Last night I attended a lecture by physicist/author Leonard Mlodinow who described just how little control we actually have on our perception, behavior, memory, and social judgment.
Thanks to groundbreaking discoveries in neuroscience, scientists are learning that the human mind relies on subliminal processes.
Or in other words: we make decisions without realizing we are making them.
Think about the implications this has on our work, attitudes, and relationships!
The best part was how he structured his talk: with audience participation he ran interactive exercise after exercise showing people just how easily he could manipulate their choices by using anchoring techniques or visual imagery. He showed us how our retinas actually don't pick up all the visual details we think we see, and how our memories are not a perfect recording of the past.
He also articulated how our sense of self is an evolutionary trait that developed to help us overcome adversity.
It was quite entertaining to hear the audience's reactions—gasps of disbelief.
We assume that human beings are born with the ability to perceive the world accurately. We have instincts like how to eat food, track visuals, and avoid danger. Then we inherit education, culture and history from our ancestors. Mash all of this together with our philosophies, stereotypes, and social constructs and...voila! You have a creature grasping at straws, trying to make sense of this glorious and mysterious thing called life.
I am so happy that in today's modern scientific and technological world, there are creative and inspired souls developing the tools we need to learn more about ourselves and each other.
As humans, we should all strive to learn more about ourselves. It's the best way to help one another and future generations.
I always like to remind myself, "I don't know what I don't know."
“These submilinal aspects of everything that happens to us may seem to play very little part in our daily lives. But they are the almost invisible roots of our conscious thoughts.” - Carl Jung
Be sure to check out his book Subliminal to learn more.
And to get a flavor of his lecture, check out excerpts from a similar talk he gave to the Secret Science Club.