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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review-Subliminal-How your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior


Dr. Leonard Mlodinow’s book Subliminal-How your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior focuses on understanding the underpinnings of human thought and how this impacts just about everything within our lives. He graduated with his doctorate from the University of California Berkeley in physics. He enjoys working with concepts in mathematics, chemistry, laws of nature and the unconscious mind.  Furthermore, he also works as a screenwriter, playwright, and academia. 

Carl Jung once stated, “These subliminal aspects of everything that happens to us may seem to play very little part in our daily lives. But they are almost invisible roots of our conscious thoughts.

The unconscious mind is a two tier system of conscious thought processes and unconscious activity.  Consciousness can only handle and process a small percentage of information. The unconscious is a much stronger system that collects, connects, and processes greater amounts of information for further use. It is a system designed to allow us to focus on one complex task while still being aware of our surroundings. 

Senses plus mind equal the subconscious.  Since the ancient Greeks man has sought to see how the processes work together. The unconscious has its own way of viewing the world and draws information through the senses. For example, research on blindsight indicates that some humans have the amazing ability to see and understand where they are in relation to other objects without the ability to actually see them. The unconscious uses various data from the environment to navigate, function and ensure survival.  This is the reality in which we perceive.

"Your amicable words mean nothing if your body seems to be saying something different"-James Borg

Our subconscious mind also affords the opportunity to understand human beings without formal language. If we listen to the words of someone but fail to have that same impression from their body language, choice of words, and patterns of speech, etc... we are likely to correctly conclude they can’t be trusted. The same process, to a lower level, exists in animals that seek to understand friend or foe when meeting others within the same species. 

"All groups…develop a way of living with characteristic codes and beliefs" –Gordon Allport

Each group creates special meaning and language that impacts their identity. Those outside of the group will have a difficult time understanding what these special codes and language choices mean. As the group forms and identity it is the understandings and subtle impressions they give each other that helps to create the way in which they see themselves. Their approach and beliefs in the world create the in and out group phenomenon.

The book is written for an audience of casual readers. It is something that readers of Psychology Today are likely to pick up. It will make great conversation while dining with others.  It does offer some level of scientific value in terms of giving a broad overview of the subconscious process. It doesn’t go into specific depth on any of the experiments and what their far reaching implications are. You can learn something about neuroscience. It is worth the read and is listed as a best seller.  

Mlodinow, L. ( 2012). Subliminal-How your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior. Vintage Books; NY.  ISBN: 978-0-307-47225-0

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