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Subliminal

How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

By Leonard Mlodinow
22-minute read
Audio available
Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow

Subliminal (2012) shows us as we are, under the bonnet. It’s about how the unconscious mind is in charge, working away like an efficient yet imperfect machine, while we go on with our lives unaware. The reader finds studies, examples and anecdotes about the peculiarities of the unconscious mind, such as the pitfalls of memory recall, choosing a mate, buying a stock or scheduling a project. These are mined from historical events, science experiments and the authors’ own experiences, as well as from his friends in the scientific community.

  • Anyone aiming to improve their social skills or persuasiveness
  • Anyone who always wanted to know the causes, benefits and flaws of the subliminal mind
  • Anyone interested in neuroscience or social psychology

Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist and author of bestselling science books such as The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. He has a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of California and teaches at the California Institute of Technology. His parents were concentration camp prisoners during World War II and their stories feature in Subliminal. In the past he has collaborated with luminaries like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. He has also written scripts for TV science fiction series including Star Trek

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Subliminal

How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

By Leonard Mlodinow
  • Read in 22 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 14 key ideas
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Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
Synopsis

Subliminal (2012) shows us as we are, under the bonnet. It’s about how the unconscious mind is in charge, working away like an efficient yet imperfect machine, while we go on with our lives unaware. The reader finds studies, examples and anecdotes about the peculiarities of the unconscious mind, such as the pitfalls of memory recall, choosing a mate, buying a stock or scheduling a project. These are mined from historical events, science experiments and the authors’ own experiences, as well as from his friends in the scientific community.

Key idea 1 of 14

Many theories tried to explain the unconscious mind but modern technology finally revealed its complexity.

For millennia, philosophers have speculated about the nature of the unconscious mind.

For example, in the 1700s Immanuel Kant proposed that our mind does not experience objective reality, but rather that it creates its own version.

Then, in 1900, Sigmund Freud postulated an interpretation of the unconscious mind that became very popular. Freud said that the unconscious is often unnatural and unhealthy due to our repression of incestual attraction and painful memories.

Yet this view didn’t stand up to scientific rigor as it was mythical, dream-like, irrational and, as a theory, highly unreliable.

As it was so hard to unlock the secrets of the unconscious mind, later research moved away to other areas. Many scientists began to argue that humans were like animals: complex yet predictable machines with brains like computers.

However, by the 1980s new research had re-ignited our interest in the unconscious. And at the same time new technology finally enabled us to map the brain’s organization and activity.

Technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging has allowed neuroscientists to scan the brain's blood flow changes and structure with 3D precision. From the activity of nerve cells and the oxygen consumption of research subjects performing tasks, mental processes can be linked to specific neural pathways.

With this information we can make great strides in explaining the unconscious.

We know of the brain’s three interdependent layers. The deepest and oldest is “reptilian” – responsible for tasks like breathing, eating and the fight-or-flight instinct. We share it with reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish.

Over this part sits the more sophisticated “old mammalian” or limbic system, responsible for unconscious social perception and behaviors.

Above this is the neocortex, which promotes goal-related actions and conscious thought. It also deals with the unconscious processes of rendering vision and precise motor movements, such as fingers and facial expressions. We humans have this part in abundance.

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