4.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
Well-written, clearly planned and researched book on how our subconscious often has undue influence over what we believe are logically-driven, thought-through decisions. There’s a nice blend of information with anecdote which will be appealing to most readers. Strict scientists will probably occasionally be annoyed by the use of overarching summation instead of strict numbers and statistics, and non-scientists might sometimes wish for a little more to be grounded in friendly anecdotes. Overall, I found this to be a nice blend of science and well-written non-fiction.
Mlodinow starts by using a series of anecdotes and past experiments to help ground you in the history of what eventually becomes brain and cognitive science/neuroscience and lays the foundation for quite a bit of marketing madness that has happened over the past couple of decades. We go from some basic definitions (like what does subliminal actually mean) to how the “science” behind this field slowly grew from pseudo-science to a respected, hot-topic field.
A lot of the history shared was interesting, even if you have taken those intro psychology courses — he goes through everything from some of Freud’s less famous early starts to some better-known experiments in the field (everything from Coke vs. Pepsi to reward pathways in our brain and how we often trick ourselves).
I found a lot of the historical asides to be fascinating (especially as they relate to how the field gradually became established) though the beginning sections were more interesting than some of the middle chapters (which I felt meandered a bit).
A very quick, informative, thought-provoking read overall: enough to make you question the validity of this visceral instincts that sometimes guide us (that are perhaps just an unconscious but active processing of subliminal cues) and also make you wonder how much our senses and logic fool us…
Comparison to Other Books:
This is like a far more science-based version of a book like The Power of Habit, and a far less technical version of something like Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. It’s a really nice blend of science and story-telling, and will definitely make you wonder about just how you’re making your day-to-day decisions.