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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As others have commented, this offers nothing new regarding the workings of the human mind and features no cutting edge research. But what it does offer is a well written, engaging, instructive and reasonably comprehensive review of where we are now in terms of understanding the degree to which our actions, feelings and thoughts are influenced beyond our conscious awareness.

Most people, I imagine, are familiar with the idea that our conscious awareness uses only a relatively small amount of our brain's processing power: the majority is taken up by our unconscious, which busies itself with the myriad affairs and processes necessary to keep us up and running while our conscious mind struggles to cope with the 7+/-2 bits of sensory data that supposedly represents the limits of its capacity. However, while this faithful slave is relieving us of the burden of having to remember to breathe, filter our blood, maintain our core body temperature and so on as well as filtering out the million bits of sensory stimuli with which we are bombarded every second, it is also picking up little tidbits of information that we do, unwittingly, make use of in our dealings with the world and one another and which influence our behaviour in very surprising ways and, to a large extent, make us the people we are.

For anyone interested in the field of human behaviour, or anyone else who is simply curious to learn what might make them tick, this will be an entertaining and informative read.
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on 10 June 2013
Most of what happens in the human brain is below the level of consciousness. We don't think about how to walk, or how to type or even how to drive home from work. These things all happen automatically, unless we happen to focus our attention on them. And it has to be that way. Imagine if you have to focus your attention on each step of each task. But the subconscious mind is far more important than a servant that manages menial tasks. It also plays an important role in decisions that we think of as conscious and thoughtful. This well-written book provides an excellent guide to how our subconscious minds work, and how important they are in every day life. Everyone can and should benefit from reading books like this.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Leonard Mlodinow has the credibility of having worked with Stephen Hawking, and of having written a successful book called The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. He clearly is able to reference scientific studies in an accessible way and here explores neuroscience - what he calls the 'New Unconscious'. Many of us are aware of the Freudian unconscious, but Mlodinow brings us up to date with what has been learned since then, even though the behaviourist movement and the cognitive and social psychology fields did not address the unconscious as a main field of study. It is neuroscience and the strides made there, partly through brain imaging etc, which has added much to the field in recent years.

He says 'we perceive, we remember our experiences; we make judgements, we act - and in all of those endeavours we are influenced by factors we aren't aware of.' The book presents us with information that is convincing - often we think we are making a rational conscious decision, but it may well be influenced by factors we're not aware of - one example he gives is that whether French or German music is playing in the supermarket was shown to influence people's buying choices, though they were mostly unaware of that.

I thought Mlodinow's chapter headings and subtitles give a good overview of the book, so I've reproduced them here:

1 The New Unconscious
the hidden role of our subliminal selves...what it means when you don't call your mother
2 Senses Plus Mind equals Reality
The two tier system of the you can see something without knowing it
3 Remembering and Forgetting
How the brain builds memories...why we sometimes remember what never happened
4. The Importance of being Social
the fundamental role of human social character..why Tylenol can mend a broke hear
5 Reading People
How we communicate without to know who's the boss by watching her eyes
6 Judging People by Their Covers
What we read into looks, voice, and to win voters, attract a date, or beguile a female cowbird
7 Sorting People and Things
Why we categorise things and stereotype people..what Lincoln, Ghandi and Che Guevara had in common
8 In-groups and Out-Groups
the dynamics of us and them...the science behind Lord of the Flies
9 Feelings
the nature of emotions...why the prospect of falling hundreds of feet onto boulders has the same effect as a flirtatious smile and a black nightgown
10 Self
How our self defends its honour...why schedules are overly optimistic and failed CEOs feel they deserve golden parachutes

The evidence that Mlodinow presents is compelling and in the final chapter, Self, it is clear how we kid ourselves that the dats support the beliefs and instincts we hold. I think it's important of us all of to be aware of this, so that we don't delude ourselves though Mlodinow argues that positivity is a good reason for some self delusion - 'Our unconscious is at it best when it helps us create a positive and fond sense of self, a feeling of power and control in a world full of powers far greater than the merely human.'
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Your unconscious runs your life whether you realise it or not is the message and it has been demonstrated in many experiments which are described in this fascinating book. The author first of all explores the unconscious of the individual and then in the second half of the book explores the social unconscious which affects the way we behave when we are part of a group.

The book is written in an easy approachable style with plenty of examples to demonstrate the points the author is making. He shows that even what we see with our own eyes isn't necessarily what is there. We all have a blind spot in the middle of each eye of which we are completely unconscious because our brains process the picture before we're aware of what we're seeing and fill in the gaps so that we see a whole picture.

We don't remember all the details of events and scenes - just the outlines - and our brains fill in the gaps with what seems most logical from our store of similar situations. Memories can be created in such a way that we truly believe that things actually happened the way we think they did. This happens all the time in small ways but it can be of much more importance in false memory syndrome where people are persuaded they remember things which actually didn't happen.

In the second half of the book the author shows how much of our interactions with other people are governed by the unconscious. In a group people come to a consensus of opinion which they would not necessarily agree with if they were on their own to the extent of giving deliberately wrong answers to questions in order to agree with the majority view. Two and two may equal five in this situation! Even scientists can be guilty of using data to support their own theories and ignoring what doesn't fit with their preferred ideas.

If you are interested in understanding your own life and the way you often make decisions or take actions which you can't explain then try this book. You might be surprised by how little of your life is under your conscious control. There are plenty of notes to each chapter which will give the interested reader other books to try and there is an index.
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on 10 October 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Excellent entertaining, informative and really rather shocking. We think we know why we do things, that we are cool rational beings. Mlodinow reveals in page after page of very well explained psychological experiments that we are all great big liars. Most of all to ourselves. We simply are not to be relied upon! We are biased to favour our in group, therefore we are prejudiced towards the "other" whoever they are at a given moment, no matter how right on a Guardian reader we are. We judge each other on flimsy superficial evidence. But most of all. We make stuff up, post hoc to fit our views and our prejudices. No matter how truthful we think we are. Even our eyes give us jerky incomplete images and we make the rest up! There is not a huge amount about what we can do to balance our dangerously lopsided constructions of reality but the implications are obviously pretty huge for everyone from sales teams to psychotherapists. And anyone who makes decisions. Except me. I don't do this crap. I do know what I am doing don't I?
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on 9 February 2014
Like Mlodinow's previous book on randomness, The Drunkard's Walk, this book blends up to date science with a relaxed style which comfortably veers into storytelling.

Like the best teachers, the author is not some impersonal, remote figure but rather a real life character exploring a fascinating subject with you.

Much of the content will be familiar to readers of other popular neuroscience books but is nonetheless enjoyable for that and there are one or two gems of new information in here even for someone who has read quite widely in the field.

I laughed out loud on a number of occasions (particularly as he described his mother's interaction with the tortoise!) and learnt enough to keep me hooked.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Another popular science book, I did not read the authors previous work 'The Drunkards Walk'The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

If you enjoy people watching, like I do, or attend lot's of meetings, like I do, you will see lots of things happening in the world that this book will help you understand. Like most things, making change in yourself is about first accepting that change needs to be made.

This book will let you see some of the things that humans do subconsciously. Now you would think that we cannot change those things, wrong. Read this book and think about what you want to achieve, it does not have all the answers but it has part of the roadmap of how to get there.
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VINE VOICEon 27 September 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really enjoyed this book once I actually got into it. I have studied a lot of counselling, therapy, personal development literature, both for my own interest and during my time as a social worker and coach. In some ways, on reflection, I approached the book with a mildly jaded 'what else can I learn here' attitude, so probably not very helpful (and a very clear illustration of a core premise of this book!)

However, the style proved to be engaging and much of the content coalesced material I'd forgotten or simply didn't realise or connect before. The author thinks and writes clearly and the words fly by nicely. It's not a drudge of a book, or a mission to actually read. It's a pleasure.

Yes, of course the unconscious powers us pretty much every moment and without it we'd like 'break down' very quickly. Just do every single action consciously for a few minutes, every movement, and hold every perception actually in mind, and you'll realise how much we rely on it and how tiring it would be were it otherwise!

At root, there is nothing here that any student of Eastern thought would find surprising ... but there's no mysticism, it's all presented in an up to date fashion. What I'm left with is a renewed notion that my thoughts, my perceptions, must be examined rather than simply taken for granted. Forget the initial perception and go deeper to second or third levels of understanding. What ARE we experiencing? What IS the basis of that perception? Ultimately, how 'true' is anything?
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I enjoyed this book. It was an easy, and at times quite fascinating, read. Quite how a theoretical physicist comes to be writing about what amounts to neuroscience I’m not quite sure, but he did a good job.

The book is about how we are not as in charge of our thinking and decision-making as we’d like to think we are. There’s a whole stack of stuff going on outside of our awareness that effectively controls us. The author describes many pieces of research that demonstrate this quite clearly. About half of the research he mentions was familiar to me, the rest I was unaware of. Little of this research material is recent so there is not anything really new in this book, but he does pull together a lot of related material in an entertaining way, woven together with a little of his personal history and experiences.

The book comes in two parts. Part one is about mind and brain and covers such things as how our brain fills in lots of missing pieces in order to make sense of the patchy sensory information supplied to it by things like our eyes. It has to make stuff up because our eyes, apparently, are jiggling around all over the place all the time and if the brain didn’t interfere we’d never see a stable image and would probably be seasick all the time.

Part one also deals with memory, and eye-witness testimony, which the courts apparently like to pretend is fool-proof. However, research demonstrates quite clearly that most of what eye witnesses remember can be heavily influenced by something as simple as being shown a set of photographs in a police station. I find memory research quite fascinating and by the end of the chapter you may well find that you no longer trust anything at all that you remember clearly.

Part 2 is a much bigger section and deals with how we navigate our social world. It looks at things like body-language, but not the usual crossed-arms, body-pointing stuff. The author goes into much more subtle levels of communication that we are constantly picking up and reacting to when we encounter others. Here’s the description of Chapter 6 from the contents page: ‘What we read into looks, voice, and touch… how to win voters, attract a date, or beguile a female cowbird.’

If you are interested in personal development at a level beyond the superficial, or are fascinated by the magical mind that seems to live inside your head, then I would wholeheartedly recommend this. It is easy to read; the author’s style is light and comfortable; and if you are genuinely interested in you then I think you’ll enjoy it.
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I could only smile weakly at moment I read how people place unconscious judgement upon the pronouncability of names. In a grudging twist of irony, I had unwittingly been wary of this book, thinking it to be some sort of scientific tome of research papers and mind-bending quantum psychology of sorts... and I couldn't help but wonder if Mr Mlodinow's name had been a partial influence on this (hard to pronounce name being associated with a book that's hard to digest). I had unknowingly been my own guinea pig

This book really is something special. Deeply fascinating, very engaging and beautifully accurate. The ideas and theories postulated are all backed up with succinct and sometimes startling scientific studies, making it more of a treat to read than someone peddling their own preferences and opinions. Most of us are aware of the subconscious... but we often underestimate the prominent role that it actually plays (or at least in ourselves. Everyone else is guided by the superficial, but not us, we are rational beings... aren't we?). The findings are as amazing as they are a little soul-destroying. Everything from the impact of names on our romantic choices to our disdain for outsiders. How exercise can ignite sexual attraction to the fear of electrocution fostering relationships. Oh and how spilling coffee will stand you more chance of landing that dream job than your academic history

But despite being laden with academic foundations - Leonard's excellent writing style makes the book easy to digest and thoroughly entertaining. He laces everything with enough anecdotes and remarks to make it like a fascinating conversation over coffee... and funnily enough, much of what is covered make for brilliant talkling points

The thing that I really enjoyed though, was the explanations behind the unconscious processes. It's one thing reporting what the mind does, but another to explain why it happens at all. There's much to get frustrated about when it comes to the subconscious... false memories, stereotyping, ego-centric hypocrisy... And it was somewhat heart-warming to find out why our minds would have developed these from an evolutionary standpoint

In the end, you can't help but laugh. I winced at some of what I read, being a long-believer that rational logic wins out and leads the way. But, by God, was this a fun read. I really cannot rate this any higher

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