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Extended Audio Sample Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior Audiobook, by Leonard Mlodinow Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (769 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Leonard Mlodinow Narrator: Leonard Mlodinow Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2012 ISBN: 9780739383698
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Leonard Mlodinow, the best-selling author of The Drunkard’s Walk and coauthor of The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking), gives us a startling and eye-opening examination of how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world and how, for instance, we often misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates, misunderstand the reasons for our investment decisions, and misremember important events.

Your preference in politicians, the amount you tip your waiter—all judgments and perceptions reflect the workings of our mind on two levels: the conscious, of which we are aware, and the unconscious, which is hidden from us. The latter has long been the subject of speculation, but over the past two decades researchers have developed remarkable new tools for probing the hidden, or subliminal, workings of the mind. The result of this explosion of research is a new science of the unconscious and a change in our understanding of how the subliminal mind affects the way we live.

Employing his trademark wit and lucid, accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects, Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a tour of this research, unraveling the complexities of the subliminal self and increasing our understanding of how the human mind works and how we interact with friends, strangers, spouses, and coworkers. In the process he changes our view of ourselves and the world around us.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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. Booklist 
  • 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. NewScientist.com
  • 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

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark | 2/17/2014

    " Well written and enjoyable, but I've read most of his examples elsewhere. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Fenix Rose | 2/8/2014

    " I loved this book. It was packed with a lot of great information about how our conscious and unconscious mind work. I am glad that more and more is being learned like this. One day it will transform how people look not just at human behavior and attitudes, but illness and conditions that are today judged psychological with no physical base or means of physically discovering what is going on. The fMRI is a wonderful tool that should be utilized more, not just in basic studies but as a diagnostic tool. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kevin | 2/8/2014

    " An absolutely fascinating read ! I've often heard that we only use 10 % of our brains and that statement has always bothered me Well, as the author of this book demonstrates,time and time again,our subconscious mind is constantly at work. It drives us and influences in so many surprising and usual ways, that that statement is something that's no longer going to trouble me. A very encouraging read. Beacuse after all, the mind is a terrible thing to waste. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Arun | 2/6/2014

    " This book contains many interesting tidbits. Technology today, such as through the fMRI, allows scientists to draw a picture of what your mind is visualizing by combining inputs from different parts of the brain - both the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious mind is so strong that it allows a blind man to detect moods of people's faces more often than not. Yet, the unconscious is imperfect, as shown in the use of identifications in law. Many people pick innocents in lineups even when police have stacked it with officers and random people, and the chooser has been advised of his/her right to pick no one. Yet, many courts do not allow scientific evidence about the unreliability of identifications on the theory that such testimony is too complex. Other courts do not allow scientific evidence about the unreliability of identifications on the theory that it is too simple. These exclusions occur despite the fact that most jurisdictions only look at general scientific acceptance of an idea as one factor in weighing whether to allow expert testimony (thus potentially opening the door for novel expert testimony on the unreliability of identifications, even if this idea hasn't gained general acceptance yet). The "it's too complex" and "it's too simple" explanations given by judges (who decide whether or not to admit expert testimony on matters that they think the jury will need help with) may be guises used to make conservative decisions that won't be overtuned by higher courts. Yet, these judges must also weigh the danger of convicting the innocent based on faulty identifications. Congressional action may be necessary to reform the use of identifications in criminal law. In another example of the law setting barriers to justice, people alleging racial discrimination must allege not only that they were treated differently, but that the discrimination was purposeful. But if people and institutions subconsciously favor one race over another, and there is no redress for that discrimination absent showing purpose, we cannot move forward into a more just society. If the counter-argument is that the law does not play favorites, and that where there is historical discrimination legislatures can devise remedies to counter the problem, remember that courts have been chipping away at legislatures' freedom to enact remedial change. For example, the Supreme Court disallows the affirmative action remedy of quotas that was used by some colleges to admit students of a particular race. Now, race can only be considered as a plus factor in a pool of many factors for admission, and the trend is to eliminate affirmative action all together. Also, even if one allows the proposition that the law does not discriminate, those who apply the law may still discriminate - consciously or unconsciously. For example, in New York City's program of performing greater stops and frisks of civilians, the statistics show that the people who were stopped and frisked were lopsidedly black and Hispanic even though the law has safeguards to prevent this type of result - namely that there must be reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is commiting a crime in order to stop them and reasonable suspicion that they are armed in order to perform a protective frisk of the outer clothing. The safeguards don't seem to be doing the job. While I found the discussion on identifications new, there are other studies mentioned in Subliminal that have already received wide attention in other behavioral psychology books. For example, the author details the study about those at a college campus talking to a stranger and then momentarily being obstructed during the conversation by some passing object, only to fail to realize that when the view of the stranger became clear again that the stranger had been replaced with a different person. Yet, outweighing the repetitiveness of some studies are anecdotes like the following: when the author worked with Stephen Hawking, he could read Hawking's mood even though Hawking could only move one eye. The Hawking example points to a theme of this book that other authors on pop psychology have not stressed - the importance of the subconscious in communicating with or in reading people. For the purposes of this book, the subconscious is synonymous with the unconscious. Another interesting study shows that high expectations for children is a self fulfilling prophecy whereby students labeled as "gifted" actually get treated as smarter and score higher on IQ tests. Programs like Teach for America have been on the bandwagon of high expectations for a while now, so studies like those about gifted children may only be proving what we already knew. For me, the more interesting question is how questions about race affect childrens' performance on standardized tests. For example, the SAT or ACT has students fill out their names and demographic information in the beginning before taking the test. Does that demographic self-categorization lead students to unconsciously feel judged? Does that judgment lead some students to unconsciously succumb to racial stereotypes? Does unconsciously succumbing to racial stereotypes lead those students to score lower on average than if those demographic questions were asked after the test? If so, how can we justify not asking those questions after the test? Like with the example of the unreliability of identifications in criminal trials, do we have to wait until there is general scientific acceptance before enacting possibly beneficial change? Is the calculus different because there is little risk of harm in tinkering with the standardized test, whereas allowing expert testimony on the unreliability of identifications may lead a guilty person to go free? It must be a mark of a good book that it stimulates so many questions and avenues for discussion. I gave this book five stars because it made me think about hypotheticals beyond the scope of the book (like the one about demographic questions on standardized tests, which the book did not cover, but which received coverage in the U.S. media in September 2012). The book also provides many facts that make sense intuitively. For example, social norms dictate looking at a person when they are speaking to you (eye contact, eye contact, eye contact). But, why? You don't hear with your eyes. In today's multi-tasking world, where 95% of the things people tell you don't add value to your life and the other 5% will need to be verified or repeated or is already being recorded, what's the point of demanding the eyes and ears work together? If people feel disrespected that 100% of your attention isn't on them, they need to get over it or learn to be less controlling and more laid back. If it's a teacher lecturing to you, you learn more by doing problems or asking questions back and forth with peers and the teacher anyways, so if I were a teacher I would try to stimulate the eyes through pictures, videos, and charts. This book, more than others about behavioral psychology, made me question the normal way we do things. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peter A. van Tilburg | 2/6/2014

    " Eye opener on subliminal processes "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Topdop | 2/6/2014

    " An incredibly thorough look at the role our unconscious mind plays in our lives that I found very accessible, having no previous related knowledge. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Osman Kent | 1/25/2014

    " :: Like Drunkards Walk before it, a book worthy of multiple reads - a treasure trove of information "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jo-Anne | 1/19/2014

    " This was a first reads giveaway, and a worthy book to win! Thoroughly enjoyed it, as any armchair psychologist would. Written in an engaging and breezy style, and packed with ponder-worthy research and accounts of the experiments that have been conducted in this field. Has you wondering about all the decisions you make, and about what's really driving you to do what you do. Some of the info has been discussed in other books, but it's nice to have one resource and compilation of the material. Only one small criticism: In the last chapter the author talks about all human beings as being subject to the motivations of our unconscious minds, and adds that even scientists are not immune to the influence of their unconscious 'vested interests'. He goes on to give examples of this. And yet later in the same chapter he says, of those people who refuse to believe that humans descended from apes, that those people have simply found ways not to accept this fact, against all evidence to the contrary. I think the author's unconscious bias is showing! :-) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kyle Wendy | 1/18/2014

    " Fascinating and well researched book about how our mind processes things we aren't even aware of. A little bit of body language, horses that can count, and optical illusions add to the fun and wonder that is the human brain. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sammy | 12/31/2013

    " Very similar to Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 River | 12/22/2013

    " Good book. Very interesting. Great storytelling. Gets a bit boring towards end but overall an enjoyable read! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shane Gower | 12/16/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book! Thought provoking and well written. It connects some recent brain research with some classical theories and famous experiments to help better explain how the unconscious mind works. Very fascinating! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 James | 11/27/2013

    " This was ok with a couple of tidbits of information that reiterated many of the topics I had heard in a set of brain books I completed during 2012. If this is the first book on the subconscious you are reading, you may get a greater benefit than I did. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bözsi Claussen | 5/17/2013

    " In general, quite a good book. Most of what it talks about, albeit in a different context, more or less recapitulates the last two or three books I have read on sleep, memory, and what it is that differentiates humans from other animals. Easy to read and interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Roland Elferink | 4/20/2013

    " Very interesting, one likes to think that we are the master of our own decisions but it turns out that is only partly true. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michelle | 4/15/2012

    " This book reminded me of an intro psych textbook. Good information if you don't have a solid background in psychology, but not one you'd have trouble putting down, in my opinion. "

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About the Author
Author Leonard Mlodinow

Leonard Mlodinow is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. He also coauthored two books with physicist Stephen Hawking, A Briefer History of Time and The Grand Design. In addition to his books, Mlodinow has written articles for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Forbes magazine, among others. He has also written for television series such as McGyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He received his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of California–Berkeley and currently teaches at California Institute of Technology.