From New Scientist (free registration required), comes a big look at why your brain misleads you so often: The grand delusion: Why nothing is as it seems.

What you see is not what you get

Your senses are your windows on the world, and you probably think they do a fair job at capturing an accurate depiction of reality. Don’t kid yourself  Read more

Blind to bias

Do you see the world through a veil of prejudice and self-serving hypocrisies? Or is it just other people who do that?  Read more

Head full of half-truths

One of the most important components of your self-identity – your autobiographical memory – is little more than an illusion  Read more

Egotist, moi?

Most drivers think they’re better than average. Most people think they’re less likely to have an inflated self-opinion than average. See the problem? Read more

Who’s in control?

Free will is at odds with the physical universe (Image: Raul Touzon/NGS/Getty)

The more we learn about the brain, the less plausible it becomes that we have free will Read more

Category: Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

15 Responses to “The Grand Delusion”

  1. Pietro_F says:

    I don’t need to read any of these. My ability to remain objective and reasoned is more fine tuned than other people.

  2. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    None of y’all would exist if I warn’t thinkin’ ya’ up.

    Reminds me of Hume:

  3. you know, this type of “Thing” (Subject) has been becoming more popular — esp. in the Press geared toward those that ‘think they think for themselves’…

    forget the Lame, ~late-80s, “Bud Dry”-tagline “Why ask Why?”

    ask “Why?”

  4. Peter Pan says:

    Oh great, now I feel depressed because I have no real control. I need to find me a quick hit of delusion to be happy again.

  5. PeterR says:

    What me worry?


  6. Jack says:


  7. rip says:

    @BR: Humility, generosity and graciousness are enormous human traits.

    Rationality? Don’t think that’s an issue. We all think we have THE answer. Or not.

    Intelligence? Irrelevant.

    Ego? That’s a bad motivator. IMHO.

    Have a nice evening.

  8. Stick says:

    Mr. Wheatstraw,

    Thank you for that enlightening video link. Twas magnificent!

  9. uzer says:

    if there’s no free will, is turning banksters into lamp post ornaments still illegal?

  10. Jack,

    And God said, “let there be light”, so I handed him a light bulb.

  11. TheUnrepentantGunner says:

    I think the problem is that even if you have some self-awareness, it doesnt do much good. I know I am a terrible driver for my age cohort, and below average overall. (Not in the risky, speeding prone to accident sort, but still bad). How does that help me?

    In fact anyone that read blink would agree that some self-delusion is useful. Note the verbal primers that are useful before an athletic competion, taking a test, or performing a difficult mental feat.

    I agree with all of their premises, but in some sense I wish i could be more blissfully unaware. I think it might be slightly harmful if you trade/gamble/etc, but I also have become almost apathetically pragmatic, and being very cerebral has some serious downsides.

  12. mememe says:

    I think you’d enjoy Sleights of Mind, a fairly recent book about the neuroscience of magic; it looks at the multiple ways we are deceived by our senses.

  13. jb.mcmunn says:

    This is old news for anyone familiar with cognitive science and even older news in terms of Plato’s Cave. Neuroscience is merely putting the concept on a firmer foundation.

    Even the language you speak affects your thinking.

    Free will vs determinism is also old news. If you believe biological systems follow the laws of physics and chemistry you can’t believe in free will. It’s just a bunch of atoms banging around. OTOH this would destroy society as any criminal could claim he couldn’t have avoided his behavior.

    The problem then arises as to how to attach a “soul” or other nonphysical construct with free will to a deterministic physical body so there can be personal responsibility. How does something outside the physical realm interact with the physical realm?

    And then you also have to explain why brain injuries can affect that spirit which is not a physical entity.

    I suggest Oliver Sacks “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” for clinical examples of the mind -brain connection.

  14. RothcoUDipthtick says:

    Hey Barry,

    There is one piece of mathematics which is often overlooked by people considering the issue of free will or determinism and that is Godel’s Theorem of incompleteness:

    Basically, this theorem states that determinism is mathematically impossible to prove – essentially it can only model and prove certain axioms at any one time, but must keep one constant – which is the one which is ephemeral. The implication of Godel’s Theorem is that is allows for an observerless reality that maths cannot prove.

    This is also known as the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness – the issue which intersects with philosophy, physics, AI and metaphysics – we keep stumbling in to paradoxes.

    Interestingly, many neuroscientists would argue that consciousness doesn’t exist at all.

    Physiologically, the average human consciously perceives reality at around 40 frames per second (40hz gamma synchrony) – taking discrete bits of information and putting them together like a movie. The conscious mind processes around 50 bits of information per second, whilst the subconscious processes 50 million bits per second.

    Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin did tests with Tibetan monks sent by the Dalai Lama, and found that in a meditative state they perceived reality at 80-100 frames per second – which is consistent of many experiential accounts of altered states of reality appearing to ‘slow time down’.

    In response to the person above – there is one chap Dr Stuart Hameroff who’s hypothesis is that consciousness must include some quantum component in order to interact with the physical body. He believes that this happens at the most basic level of spacetime geometry – in humans he attributes this to cells called micro-tubules, which interface with proteins and then neurons etc..

    Slightly off track, but interesting.

  15. jb.mcmunn says:

    Micro-tubules. As good an explanation as any other that tries to connect physical to nonphysical.

    As for Godel, although something is impossible to prove it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You can’t prove there are no unicorns. This an epistemological problem.