unthink cover

Author: Chris Paley (Emmanuel 1999)

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton

Your life is dominated by your unconscious mind: by thoughts you're unaware of and movements you don't realise you are making. Words, colours, mannerisms and other cues you don't realise are affecting you, change what you think. The confidence you have in your ability to reason and to consciously choose what to do is caused by a series of illusions that scientists are only just beginning to understand. The discovery of these illusions will change the way we see ourselves more than the discoveries of Darwin and Copernicus.

Unthink explores the unconscious decisions we make, and covers a variety of topics, ranging from how we choose politicians and romantic partners to more abstract subjects such as whether we can consciously decide to move our fingers.

The counter-intuitive observations made in the book include:

*If you want someone to fancy you, wear red and meet them somewhere frightening.

*When waitresses repeat customers' orders back to them instead of just saying 'yes' they receive bigger tips.

*Having a picture of your family on your desk might make you work harder, but you'll be rattier when you get home!

The book also puts forward a new theory of why we are conscious. The research in the book suggests that what subjects report as consciousness is inferred from the outside in.  In the same way that we infer minds in other people to work out what they will do, we infer a mind in ourselves.  We use this inferred model of ourselves to work out what other people are inferring about us.  What we experience as our internal states aren’t for understanding ourselves at all: they’re for understanding and changing the behaviour of other people.  We evolved consciousness to help us succeed in a world where we get everything that matters to us through other people. 

Publication date: 
Thursday 14 August 2014

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