Subliminal is the latest book from eminent physicist Leonard Mlodinow.
In it he introduces the field of social neuroscience and explores how the unconscious mind drives human behaviour far more than it has previously been anticipated or ever realised.
Through famous historical experiments by Sherif and Tajfel to the latest research being conducted using fMRI, Mlodinow takes us on a tour of the research into the unconscious and the often surprising results it has thrown up. Explaining the concept of the two-tiered brain, comprised of the conscious and unconscious, Mlodinow demonstrates how what we think to be conscious decisions are largely determined by unconscious processes. From choosing a partner with the same surname to opting for foods described in flowerier terms; showing greater generosity in giving tips when it is sunny to voting for a politician on their appearance, Mlodinow exposes the subliminal motivations behind our actions.
Through concepts such as blindsight, motivated reasoning and above-average effect he shows how the unconscious not only has a significant impact on our lives as individuals but has shaped the success of humans as a species, but he also points to the presence of unconscious bias that can shape prejudices and discrimination.
Delivered in a refreshingly accessible and witty manner, this book and its findings encourage a complete rethinking of how we understand the unconscious and our behaviour. As Mlodinow himself asserts social neuroscience is a relatively new field and this book offers a good introduction to the current status of research at what is largely the advent of this science. It seems that social neuroscience is only just beginning to make its mark and Subliminal excitingly anticipates this new era.