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Subliminal: The Book Report

Updated on November 30, 2012

How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

Author: Leonard Mlodinow. Publisher: Pantheon Books, New York, 2012. Hard cover; $26.95US.

I admit that I am a pop-psych buff. As you know, TV, movies and the other forms of media are full of it. One wonders how much of what one sees in such contexts bears upon reality. Because of my skepticism, I only occasionally read books on psychology/neurology and the like. I actually read this book, rather than thumbing through it, because its author has co-written with the likes of Stephen Hawking and Dupak Chopra. Mr. Mlodinow's previous co-author selectors suggested that this work would be more than the usual pop-psych stuff one generally sees. It is.

While based on strong, substantial research, noted and indexed, the author trains his view of humans through the prism of a human as an animal that has evolved through time. That is, we are who we were then, and it is not possible to analyze and understand humans as we exist without taking the long view of evolution. Maybe you can rise above your animal genetics, and maybe not. In my view, it is not likely that our minds can rise above genetic predispositions without some substantial understanding of how our brains and bodies are wired, and how it got to be that way. Some understanding of the workings of other animals is necessary, too. This work, however, is more than behavioral analysis.

The author views concepts such as brain/mind, senses, social interactions and feelings, through the evolutionary lens, while providing sketches of major players and development of thought and research. I believe that his attempt at providing an selective overview of historical thought, research and description of where we are now is successful. One can understand where we are without knowing every twist and turn of how we arrived.

Mr. Mlodinow's writing is conversational but not simple, clever and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. His objective is to increase your understanding of your human brain, mind, and behavior. For me, he was successful. Worth the time spent reading.

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