Virtual Event: Stephen M. Fleming


Know Thyself:
The Science of Self-Awareness

in conversation with ELIZABETH PHELPS


April 4, 2022
12:00 PM ET


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Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome STEPHEN M. FLEMING—a Sir Henry Dale Wellcome Trust/Royal Society fellow at the department of experimental psychology at University College London—for a discussion of his book Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness. He will be joined in conversation by ELIZABETH PHELPS, the Pershing Square Professor of Human Neuroscience at Harvard University.

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About Know Thyself

“Are you sure?”

Whether in a court room, a doctor’s office, a gameshow’s hot seat, or a student’s desk, we are always trying to answer that question. Should we accept eyewitness testimony or a physician’s diagnosis? Do we really want to risk it all on a final question? And what should we be studying in order to do as well as possible on a test? In short, how do we know what we and others know—or as importantly, don’t know?

As cognitive neuroscientist Stephen Fleming shows in Know Thyself, we do this with metacognition. Metacognition, or thinking about thinking, is the most important tool we have for understanding our own mind. Metacognition is an awesome power: It is what enables self-awareness as well as what lets us think about the minds of others. It is the ultimate human trait, and in its most rarefied forms is a power that neither other animals, nor our current artificial intelligences, have. Metacognition teaches us the limits of our own knowledge. Once we understand what it is and how it works, we can improve our performance and make better decisions. For example, on the SAT, it helps us gauge when we should skip a question rather than lose points getting an answer wrong.

Know Thyself, like the metacognition itself, is equal parts scientific, philosophical, and practical. And that means, like Thinking, Fast and Slow and Predictably Irrational, it’s that rarest of books: one that can both expand our minds and change our lives.

Praise for Know Thyself

"A very interesting book on perhaps the most interesting topic." —Sam Harris, Making Sense Podcast

"What a wonderful book. From self-doubt to self-awareness, and everything in between. Steve Fleming, who has made his career study thoughts about thoughts, or metacognition, takes the reader on a journey into what it means to be a being that knows its self, and, as a consequence, can contemplate the self inside others." —Joseph LeDoux, author of The Deep History of Ourselves

"Know Thyself is an extraordinary book. Written by a leader in the science of self-awareness, it is both accessible and erudite, a self-help manual and a work of scholarship. It will be a rewarding read for anyone who wants to understand how metacognition (and its failures) affect us in personal and public life—in education, sports, law, politics, and in our ever-deepening engagements with AI." —Cecilia Heyes, Professor of Psychology at University of Oxford and author of Cognitive Gadgets

Elizabeth Phelps
Elizabeth Phelps

Elizabeth Phelps

Elizabeth Phelps is the Pershing Square Professor of Human Neuroscience at Harvard University in the Department of Psychology. She is a cognitive neuroscientist known for her research at the intersection of memory, learning, and emotion.

Stephen M. Fleming
Stephen M. Fleming

Stephen M. Fleming

Stephen M. Fleming is a Sir Henry Dale Wellcome Trust/Royal Society fellow at the department of experimental psychology and principal investigator at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, where he leads the Metacognition Group. He lives in London.

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Harvard Science Book Talks

The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here

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