By: Daniel Glaser | What novels reveal about our brains | Daniel Glaser | Neuroscience | The Guardian
Psychological thrillers are a great way of understanding the skewed perception of first-person consciousness
With the hotly anticipated Into The Water by Paula Hawkins out next month, the interest in psychological thrillers isn’t going away. The genre’s preoccupations are shared with neuroscience – in particular, how we process memory. But it’s not recent breakthroughs within neuroscience and psychology that make it such a rich seam for novelists.
In fact, there haven’t really been any, although much new data about the brain is available, thanks to imaging techniques, neuroscience projects and interest from venture capitalists into artificial intelligence, our basic view of it is not that different to what it was 20 years ago. Now novels offer the most realistic accounts of first-person consciousness, particularly psychological thrillers that rely on skewed perception and unreliable narrators. This style, suggesting that what we experience isn’t objective reality but rather a story we tell ourselves, is closer to the truth than most psychological theories. When we can finally explain how the brain works, perhaps scientific representations will be more accurate. But for now, the novel is the real story.