CoastZone Newsletter
May 23, 2013   Coast Insider Audio

The Subliminal Mind:

george nooryOn Wednesday’s show, physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow discussed his work on the power of the subliminal, and how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world. According to him, all judgments and perceptions reflect the workings of our mind on two levels: the conscious, of which we are aware, and the unconscious, which is hidden from us. Subliminal or subconscious effects can play out in a variety of ways. For instance, it’s known that the sense of touch can build trust, and in an experiment with waiters and waitresses at a restaurant, the customers whom they subtly touched ended up tipping 20% better than those they hadn’t. This is a form of subliminal persuasion, as the customers typically didn’t even remember being touched, he detailed.

People respond to non-verbal communication cues– aspects of your smile, posture, and gestures send messages to people that may be perceived on a subconscious level. Interestingly, he noted that a real smile looks different than a fake one, as it involves different facial muscles. One of the surprising things Mlodinow learned was that people are often not in control of their own biases, which typically come from the bombardment of stereotypes in the media that have entered their subconscious ( Project Implicit from Harvard offers online tests that reveal personal biases and prejudices).

One can learn to harness the power of the subconscious mind in different ways, he said. For example, when working on a complex problem, by taking a break and doing something else such as going on a walk, solutions often arise easier. Mlodinow also addressed various topics in science and physics, such as the lack of progress in string theory, the future of quantum computing, advancements in brain imaging, and the effects of randomness and chance in our lives.