Michael Gazzaniga writes in Who's in Charge that "listening to people's explanations of their actions is interesting ... but often a waste of time." [p.78] "The left brain uses what it has and ad libs the rest." [p.88] Confabulation is the brain's hard-wired impulse for "giving a fictitious account of a past event."
In the book, Gazzaniga explores some of the hottest issues in the study of the human mind, including consciousness and free will.
"Consciousness is distributed everywhere across the brain," says Gazzaniga [p.64]. For example, patients with a localized brain stroke may lose conscious awareness of their left arm, even believing it belongs to someone else. "Consciousness involves a multitude of widely distributed specialized systems and disunited processes" [p.102] Any sense of unity in consciousness is merely confabulation.
To some extent, says Gazzaniga, we humans are hard-wired. "The medial frontal cortex gives one the feeling of the urge to move". [p.113] The lateral frontal lobes are responsible for "sequencing behavior" like planning [p.49]. Specific areas in the temporal lobe allow you to recognize animals and fruits [p.50]. We have specialized brain functions for detecting cheaters and making moral judgements [p.69].
However, Gazzaniga says that "social interactions make us free to choose" [p.215], which I find odd. Perhaps it would be better to depersonalize it. Human impulses come in sets or pairs. People constantly balance competing desires (using their frontal lobes). The desire to steal from a rich man is (usually) counterbalanced by the fear of punishment. The cortex mediates between competing impulses in the context of new information from the senses.
How does the cortex do this? Gazzaniga doesn't know. "These interactions will only be understood with a new vocabulary" [p.107]. "A unique language, which has yet to be developed, is needed to capture the thing that happens when mental processes constrain the brain." [p.220]
Gazzaniga believes in "emergence" but I have my own explanation, which is Resonance. Think back to the days when physicists explained black body radiation in terms of oscillators. Billions of neurons in the brain, each firing 200 times per second, are like oscillators that constrain all the other oscillators in the brain. The mind is a statistically emergent phenomena - the lowest-energy state of these oscillators - but it often takes time for the brain to re-adjust after it has been perturbed by new information. In a sense, the mind is a set of resonance frequencies (or standing waves) derived from the brain's activity, but the brain doesn't affect the mind deterministically, since there's always quantum uncertainty from one level to the next.
This also opens the possibility of genetic encoding of desires, fears and impulses. If indeed the cortex reduces our experiences to multidimensional resonance frequencies, perhaps the frequencies have a unique signature that can be coded in the genes and retrieved during brain development.
Gazziniga doesn't discuss human difference. Yet our genes constrain our impulse thresholds, and genetic variations among us are responsible for human individuality. Your genes define what you want, and who you are. While Gazzaniga admits that "overall [brain] connectivity pattern is under genetic control" [p.21] and "if the capacity is not built-in, it does not exist" [p.19], he shies away from the key question: Why do some people enjoy being serial killers and others don't? Why do some enjoying leading, while others enjoy following?