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The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds…
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The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control… (2010)

by Shankar Vedantam

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After-the-colon bit is slightly misleading, since there’s a chapter on electing presidents and less of the other stuff, but it’s still a good overview to the research on unconscious biases of various types, including racial, gender, and number (the suffering of one person or even one dog gets us to act, but make it two or more and we become less likely to respond). Vedantam uses behavior in the World Trade Center to show how people flock: if you see others leaving the building, you’re very likely to do so as well, and if others stay in place you probably will also. This means that survival, rather than being aided in this circumstance by the unconscious mind, actually depends on two things evolution hasn’t really helped with: (1) particular quirks of fate or circumstance that get a flock leader moving or not moving, and (2) whether flight is a good idea or not at that particular time—hint, in an evacuation, you might want to leave by an exit different than the one you entered at, because the main entrances are going to be more crowded. The chapter on presidential politics has the most on potential debiasing solutions, but I would have liked to read more. ( )
  rivkat | Oct 13, 2011 |
This book will get you thinking. It is always uncomfortable when we start delving into how much power genes and how we're hard wired has control over. Would have given this 5 stars save for the last chapter on race and the Obama campaigns dealing with it. The writing there was a little shallow. ( )
  norinrad10 | Mar 21, 2010 |
Marks the end of my staff lollygagging when the fire alarm rings. That's about all I got... ( )
  pilarflores | Jan 25, 2010 |
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For my father, Vedantam L. Sastry,
who has braved innumerable obstacles with fortitude,
and for my daughter, Anya,
with love and gratitude
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385525214, Hardcover)

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 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, 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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:49 -0400)

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From a "Washington Post" columnist comes an original and deeply engaging investigation into the role of the hidden brain--the parts of the mind concealed from conscious awareness but responsible for controlling decision making.

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