STRANGER IN THE MIRROR:
The Scientific Search for the Self
New, revised edition to be published Fall, 2017
In Stranger in the Mirror, Robert Levine offers a provocative, wide-ranging, and entertaining scientific exploration of the most personal and important of all landscapes: the physical and psychological entity we call our self. Who are we? Where is the boundary between us and everything else? Are we all multiple personalities? And how can we control who we become?
Levine tackles these and other questions with a combination of surprising stories, case studies, and cutting-edge research—from biology, neuroscience, virtual reality, psychology, and many other fields. The result challenges cherished beliefs about the unity and stability of the self—but also suggests that we are more capable of change than we know.
Transformation, Levine shows, is the human condition at virtually every level. Physically, our cells are unrecognizable from one moment to the next. Cognitively, our self-perceptions are equally changeable: A single glitch can make us lose track of a body part or our entire body—or to confuse our very self with that of another person. Psychologically, we switch back and forth like quicksilver between incongruent, sometimes adversarial subselves. Socially, we appear to be little more than an ever-changing troupe of actors. And, culturally, the boundaries of the self vary wildly around the world—from the confines of one’s body to an entire village.
The self, in short, is a fiction—vague, arbitrary, and utterly intangible. But it is also interminably fluid. And this, Levine argues, unleashes a world of potential. Fluidity creates malleability. And malleability creates possibilities.
Engaging, informative, and ultimately liberating, Stranger in the Mirror will change forever how you think about your self—and what it might become.
“[Robert Levine] offers an intriguing set of examples of how frequently we experience multiple identities without recognizing them as such. . . . Out of these varied examples, Levine creates an engaging tapestry that illustrates how, often, what we think of as our fixed identity is an illusion. A provocative and convincing case of the malleability of what we think of as ‘our self, which in reality is a multiplicity of characters’ developed through time and circumstances.”
“[Levine] unleashes a great scope of interesting facts upon his readers to show the multitudes of identities that make up a single person. . . . In conclusion, this book offers a varied range of fascinating information and opens up a refreshing new perspective on how we can think about our own identity.”
—Current Biology Magazine
“Robert Levine’s exploration of the multiple complexities of the self is exhilarating and enchanting. Witty, wise, and wonderfully entertaining from its opening paradox to its inspiring finish, this is a book you must read—now.”
—Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford University and author of The Lucifer Effect
“In this fascinating exploration of the human self, Robert Levine--one of psychology’s great writers—blends mind-bending case stories (à la Oliver Sacks) with the insights of psychological science. Read this and prepare to have your self-understanding challenged and expanded.”
—David G. Myers, Hope College and coauthor of Psychology, 11th Edition
“Combining solid research with charming anecdotes, Levine has provided us with a wise, witty, and provocative analysis of the many selves we each walk around with but often fail to understand.”
—Elliot Aronson, author of The Social Animal and coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me)
“From page one, Robert Levine opens a fascinating and thoroughly engaging window on scientific research on the self. His recounting of the science is state of the art while being spellbindingly human. Time and again, I wanted to shout ’yes, that’s it!’ I found this a deeply enriching and remarkably real book.”
—Harry Reis, University of Rochester
“Stranger in the Mirror is the most engaging book I have encountered in a long time. The content is thoroughly delicious and Robert Levine writes with compelling clarity.”
—David Dunning, University of Michigan