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Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (Inglês) Capa Comum – 11 fev 2013
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Sobre o Autor
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 three New York Times best sellers: War of the Worldviews (with Deepak Chopra), The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking), and The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (also a New York Times Notable Book), as well as Feynman’s Rainbow and Euclid’s Window. He also wrote for the television series MacGyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
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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 light . . . a light without which the human race would long ago have been extirpated for its utter incapacity in the struggles for existence.” In other words, the work done by the unconscious is a critical part of our evolutionary survival mechanism. For over a century now, research and clinical psychologists have been cognizant of the fact that we all possess a rich and active unconscious life that plays out in parallel to our conscious thoughts and feelings and has a powerful effect on them, in ways we are only now beginning to be able to measure with some degree of accuracy.
Carl Jung wrote, “There are certain events of which we have not consciously taken note; they have remained, so to speak, below the threshold of consciousness. They have happened, but they have been absorbed subliminally.” The Latin root of the word “subliminal” translates to “below threshold.” Psychologists employ the term to mean below the threshold of consciousness. This book is about subliminal effects in that broad sense—about the processes of the unconscious mind and how they influence us. To gain a true understanding of human experience, we must understand both our conscious and our unconscious selves, and how they interact. Our subliminal brain is invisible to us, yet it influences our conscious experience of the world in the most fundamental of ways: how we view ourselves and others, the meanings we attach to the everyday events of our lives, our ability to make the quick judgment calls and decisions that can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, and the actions we engage in as a result of all these instinctual experiences.
Though the unconscious aspects of human behavior were actively speculated about by Jung, Freud, and many others over the past century, the methods they employed—introspection, observations of overt behavior, the study of people with brain deficits, the implanting of electrodes into the brains of animals—provided only fuzzy and indirect knowledge. Meanwhile, the true origins of human behavior remained obscure. Things are different today. Sophisticated new technologies have revolutionized our understanding of the part of the brain that operates below our conscious mind—what I’m referring to here as the subliminal world. These technologies have made it possible, for the first time in human history, for there to be an actual science of the unconscious. That new science of the unconscious is the subject of this book.
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“first, people have a good memory for the general gist of events but a bad one for the details; second, when pressed for the unremembered details, even well-intentioned people making a sincere effort to be accurate will inadvertently fill in the gaps by making things up; and third, people will believe the memories they make up.”
“Other elements were added or reinterpreted so that ‘whenever anything appeared incomprehensible, it was either omitted or explained’ by adding content.”
“The process of fitting memories into a comfortable form ‘is an active process’, he wrote, and depends on the subject’s own prior knowledge and beliefs about the world, the ‘preformed tendencies and bias which the subject brings to the task’ of remembering.”
“whether or not we wish to, we communicate our expectations to others, and they often respond by fulfilling those expectations.”
“Merely placing objects in groups can affect our judgement of those objects.”
“Unconscious, or ‘implicit’ stereotyping is the rule rather than the exception.”
“Our unconscious judgement, which relies heavily on the categories to which we assign people, is always competing with our more deliberative and analytical conscious thought, which may see them as individuals. As these two sides of our minds battle it out, the degree to which we view a person as an individual versus a generic group member can vary on a sliding scale. That’s what seems to be happening in criminal trials. Serious crimes usually involve longer, more detailed examination of the defendant, with more at stake, and the added conscious focus seems to outweigh the attractiveness bias.”
“The more we interact with individuals and are exposed to their particular qualities, the more ammunition our minds have to counteract our tendency to stereotype, for the traits we assign to categories are products not just of society’s assumptions but of our own experience.”
“In the last chapter I talked about how putting other people into categories affects our assessment of them. Putting ourselves into in - and out-group categories also has an effect - on the way we see our own place in the world and on how we view others.”
“Your in-group identity influences the way you judge people, but it also influences the way you feel about yourself, the way you behave, and sometimes even your performance.”
“The researches pointed out that messages that condemn yet highlight undesired social norms are common, and that they invite counterproductive results.”
“and all have reached the same conclusion: we are highly invested in feeling different from one another - and superior - no matter how flimsy the grounds for our sense of superiority, and no matter how self-sabotaging that may end up being.”
“Much of clinical psychotherapy is based on what is essentially the same ideas: that through intense, therapeutically guided reflection we can learn our true feelings, attitudes, and motives. But remember the statistics on Browns marrying Browns, and investors undervaluing the IPOs of companies with tongue-twister names?”
“Because of the role of subliminal processes, the source of our feelings is often a mystery to us, and so are the feelings themselves.”
“We feel many things we are not aware of feeling. To ask us to talk about our feelings may be valuable, but some of our innermost feelings will not yield their secrets to even the most profound introspection. As a result, many of psychology’s traditional assumptions about our feelings simply do not hold.”
“If we are to have a valid understanding of who we are, therefore, of how we would react in various situations, we have to understand the reasons for our decisions and behaviour, and - even more fundamentally - we have to understand our feelings and their origins. Where do they come from?”
“If emotions are constructed from limited data rather than direct perception, similar to the way vision and memory are constructed, then, as with perception and memory, there must be circumstances when the way the mind fills in the gaps in the data results in your ‘getting it wrong’. The result would be ‘emotional illusions’ that are analogous to optical and memory illusions.”
“Again and again, the left hemisphere responded as if it knew the answer. In these and similar studies, the left brain generated many false reports, but the right brain did not, leading the researches to speculate that the left hemisphere of the brain has a role that goes beyond simply registering and identifying our emotional feelings, to trying to understand them.”
“As Sacks puts it, Thompson ‘must seek meaning, make meaning, in a desperate way, continually inventing, throwing bridges of meaning over abysses of meaninglessness’. The term ‘confabulation’ often signifies the replacement of a gap in one’s memory by a falsification that one believes to be true.”
“But we also confabulate to fill in gaps in our knowledge about our feelings.”
“But though we think we know what we are feeling, we often know neither the content nor the unconscious origins of that content. And so we come up the plausible explanations that are untrue or only partly accurate, and we believe them.”
“EVOLUTION DESIGNED THE human brain not to accurately understand itself but to help us survive.”
“but one idea Freudian therapists and experimental psychologists agree on today is that our ego fights fiercely to defend its honor.”
“there are two ways to get at the truth: the way of the scientist and the way of the lawyer. Scientists gather evidence, look for regularities, form theories explaining their observations, and test them. Attorneys begin with a conclusion they want yo convince others of and then seek evidence that supports it, while also attempting to discredit evidence that doesn’t. The human mind is designed to be both a conscious seeker of objective truth and an unconscious, impassioned advocate for what we want to believe. Together these approaches vie to create our worldview.”
“Because motivated reasoning is unconscious, people’s claims that they are unaffected by bias or self-interest can be sincere, even as they make decisions that are in reality self-serving.”
“People find reasons to continue supporting their preferred political candidates in the face of serious and credible accusations of wrongdoing or ignorance but take thirdhand hearsay about an illegal left turn as evidence that the candidate of the other party ought to be banned from politics for life.”
“because we poke holes in evidence we dislike and plug holes in evidence we like, the net effect in these studies was to amplify the intensity of the disagreement.”
“It turns out that when we calculate a completion date, the method we think we follow in arriving at it is to break the project down into the necessary steps, estimate the time required for ache step, and put it all together. But research shows that, instead, our minds often work backward. That is, the desired target date exerts a great and unconscious influence on our estimate of the time required to complete each of the intermediate steps.”
“It is because we make these decisions, and sincerely believe they are realistic, that all of us, whether we are throwing a dinner party for ten people or building a new jet fighter, regularly create overly optimistic estimates of when we can finish the project.”
“As these studies suggest, the subtlety of our reasoning mechanisms allows us to maintain our illusions of objectivity even while viewing the world through a biased lens. Our decision-making processes bend but don’t break our usual rules, and we perceive ourselves as forming judgements in a bottom-up fashion, using data to draw a conclusion, while we are in reality deciding top-down, using our preferred conclusion to shape our analysis of the data.”
Why do we choose some brands?
Why do we like some kinds of people?
Why do we believe in things that seems to be nonsense?
Some of the answers to these questions and a lot of other ones you can find in this book.
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"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.
10. A good use of illustrations.
11. Great quotes and factoids abound, "The truth is that our unconscious minds are active, purposeful, and independent."
12. Evolution...why our brains evolved to be what they are.
13. A truly exceptional study that mirrors the subjects' sexual preferences.
14. What modern neuroscience tells us about our brains and how we perceive the world.
15. How our memory system works. Who does it change over time? Find out.
16. Social interactions and the subliminal. Theory of mind. The three regions of the brain and the three basic types of nonverbal communication.
17. An interesting look at stereotyping.
18. Popular misconceptions analyzed.
19. What do we know about our feelings our emotions? Find out.
20. The ways to the truth...our worldviews.
21. How our brain creates unconscious biases.
22. Is unrealistic optimism good for you?
23. Great links.
1. Notes are great but a formal bibliography never hurts.
2. Nothing about supernatural beliefs and why they are so prevalent.
3. Having to get multiple copies to share.
In summary, I loved this book. It was an intellectual treat. The science of the unconscious is a fascinating topic and this book was loaded with a lot of great research. Mlodinow is a great author who is able to tackle complex topics and make it fun and interesting to read. If you want to learn about the science of the unconscious, make a conscious decision to get this one, I highly recommend it!!
Further suggestions: "The Grand Design" and "War of the Worldviews: Science Vs. Spirituality" coauthored by this same author were excellent, "Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time" and "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths" by Michael Shermer, "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" by Steven Pinker, Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality" by Laurence Tancredi, "Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain" Michael S. Gazzaniga, "The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life" by Jesse Bering, "50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True" by Guy P. Harrison, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts" by Carol Tavris. For the record, I have reviewed all the aforementioned books, enjoy.
"We choose the facts that we want to believe. We also choose our friends, lovers, and spouses not just because of the way we perceive them but because of the way they perceive us. Unlike phenomena in physics, in life, events can often obey one theory or another, and what actually happens can depend largely upon which theory we choose to believe. It is a gift of the mind to be extraordinarily open to accepting theory of ourselves that pushes us in the direction of survival, and even happiness. And so my parents did not sleep that night, while my father taught my mother to sew."
The details of that scene are best reveled within the narrative, in context, and have significance only if you have thought about all that Mlodinow has previously shared. I remain unconvinced that my subconscious mind rules my behavior or that it rules Mlodinow's but I realized decades ago that the subconscious was -- and remains -- one of the most powerful and yet least understood forces in neuroscience. Only recently has it been possible to quantify at least some of its influence on decision-making, for example. The Latin root of the word "subliminal" translates to "below threshold," suggests that there were a few curious souls who sensed, at least, that there was something other than reason involved with choices.
One of Mlodinow's primary purposes is serve as a travel companion for his reader during an exploration, in his words, "of our evolutionary heritage, of the surprising and exotic forces at play beneath the surface of our own minds, and of the impact of those unconscious instincts on what is usually considered willed, rational behavior -- and impact that is much more powerful than we have previously believed it to be."
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Mlodinow's coverage.
o Interpretation of behavior (11-126, 38-41, 79-80, and 115-118)
o Collective behavior (26-29)
o Sensory input for brain (45-51 and 96-100)
o Phonemic restoration (48-50)
o Groups (68-70 and 161-175)
o Aggressive behavior 92-96)
o fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging (100-104)
o Perception (107-125, and 199-203)
o Impact of physical appearance (Pages 126-144)
o Competitive behavior, in-groups, and, conscious behavior (161-175 and 30-35, 42-45)
o Illusions (183-188)
o Introspection and self-identity (196-218)
o Motivated reasoning (200-214)
Mlodinow's narrative is lively and eloquent. However, Subliminal is by no means an "easy read but will generously reward those who read it with a combination of curiosity, attention, and patience. I re-read it before setting to work on this review and, as with a great novel rich in compelling drama involving memorable characters, my mind picked up points of information, insights, and wit I previously missed. For non-scientists such as I, Mlodinow manages somehow to cover a great deal of important material without dumbing it down. In this context I am reminded of the works of Richard Feynman and, more recently, Daniel Dennett.
Frankly, I have always been suspicious of "positive illusions" which, in my opinion, are actually delusions. Mlodinow has convinced me that such positive illusions/delusions can sometimes help people to overcome or at least cope more effectively with unpleasant realities. The value of this book will be determined almost completely by how receptive and accessible a reader is to material that may be unfamiliar or inaccessible. Trust him and trust yourself.
So, I urge you to read this book if you are curious to learn more than you know now about (a) the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind, (b) how they interact and sometimes compete, (c) what their interactions and separate activities reveal about decision-making, and finally (d) how an increased (albeit incomplete) understanding of what is happening "below threshold," ours and everyone else's. New knowledge and understanding await you, as do Leonard Mlodinow and his book. Let the journey of exploration begin.
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