The RSA uses cookies on this website. By using this website you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more read our cookie policy and privacy policy. More Info

The Self Illusion: The brain's greatest con trick?

RSA Event


RSA House, London

  • Health & wellbeing
  • Science

Join Professor Bruce Hood as he shows that the concept of the 'self' is a figment of the brain, generated as a character to weave our internal processes and experiences together into a coherent narrative.


Most of us consider ourselves to be integrated individuals inhabiting a body that we control like the operator of a sophisticated meat machine. We have a concept of this internal individual making decisions, authoring actions and possessing free will. The feeling that a single, unified, enduring self inhabits the body - the 'me' inside me - is compelling and inescapable. This is how we interact as a social animal and judge each other's actions and deeds.

Professor Bruce Hood, the director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre, visits the RSA to show that the driver of this vehicle is a figment of the brain, generated as a character to weave the narrative of the self together into a coherent story. But if the self is an illusion, where does it come from, and does it matter when it comes to the way humans treat each other? Deep thoughts and deep questions to ponder in this talk of self-construction.

Speaker: Bruce Hood, director, the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre.

Chair: Matthew Taylor, chief executive, RSA.

Be the first to write a comment


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

Related events

  • Finding connection in an age of isolation


    Dr Vivek Murthy, returning US Surgeon General, explores how social connections make us happier and healthier, and how we can strengthen them in difficult times.

  • A New Approach to Depression

    Great Room Auditorium, RSA House

    Leading professor of psychiatry Edward Bullmore introduces breakthrough new science on the link between depression and inflammation of the body and brain.

  • Enlightenment Now

    Great Room Auditorium, RSA House

    The challenges we face today are formidable. But, argues influential global thinker Steven Pinker, our problems are solvable. What we need now is an Enlightenment recharged for the 21st century.