About the book


The author of Human, Michael S. Gazzaniga has been called the “father of cognitive neuroscience.” In his remarkable book, Who’s in Charge?, he makes a powerful and provocative argument that counters the common wisdom that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes we cannot control. His well-reasoned case against the idea that we live in a “determined” world is fascinating and liberating, solidifying his place among the likes of Oliver Sacks, Antonio Damasio, V.S. Ramachandran, and other bestselling science authors exploring the mysteries of the human brain. Goodreads

Year published:  2011

Buy book: Amazon

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Quotes from the book

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Who’s in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain (Michael S. Gazzaniga)

There is no absolute or free will

  • Baruch Spinoza, who said, “There is no mind absolute or free will, but the mind is determined for willing this or that by a cause which is determined in its turn by another cause, and this one again by another, and so on to infinity.”
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We are not the masters of our brains

  • The brain has millions of local processors making important decisions. It is a highly specialized system with critical networks distributed throughout the 1,300 grams of tissue. There is no one boss in the brain. You are certainly not the boss of the brain. Have you ever succeeded in telling your brain to shut up already and go to sleep?
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We falsely perceive being in conscious control

  • YOU is your vastly parallel and distributed brain without a central command center. There is no ghost in the machine, no secret stuff that is YOU. That YOU that you are so proud of is a story woven together by your interpreter module to account for as much of your behavior as it can incorporate, and it denies or rationalizes the rest. Our left- brain interpreter’s narrative capability is one of the automatic processes, and it gives rise to the illusion of unity or purpose, which is a post hoc phenomenon.
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Our growing knowledge about the brain makes notions of volition and culpability deeply suspect

  • Robert Sapolsky, professor of neurology at Stanford, makes the extremely strong statement: “It’s boggling that the legal system’s gold standard for an insanity defense—M’Naghten—is based on 166-year-old science. Our growing knowledge about the brain makes notions of volition, culpability, and, ultimately, the very premise of a criminal justice system, deeply suspect.
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Experiments show our choices arise before we are consciously aware of them

  • John-Dylan Haynes and his colleagues expanded Libet’s experiments in 2008 to show that the outcomes of an inclination can be encoded in brain activity up to ten seconds before it enters awareness! The brain has acted before its person is conscious of it. Not only that, from looking at the scan, they can make a prediction about what the person is going to do. The implications of this are rather staggering.
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