Banner
    The Unconscious: It's All The Rave
    By Kim Wombles | August 8th 2012 08:42 PM | 11 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Kim

    Instructor of English and psychology and mother to three on the autism spectrum.

    Writer of the site countering.us (where most of these

    ...

    View Kim's Profile
    In the last year, I've had the occasion to review several books that deal with the unconscious mind. Each author has had an interesting take on the same material, and it's been illuminating to see how writers with different areas of expertise handle the unconscious mind and render the research readable for a popular audience.
    Leonard Mlodinow is a name many science readers will recognize as belonging with physics, not psychology and neuroscience. His handling of this topic, which has been handled by Eagleman, McRae, Shermer, and others in the last couple years, is skillful and entertaining. 

    Mlodinow's turn of phrase is masterful and he covers the latest research in neuroscience and how much of our actions are controlled not by our conscious mind, but by our unconscious. He notes that "our brains are made up of a collection of many modules that work in parallel, with complex interactions, most of which operate outside of our consciousness. As a consequence, the real reasons behind our judgments, feelings, and behavior can surprise us."

    Subliminal is full of surprises for the average reader and offers gems that would change the world if only enough people believed the information to be true: "We believe that when we choose a laptop or a laundry detergent, plan a vacation, pic,k a stock, take a job, assess a sports star, make a friend, judge a stranger, and even fall in love, we understand the principal factors that influenced us. Very often nothing could be further from the truth. As a result, many of our basic assumptions about ourselves, and society, are false." Mlodinow takes readers through the research carefully and masterfully and leaves readers changed by the experience (well, we can hope).

    Mlodinow writes that "We choose the facts that we want to believe." While we instinctively insist this is true of others, we are usually resolute that we are free from this kind of error. If we want to really revolutionize our relationships, and as a consequence, society, we're going to have to disseminate the latest in neuroscience to the masses, and then somehow find a way to accept that we are vulnerable to the same quirks and foibles as everyone else--maybe we'll learn to let the past go, accept that people do things for no conscious reason, and even better, as parents, we'll finally get how utterly pointless it is to ask our children why they did something.

    Comments

    vongehr
    New Enlightenment, ahhh
    ... gems that would change the world if only enough people believed the information to be true ... many of our basic assumptions about ourselves, and society, are false.
    The second part I quickly decide for to pick as true, and I wonder why (insight, guilt, ...), but the first part fails indeed perhaps due to the lack of "want to believe" rather than the future not being "facts" in
    "We choose the facts that we want to believe."
    Freedom of all responsibility ... we are all excused
    kwombles
    The author was NOT excusing the behavior, nor suggesting that there aren't facts, but conferring the reality that we are susceptible to our unconscious cognitive biases and that by understanding the role the unconscious plays in our beliefs and decision making processes, we can take that into account, making us MORE open to consider that we might be wrong.
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    vongehr
    "The author was NOT ..."
    Of course not; he cannot, otherwise nobody helps him sell his book and Kim would never find it. But I can. Eating from the tree of carnal knowledge, which stands for distinctions like "naked" that confer guilt, equals being cast out of paradise. Now we return.

    You promote new enlightenment to be hip, but are surprised and annoyed if it comes back to bite you? New enlightenment is more than ever about questioning yourself.

    You believe that others' questioning themselves must mean that they finally wake up and support whatever else you already believe. What if they finally feel no longer any guilt to throw autistic children straight down the trash? Ups!
    kwombles
    What? I'm sorry, but that comment makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. This isn't about people believing what I believe.
    It's about understanding how the human mind works, how we form decisions that we think we are consciously controlling, but are in fact influenced by parts of the brain that are not under conscious control.

    In other words, instead of going all gung-ho on our belief systems, we might slow down and learn to question any and all absolutes. We might be more willing to give other people the benefit of the doubt. We might be able to create a society that has a more equitable justice system, a law enforcement system that spurns pseudoscientific claptrap like the infallibility of eye-witness testimony and polygraph tests. 

    It isn't about my beliefs. It's about what we can reasonably know to be real and what we can reasonably know is going to be filtered through our biases--biases we may think we've adequately adjusted for.

    What the hell are you going on about?

    Note: the books I review are books that have been sent to me from the publisher. 
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    vongehr
    I'm sorry, but that comment makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
    No? Well, I must be stupid then.
    It's about ...
    Thank you for once more explaining it for me. I really needed that.
    It isn't about my beliefs.
    Oh - it is still always about the others' beliefs? Well, I got new enlightenment all wrong then.
    What the hell are you going on about?
    I don't know. Just rambling I guess. Maybe you once more explain to me what that book is about?
    books I review are books that have been sent to me from the publisher.
    And as long as you keep "reviewing" them, they will keep sending them to you. Congratulations Kim. Belief rewarded by authority feels good, doesn't it.
    "We choose the facts that we want to believe" Excellent! The comment that you received hi-lights that! Well done!

    "No? Well, I must be stupid then."

    Nobody called you stupid. Your comment did not make sense to me either. Here's a good quote for you though..

    “Danger lies in the writer becoming the victim of his own exaggeration, losing the exact notion of sincerity, and in the end coming to despise truth itself as something too cold, too blunt for his purpose -- as, in fact, not good enough for his insistent emotion. From laughter and tears the descent is easy to sniveling and giggles.”
    Joseph Conrad

    That which you are haggling about is called the "Tinkerbell Effect". And if we aren't care ful, and just let it run [st]rife, it'll more than likely become Pan_demic...unless it Peters out fir_st'aunched!

    That which you are haggling about is called the "Tinkerbell Effect". And if we aren't care ful, and just let it run [st]rife, it'll more than likely become Pan_demic...unless it Peters out fir_st'aunched!

    That which you are haggling about is called the "Tinkerbell Effect". And if we aren't care ful, and just let it run [st]rife, it'll more than likely become Pan_demic...unless it Peters out fir_st'aunched!

    That which you are haggling about is called the "Tinkerbell Effect". And if we aren't care ful, and just let it run [st]rife, it'll more than likely become Pan_demic...unless it Peters out fir_st'aunched!