If you’re like me, you’re also wrong.
The latest neuroscience is demonstrating definitively that you are not the master of your mental domain — if by “you,” you mean your conscious mind.
But, but, but, it feels like I’m in charge, you might reply.
Yes, that’s very true, and that’s because there’s a part of your brain which creates the illusion that you have a single unified conscious mind running the show of your day-to-day life.
The reality is that your mind is the product of very many independent brain processes which compete for control of your behavior, and the vast majority of these processes are inaccessible to the conscious part of your brain.
Rather than driving or ruling the rest of the mind, your conscious mind is primarily responsible for explaining and justifying decisions made elsewhere, without having had any input on the vast majority of them! It even takes credit for decisions that experiments can demonstrate were made in other parts of the brain.
If you are intrigued or terrified by the idea that you are not really in control of your day-to-day behavior, I can recommend two books which will introduce you to the neuroscience. Strangers to Ourselves is a little older but very readable. For a more up-to-date and detailed account of the neuroscience, try Who’s In Charge?
I’m also in the process of developing a little online course, which will explore the implications of the research described in these books (and others) from a philosophical perspective. The implications, I think, are huge.
If you would prefer a personal guided tour through this research and its implications, let’s talk.