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A Revolution in Our Sense of Self

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A Revolution in Our Sense of Self

In a radical reassessment of how the mind works, a leading behavioural scientist argues the idea of a deep inner life is an illusion. This is cause for celebration, he says, not despair.

The Guardian,

5 min read
5 take-aways
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The human brain has no depth – and this is good news.

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Why do people behave the way they do? You can ask them but they will likely not be able to tell you. According to Nick Chater, a behavioral psychologist at Warwick Business School, interpreting people’s dreams or putting them through hours of psychotherapy won’t give you any clues about people’s deep-seated motivations either. Why? It's because the human brain has no depth.  In this opinion piece for The Guardian Chater, author of The Mind is Flat, gives an overview of his thesis on human motivation. Even if you end up disagreeing with Chater’s stance, getAbstract believes that his argument will challenge your thinking on one of psychology’s most enduring mysteries.


To interpret human motivation, psychologists and neuroscientists have been trying to dig deep below people’s superficial awareness to find hidden values, beliefs, desires and emotions that may guide behavior. Yet evidence suggests that nothing exists below the mental surface. The human brain can hold only one thought at the time. Any thought that pops into a person’s mind only exists at the moment the person focuses on it. The thought neither emerges from – nor returns to – any unconscious depths. People create and re-create their...

About the Author

Nick Chater is professor of behavioral science at Warwick Business School and the author of The Mind Is Flat.

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