There is no subconscious, no ‘inner life’ that holds the secret of understanding ourselves, argues a behavioural psychologist. We improvise and can changeYou probably think you have beliefs, desires, fears, a personality, an “inner life”, maybe even a subconscious. Poppycock, says Nick Chater, a behavioural psychologist. All that stuff is folk nonsense. The brain essentially just makes everything up as it goes along – including what we fondly think of as our direct perceptions of the world, which are a patchwork of guesses and reconstructions. There is nothing going on “underneath”; there are no depths. The book could equally have been called “The Mind Is Shallow”, though potential readers might have found that more off-puttingly rude. This is one of those books that is a superb exposition of scientific findings, from which the author proceeds to draw highly polemical and speculative inferences. There are beautiful discussions of how little we actually see around us: eye-tracking software can show us a page filled with Xs with one word positioned exactly where we are looking , and we have the experience of seeing a full page of text. We can’t even see two or more colours at once but switch between one at a time. In general, our richness of experience seems to be a construct.
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