. As cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga reminds us in The Mind’s Past, “Ninety-eight percent of what the mind does is outside conscious awareness”— and therefore beyond our control [My amygdala made me do it, Your Honor!]. So are we all off the hook and unaccountable for our actions? Is free will just a useful illusion for getting us to do the right thing?

For that matter, is what we think is the “right thing”—our morals, ethics and values—merely the brain’s way of cleverly rationalizing our unconscious gut feelings, preferences and prejudices? Did philosopher David Hume nail it long ago when he wrote that “reason is …the slave of the passions…”? The daily battle between our rational and emotional selves certainly gives us a hint about the underlying modular character of our brains. Is our sense of a “unitary self” thereby an illusion? Does the brain work like a flawless orchestra without a conductor as Gazzaniga now tells us? Is there nobody home in there?

The nature of consciousness; our dangerous passions; the biological roots of crime; free will and the law; morality, religion, sex, and the political brain; cognitive and social neuroscience; evolutionary psychology, Darwin, dopamine, and the adapted mind; Descartes’ Error—just some of the many topics and domains we’ll be exploring in our journey through contemporary psychological science and everyday life—but more later on all this fascinating mind & brain stuff. In the meantime…a little brain art appreciation:

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http://www.kurzweilai.net/images/Happy-Sad.jpeg

The author, a psychologist by training (PhD, Michigan State University, Personality and Social Psychology) and a political scientist and public opinion researcher by profession, is a member of the Association for Psychological Science, the American Association for Public Opinion Research and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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