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

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

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by Shankar Vedantam
     
 

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The hidden brain is the voice in our ear when we make the most important decisions in our lives—but we’re never aware of it. The hidden brain decides whom we fall in love with and whom we hate. It tells us to vote for the white candidate and convict the dark-skinned defendant, to hire the thin woman but pay her less than the man doing the same job. It can… See more details below

Overview

The hidden brain is the voice in our ear when we make the most important decisions in our lives—but we’re never aware of it. The hidden brain decides whom we fall in love with and whom we hate. It tells us to vote for the white candidate and convict the dark-skinned defendant, to hire the thin woman but pay her less than the man doing the same job. It can direct us to safety when disaster strikes and move us to extraordinary acts of altruism. But it can also be manipulated to turn an ordinary person into a suicide terrorist or a group of bystanders into a mob.

In a series of compulsively readable narratives, Shankar Vedantam journeys through the latest discoveries in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral science to uncover the darkest corner of our minds and its decisive impact on the choices we make as individuals and as a society. Filled with fascinating characters, dramatic storytelling, and cutting-edge science, this is an engrossing exploration of the secrets our brains keep from us—and how they are revealed. 

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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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781588369390
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/19/2010
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
414,265
File size:
2 MB

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