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Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior Hardcover – April 24, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

Guest Reviewer: V.S. Ramachandran on Subliminal
V.S. Ramachandran is a neuroscientist known for his work in the fields of behavioral neurology and visual psychophysics. The author of The Tell-Tale Brain, He is the Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Neurosciences Graduate Program at the University of California, San Diego.

This delightfully accessible yet intellectually rigorous book transcends traditional boundaries between neuroscience, psychology and philosophy, to tackle the riddle of the unconscious mind. Freud bashing is a popular intellectual pastime these days (I myself have been guilty on occasion) but Mlodinow shows that by emphasizing the unconscious he was on the right track: we are completely unaware of the vast majority of events going on inside our brains. The book presents compelling evidence gleaned from a variety of sources to show that much of our behavior is governed not so much by our conscious mind – which is prone to claim credit – but by a cauldron of motives, drives and unconscious propensities of which we are largely oblivious. Indeed, most of our actions are carried out by the unconscious mind (or minds ) which exists in peaceful harmony with the conscious person "inside" your body. The question of why we are conscious of the tip of the iceberg of neural activity continues to remain elusive but, perhaps, the answer can be found by asking what you can do without being conscious; What’s the IQ of the unconscious mind? Here Mlodinow offers dazzling new insights into what the unconscious can and does do, to influence our lives.


“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 Oregonian

“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 Daily Beast
“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.”
The Economist

“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.” 

“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.”
“Mlodinow never fails to make science both accessible and entertaining.”
—Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time
“Think you know the whys and hows of your choices? Follow Mlodinow on a gorgeous journey that will make you think again.”
—David Eagleman, author of Incognito
“With the same deft touch he showed in The Drunkard’s Walk, Mlodinow probes the subtle, automatic, and often unnoticed influences on our behavior.”
—Daniel J. Simons, professor of psychology, University of Illinois, and coauthor of The Invisible Gorilla
“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.”
—Joseph T. Hallinan, author of Why We Make Mistakes
“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.”
—Jerry A. Webman, chief economist, OppenheimerFunds, Inc., and author of MoneyShift
“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.”
—Christof Koch, professor of cognitive and behavioral biology, California Institute of Technology


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307378217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307378217
  • ASIN: 0307378217
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leonard Mlodinow was born in Chicago, Illinois, received his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley, and is the author of five best-sellers. His book The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives was a New York Times Bestseller, Editor's Choice, and Notable Book of the Year, and was short-listed for the Royal Society book award. His book Subliminal won the PEN/Wilson award for literary science writing. His other books include two co-authored with physicist Stephen Hawking -- A Briefer History of Time, and The Grand Design. In addition to his books and research articles, he has taught at Caltech, written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Forbes magazine, among other publications, and for television series such as McGyver and Star Trek: the Next Generation.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

207 of 222 people found the following review helpful By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow

"Subliminal" is the provocative and fascinating look at the unconscious part of our minds. One of my favorite authors and physicists, Leonard Mlodinow, takes the readers on a journey into the science of the unconscious. What a fun and enlightening book this was. Mlodinow is the master of making the difficult accessible and fun for the masses. How are mind works is one of the most interesting subjects and I was thrilled to see that the coauthor of both the Grand Design and the equally interesting book War of the Worldviews makes his latest venture into this intriguing science. This excellent 272-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. The New Unconscious, 2. Senses Plus Mind Equals Reality, 3. Remembering and Forgetting, 4. The Importance of Being Social, 5. Reading People, 6. Judging People by Their Covers, 7. Sorting People and Things, 8. In-Groups and Out-Groups, 9. Feelings, and 10. Self.

1. A fascinating topic (science of the unconscious) in the hands of a master.
2. Elegant, conversational tone that makes this book a treat to read.
3. Mlodinow consistently produces great books and this one lived up to my expectations.
4. As accessible a book as you will find. A difficult topic made easy and fun to read.
5. The book is loaded with great and I mean great examples to help the reader grasp the latest in the science. One of the books strengths.
6. Great use of science history.
7. The pioneers of the science of the unconscious.
8. Great use the latest scientific research in this fascinating topic to support well-stated positions.
9. You will end up with a better grasp at how our brains work.
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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Mike Grant on April 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
We often imagine that every decision we make has a rational basis, that everything we do is for a "good reason." What we never consider is that each choice, each experience actually has an unknown framework that underlies it. So,"why" we think we made a decision may not explain the choice at all.

Mlodinow looks at our decisions from the perspective of the new field of social neuroscience, and finds what Freud and Jung theorized about almost a hundred years ago: that beneath every action and experience that is apparently rational, a set of unconscious processes actually dominates the decision-making process.

But these process are far from the "blood, lust and rage" of the Freudian unconscious, or the universal Platonic conceptions of Jung. Instead, these are adaptive mechanisms that protect us and help us to find a way through the rigors and dangers of life.

For research into these mechanisms, Instead of the "psychologist's couch" approach to self -understanding taken by classical psychoanalysis, Mlodinow champions an empirically verifiable line of research that is far from the "psychiatrist's couch" of classical psychoanalysis. Namely, social neuroscience, with the fMRI as the key experimental tool. This is a device that allows scientists to see exactly what processes are occurring in the brain during any given activity or experience.

In an experiment that gives breathtaking evidence of the possibilities presented by social neuroscience, a computer was able to select an image that closely matched one being viewed by an experimental subject, from over six million possible choices, on the basis of analyzing fMRI data alone.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In recent years there have been a number of books written on the topic of the influence of our non-conscious (or subconscious or unconscious) minds upon our behavior. This one is really well done and a fairly easy read. The book is broken into two parts. The first part is "The Two-Tiered Brain" and discusses the importance of the non-conscious part of our brain. The second part is "The Social Unconscious" and is primarily concerned with how our subliminal thoughts affect our social selves.

This is a good book and an enjoyable read. It will be extremely informative and surprising to those new to the subject and still has lessons for those of us who are not so new to the topic.

This book has Amazon's "Search Inside" feature and I strongly recommend you use it to become more familiar with its content. Easily recommended.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Joseph G. Wick on August 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought the Kindle version.

This is a wonderful book for those concerned with the function and potential of the mind. The author is a famous and respected theoretical physicist. He apparently has a lot of free time and intense interest that he has parlayed into doctoral-level knowledge of how the mind functions. You will find a great amount of surprising information here. One example is the phenomenon of "blind-sight," which he discusses thoroughly.

The title is a bit deceiving. It is not about manipulating people through advertising. Rather it is about the importance of the unconscious mind in everything we do and perceive. The word "unconscious" with its Freudian connotations is inaccurate. Perhaps "nonconscious" is better. The author shows that the nonconscious mind accounts for more of our ideas, perceptions, and actions than we normally believe.

The author pulls out all the stops in surveying what we know, from the early history of Psychology to the newest functional MRI studies. It is a wonderfully organized and extensive survey.Yet, this is no dull treatise. The author has a great sense of organization, a lucid writing style, and an ability to relate sophisticated concepts to everyday experience. Moreover, he is very witty. It is virtually impossible to read this book without laughing out loud here and there.

As a lawyer I have to say that I think every judge and jury in the country should be required to read this book. It would be as worthwhile for teachers, legislators and many others.

Despite its "non-academic" style, this book supplies copious notes and extensive bibliography. On balance, this is a great addition to any thoughtful person's library.
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