The Hidden Brain : How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives
The hidden brain is Shankar Vedantam's shorthand for a host of brain functions, emotional responses, and cognitive processes that happen outside of our conscious awareness, but that have a decisive effect on how we behave. The hidden brain has its finger on the scale when we make all of our most complex and important decisions - it decides who we fall in love with, whether we should convict someone of murder, or which way to run when someone yells "fire!" It explains why we can become riveted by the story of a single puppy adrift on an ocean but are quickly bored by a story of genocide. The hidden brain can also be deliberately manipulated to vote against their interest, or even become suicide terrorists. But the most disturbing thing is that it does all of this without our knowing.
Shankar Vedantam, longtime author of the Washington Post's popular "Department of Human Behavior" column, 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 in 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.
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.
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1 . Racism and the Hidden Brain
Posted March 19, 2010 by M_G , Chicago, ILThis book started out great and had some very interesting points, but as the chapters went on, it seemed to continually bring up racism. I agree that racism is part of the hidden brain, but the crux of every chapter seemed to point it out over and over.
Spiegel & Grau
September 13, 2010
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