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Subliminal
Cover of Subliminal
Subliminal
How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior
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Leonard Mlodinow, the best-selling author of The Drunkard's Walk and coauthor of The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking), gives us a startling and eye-opening examination of how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world and how, for instance, we often misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates, misunderstand the reasons for our investment decisions, and misremember important events.
Your preference in politicians, the amount you tip your waiter—all judgments and perceptions reflect the workings of our mind on two levels: the conscious, of which we are aware, and the unconscious, which is hidden from us. The latter has long been the subject of speculation, but over the past two decades researchers have developed remarkable new tools for probing the hidden, or subliminal, workings of the mind. The result of this explosion of research is a new science of the unconscious and a sea change in our understanding of how the subliminal mind affects the way we live.
Employing his trademark wit and lucid, accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects, Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a tour of this research, unraveling the complexities of the subliminal self and increasing our understanding of how the human mind works and how we interact with friends, strangers, spouses, and coworkers. In the process he changes our view of ourselves and the world around us.
Includes a bonus PDF of diagrams and illustrations from the book
Leonard Mlodinow, the best-selling author of The Drunkard's Walk and coauthor of The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking), gives us a startling and eye-opening examination of how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world and how, for instance, we often misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates, misunderstand the reasons for our investment decisions, and misremember important events.
Your preference in politicians, the amount you tip your waiter—all judgments and perceptions reflect the workings of our mind on two levels: the conscious, of which we are aware, and the unconscious, which is hidden from us. The latter has long been the subject of speculation, but over the past two decades researchers have developed remarkable new tools for probing the hidden, or subliminal, workings of the mind. The result of this explosion of research is a new science of the unconscious and a sea change in our understanding of how the subliminal mind affects the way we live.
Employing his trademark wit and lucid, accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects, Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a tour of this research, unraveling the complexities of the subliminal self and increasing our understanding of how the human mind works and how we interact with friends, strangers, spouses, and coworkers. In the process he changes our view of ourselves and the world around us.
Includes a bonus PDF of diagrams and illustrations from the book
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    Prologue

    In June 1879, the American philosopher and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce was on a steamship journey from Boston to New York when his gold watch was stolen from his stateroom. Peirce reported the theft and insisted that each member of the ship's crew line up on deck. He interviewed them all, but got nowhere. Then, after a short walk, he did something odd. He decided to guess who the perpetrator was, even though he had nothing to base his suspicions on, like a poker player going all in with a pair of deuces. As soon as Peirce made his guess, he found himself convinced that he had fingered the right man. "I made a little loop in my walk," he would later write, "which had not taken a minute, and as I turned -toward them, all shadow of doubt had vanished."

    Peirce confidently approached his suspect, but the man called his bluff and denied the accusation. With no evidence or logical reason to back his claim, there was nothing Peirce could do—until the ship docked. When it did, Peirce immediately took a cab to the local Pinkerton office and hired a detective to investigate. The detective found Peirce's watch at a pawnshop the next day. Peirce asked the proprietor to describe the man who'd pawned it. According to Peirce, the pawnbroker described the suspect "so graphically that no doubt was possible that it had been my man." Peirce wondered how he had guessed the identity of the thief. He concluded that some kind of instinctual perception had guided him, something operating beneath the level of his conscious mind.

    If mere speculation were the end of the story, a scientist would consider Peirce's explanation about as convincing as someone saying, "A little birdie told me." But five years later Peirce found a way to translate his ideas about unconscious perception into a laboratory experiment by adapting a procedure that had first been carried out by the physiologist E. H. Weber in 1834. Weber had placed small weights of varying degrees of heaviness, one at a time, at a spot on a subject's skin, in order to determine the minimum weight difference that could be detected by the subject. In the experiment performed by Peirce and his prize student, Joseph Jastrow, the subjects of the study were given weights whose difference was just below that minimum detectable threshold (those subjects were actually Peirce and Jastrow themselves, with Jastrow experimenting on Peirce, and Peirce on Jastrow). Then, although they could not consciously discriminate between the weights, they asked each other to try to identify the heavier weight anyway, and to indicate on a scale running from 0 to 3 the degree of confidence they had in each guess. Naturally, on almost all trials both men chose 0. But despite their lack of confidence, they in fact chose the correct object on more than 60 percent of the trials, significantly more than would have been expected by chance. And when Peirce and Jastrow repeated the experiment in other contexts, such as judging surfaces that differed slightly in brightness, they obtained a comparable result—they could often correctly guess the answer even though they did not have conscious access to the information that would allow them to come to that conclusion. This was the first scientific demonstration that the unconscious mind possesses knowledge that escapes the conscious mind.

    Peirce would later compare the ability to pick up on unconscious cues with some considerable degree of accuracy to "a bird's musical and aeronautic powers . . . it is to us, as those are to them, the loftiest of our merely instinctive powers." He elsewhere referred to it as that "inward...

About the Author-
  • LEONARD MLODINOW received his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of California, Berkeley, was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Max Planck Institute, and now teaches at the California Institute of Technology. His previous books include War of the Worldviews (with Deepak Chopra); the two national best sellers The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking) and The Drunkard's Walk (a New York Times Notable Book and short-listed for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books); Feynman's Rainbow; and Euclid's Window. He also wrote for the television series MacGyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Reviews-
  • The Oregonian

    "Clever, engaging. . . . A popular-science beach book, the sort of tome from which cocktail party anecdotes can be mined by the dozen. . . . Subliminal makes its main point well and concisely."

  • The Daily Beast "An assault against the idea that we control our decisions and our beliefs in the way that we think we do . . . A useful addition to the growing body of work arguing convincingly against the idea of the rational human brain."
  • The Economist "Mlodinow, a theoretical physicist who has been developing a nice sideline in popular science writing, shows how the idea of the unconscious has become respectable again . . . Fascinating."
  • Booklist "This very enlightening book explores the two sides of our mental lives, with a focus on the subconscious or subliminal element. Drawing on clinical research conducted over a period of several decades and containing a number of rather startling revelations . . . the book appeals to readers with an interest in the workings of the human mind."
  • NewScientist.com "One of the ten books to watch out for in 2012 . . . Physicist, science writer and Hollywood screenwriter Leonard Mlodinow is out to explore how important the unconscious is in shaping the way we process the world."
  • Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time "Mlodinow never fails to make science both accessible and entertaining."
  • David Eagleman, author of Incognito "Think you know the whys and hows of your choices? Follow Mlodinow on a gorgeous journey that will make you think again."
  • Daniel J. Simons, professor of psychology, University of Illinois, and coauthor of The Invisible Gorilla "With the same deft touch he showed in The Drunkard's Walk, Mlodinow probes the subtle, automatic, and often unnoticed influences on our behavior."
  • Joseph T. Hallinan, author of Why We Make Mistakes "If you liked The Drunkard's Walk, you'll love Subliminal. This engaging and insightful book not only makes neuroscience understandable, it also makes it fascinating. You will look at yourself (and those around you) in a new way."
  • Jerry A. Webman, chief economist, OppenheimerFunds, Inc., and author of MoneyShift "A must-read book that is both provocative and hugely entertaining. Mlodinow provides many eye-opening insights into the ways we act in business, finance, politics, and our personal lives."
  • Christof Koch, professor of cognitiv "A highly readable, funny, and thought-provoking travelogue by Mlodinow, a trusted traveler in this treacherous region, who leads us on a tour of the little-known country that is our unconscious mind."
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Subliminal
How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior
Leonard Mlodinow
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