The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives

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Overview

"The hidden brain" is Shankar Vedantam's shorthand for a host of brain functions, emotional responses, and cognitive processes that happen outside our conscious awareness but have a decisive effect on how we behave. The hidden brain has its finger on the scale when we make all our most complex and important decisions: It decides whom we fall in love with, whether we should convict someone of murder, and which way to run when someone yells "Fire!" It explains why we can become riveted by the story of a single puppy adrift on the ocean but are

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2010 Hardcover New 0385525214. Flawless copy, brand new, pristine, never opened--288 pages. Publisher description: "Most of us would agree that there's a clear?and even ... obvious?connection between the things we believe and the way we behave. But what if our actions are driven not by our conscious values and beliefs but by hidden motivations we're not even aware of? The 'hidden brain' is Shankar Vedantam's shorthand for a host of brain functions, emotional responses, and cognitive processes that happen outside our conscious awareness but have a decisive effect on how we behave. The hidden brain has its finger on the scale when we make all our most complex and important decisions: It decides whom we fall in love with, whether we should convict someone of murder, and which way to run when someone yells 'Fire! ' It explains why we can become riveted by the story of a single puppy adrift on the ocean but are quickly bored by a story of genocide. The hidden brain can also be deliberately manipulated to convince Read more Show Less

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The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives

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Overview

"The hidden brain" is Shankar Vedantam's shorthand for a host of brain functions, emotional responses, and cognitive processes that happen outside our conscious awareness but have a decisive effect on how we behave. The hidden brain has its finger on the scale when we make all our most complex and important decisions: It decides whom we fall in love with, whether we should convict someone of murder, and which way to run when someone yells "Fire!" It explains why we can become riveted by the story of a single puppy adrift on the ocean but are quickly bored by a story of genocide. The hidden brain can also be deliberately manipulated to convince people to vote against their own interests, or even become suicide terrorists. But the most disturbing thing is that it does all this without our knowing." Shankar Vedantam takes us on a tour of this phenomenon and explores its consequences. Using original reporting that combines the latest scientific research with compulsively readable narratives that take readers from the American campaign trail to terrorist indoctrination camps, from the World Trade Center on 9/11 to, yes, a puppy adrift on the Pacific Ocean, Vedantam illuminates the dark recesses of our minds while making an original argument about how we can compensate for our blind spots - and what happens when we don't.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Washington Post science journalist Vedantam theorizes that there's a hidden world in our heads filled with unconscious biases, often small, hidden errors in thinking that manipulate our attitudes and actions without our knowing it. Autonomy is a myth, he says, because knowledge and rational intention are not responsible for our choices. This thesis is not news— since Freud, psychologists have taken the unconscious into account—but Vedanta argues that if we are influenced sometimes, then why not all the time, whether we're launching a romance or a genocide. This is a frightening leap in logic. In anecdotal, journalistic prose, we learn that, through bias, rape victims can misidentify their attacker; people are more honest even with just a subtle indication that they are being watched; polite behavior has to do with the frontotemporal lobes rather than with how one was raised; and that we can be unconsciously racist and sexist. Though drawing on the latest psychological research, Vedantam's conclusions are either trite or unconvincing. (Jan. 19)
Kirkus Reviews
A disturbing but enlightening look at the power of the unconscious over human action and decision-making. Why did virtually everyone on the 88th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center survive on 9/11, while almost all of those on the 89th floor perished? Washington Post behavior columnist Vedantam (The Ghosts of Kashmir, 2006) uses that question to demonstrate how even the strongest willed can be subject to their unconscious minds. Sometimes this agency is for the good; often, however, our unconscious biases lead us into error. Shunning Freudian interpretation for more recent, evidence-based science, Vedantam cites studies in the United States, Canada and Europe that demonstrate how people are easily misled into acting on biases they would be shocked to learn they had. An honor box in a British office's coffee room fills faster when a printed request for contributions is accompanied by a pair of watchful eyes. More harmful, people tend to rate the intelligence or competence of a total stranger downward when they are merely proximate to-not necessarily interacting with-an overweight person. Transsexuals who become men improve their lot while those who become women suffer economically and socially, all other aspects of their personalities remaining equal. School children of all races persist in applying positive attributes to white strangers and negative ones to people of color. These studies, Vedantam says, point out the tendency of humans to be ruled by the oceanic portion of our mind that keep us functioning in a complex world, while the conscious mind attends to only what it needs to-shockingly little in comparison. A tour into dark realms of the psyche by a personableguide. Author tour to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C.
From the Publisher
"In The Hidden Brain, one of America's best science journalists describes how our unconscious minds influence everything from criminal trials to charitable giving, from suicide bombers to presidential elections. The Hidden Brain is a smart and engaging exploration of the science behind the headlinesand of the little man behind the screen. Don't miss it."—Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

"Shankar Vedantam brings his critical eye to a question that has haunted scientists and writers for centuries: Does the unconscious matter, and if so, how? With a light touch, the book takes us through the complicated landscape of research on psychology and human behavior. We come away not only understanding how we act, but Vedantam moves past mainstream economic reasoning to shed light on the relationships we create with each other. The book addresses the madness and beauty of our struggles to create a moral and just world." Sudhir Venkatesh,  author of  Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385525213
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/19/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Shankar Vedantam is a national correspondent and columnist for the Washington Post and a 2009 Neimann Fellow.  He lives in Washington, DC.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3

1 The Myth of Intention 9

2 The Ubiquitous Shadow: The Hidden Brain at Work and Play 24

3 Tracking the Hidden Brain: How Mental Disorders Reveal Our Unconscious Lives 43

4 The Infant's Stare, Macaca, and Racist Seniors: The Life Cycle of Bias 60

5 The Invisible Current: Gender, Privilege, and the Hidden Brain 88

6 The Siren's Call: Disasters and the Lure of Conformity 112

7 The Tunnel: Terrorism, Extremism, and the Hidden Brain 138

8 Shades of Justice: Unconscious Bias and the Death Penalty 168

9 Disarming the Bomb: Politics, Race, and the Hidden Brain 188

10 The Telescope Effect: Lost Dogs and Genocide 230

Acknowledgments 257

Notes 261

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 23, 2010

    Refund please

    Verbose! This book inspires me to write a 6000 word review that could be boiled down to 1 paragraph. The relevant content could have been covered in 150 pages if not for the author's fascination with his own fascination. I hope to find the book that this was not.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 25, 2010

    Poor science, selective examples and sugestive politics; all contribue to this books failure.

    I can not dissuade anyone strongly enough from reading or buying this book. It takes a vaid concept, i.e. the Unconscious part of the human mind, and ignores the science. At least, were the science does not aggree with the authors conclusion. Furthermore, Shankar Vedantam uses an excessive amount of "human interest" examples, especially when the know facts are either inconclusive or unsupportive of his view point. His "human interest" examples oddly are uncontested and poorly documented. There is a notable lack of follow through and context to most of his examples. In addition, his examples are not investiaged in the text. Many of the examples he choses are politcally in nature and every time his conclusion support want could easy fit into a liberal polical platform.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    How much do you do that you don't know you do?

    Shankar Vedantam brings together several studies I had read about before and a few I did not know. The compilation in a remarkably short book consistently supports a singularly focused thesis. Every official media commentator (especially on cable and talk radio) must read his chapter on terrorism. It should be read by every one. The author's skill in mixing personal testimony with research is most on display in that chapter, just as it is in the chapter on how people vote. I must admit, I read the first chapter first, the final chapter second, then flipped around. I immediately read -out loud- to my wife at completing the chapter juxtaposing a cute little dog with the massive death rate in the Rwanda Genocide. And the chapter describing how people on one floor all survived in the 9/11 Trade Tower attacks while people on the next floor all died was disturbing. Only one change would have reversed those who lived and those who died.

    Most importantly, when I applied the research he includes to myself, I found I am not quite what I think I am. It was like comparing the mental image I have of my body when I walk around and then taking a serious look at the guy in the mirror. Same guy, still likable and reasonably smart, but not fully what I want to be or think I am. Yet, the guy is still fully human. Improvements are needed, but still not really so bad.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2012

    INTERESTING,BUT ACADEMIC,+SHOULD HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY A SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGIST

    Interesting, but out of the author's depth;it's been covered before +better by soc.scientists.

    The author writes in an interesting manner though

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