The Subliminal Self

A fresh take on the uncanny, unnerving power of the unconscious mind.

photo illustration (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

photo illustration (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

We think we’re thinking our way through life. Well, yes and no. We’re thinking, but our unconscious minds are enormously powerful drivers. We think, but they can decide – often before we’ve even asked the question. For decades, we’ve understood we’re open to “subliminal seduction.” Our unconscious mind can be wooed.

Freud called it a beast. New science is showing just how powerful the mind beneath can be, and – often – how helpful. It’s us. And it’s way ahead of us.

This hour, On Point: Leonard Mlodinow on the power of the unconscious mind.

-Tom Ashbrook


Leonard Mlodinow, a theoretical physicist, scriptwriter, and author, he teaches at the California Institute of Technology. His new book is Subliminal:  How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.

From Tom’s Reading List

Scientific American “One advantage of belonging to a cohesive society in which people help each other is that the group is often better equipped than a set of individuals to deal with threats from the outside.”

New York Post “This year marks the 50th anniversary of an article in Advertising Age magazine in which a marketing consultant named James Vicary admitted to perpetrating one of the great hoaxes in psychological science: the idea of subliminal advertising. Vicary had made his claims a few years earlier — just after the end of the Korean War, an era in which ideas like mind control and brainwashing had found a place in the public consciousness.”

BBC “These images capture a patient’s brain activity the moment they slip into unconsciousness”

Video: Spiderman Product Placement

Mlodinow writes: “In the film “Spider-Man,” for example, a can of Dr Pepper was featured for about 4 seconds when Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) shot a spider web from his wrist toward it. Though it is likely that few of the tens of millions exposed to that image consciously registered or remembered it, the makers of Dr Pepper bet that it would have a subliminal effect.”

Excerpt: Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.


Unconscious Power by Iron Butterfly
Subliminal by They Might Be Giants

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