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Me, Myself, and Why

Searching for the Science of Self by Jennifer Ouellette

Near the end of Ouellette’s new book — a personal journey exploring what shapes people’s sense of self — she pops a candy tablet of LSD and settles in for her first psychedelic experience. Ouellette had heard that once the drug wore off and the acid-induced wonderland slipped away, the “self” came barreling back.

“I had to experience this firsthand,” she writes. “After all, it was ‘research.’ ” As the chemical toyed with her brain, Ouellette saw kaleidoscopes of swirling patterns and watched her husband transform into a dragon-man. She keeps the scene light, but her nonrecreational drug use adds a dogged, truth-seeking vibe to her latest project. It’s an ambitious effort to dissect the hodgepodge of genetic and environmental factors that sculpt people’s identities.

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