Strangers to Ourselves
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Strangers to Ourselves : Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious

3.94 (1,429 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

"Know thyself," a precept as old as Socrates, is still good advice. But is introspection the best path to self-knowledge? What are we trying to discover, anyway? In an eye-opening tour of the unconscious, as contemporary psychological science has redefined it, Timothy D. Wilson introduces us to a hidden mental world of judgments, feelings, and motives that introspection may never show us.

This is not your psychoanalyst's unconscious. The adaptive unconscious that empirical psychology has revealed, and that Wilson describes, is much more than a repository of primitive drives and conflict-ridden memories. It is a set of pervasive, sophisticated mental processes that size up our worlds, set goals, and initiate action, all while we are consciously thinking about something else.

If we don't know ourselves-our potentials, feelings, or motives-it is most often, Wilson tells us, because we have developed a plausible story about ourselves that is out of touch with our adaptive unconscious. Citing evidence that too much introspection can actually do damage, Wilson makes the case for better ways of discovering our unconscious selves. If you want to know who you are or what you feel or what you're like, Wilson advises, pay attention to what you actually do and what other people think about you. Showing us an unconscious more powerful than Freud's, and even more pervasive in our daily life, Strangers to Ourselves marks a revolution in how we know ourselves.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 140 x 210 x 17mm | 318g
  • The Belknap Press
  • Cambridge, Mass., United States
  • English
  • 1 table
  • 0674013824
  • 9780674013827
  • 27,729

Table of contents

Preface 1. Freud's Genius, Freud's Myopia 2. The Adaptive Unconscious 3. Who's in Charge? 4. Knowing Who We Are 5. Knowing Why 6. Knowing How We Feel 7. Knowing How We Will Feel 8. Introspection and Self-Narratives 9. Looking Outward to Know Ourselves 10. Observing and Changing Our Behavior Notes Bibliography Index
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Review quote

Wilson convincingly argues that our conscious minds are but the tip of the iceberg in deciding how we behave, what is important to us, and how we feel. Surveying a variety of contemporary psychological research, this book describes an unconscious that is capable of a much higher degree of "thinking" than previously supposed by adherents of either Freudian or Behaviorist branches of psychology. Capable of everything from problem solving and narrative construction to emotional reaction and prediction, the adaptive unconscious is a powerful and pervasive element of our whole personalities. Indeed, it may be the primary element of our personalities, controlling our real motivations, judgments, and actions...A fascinating read. -- David Valencia Library Journal 20020901 Timothy Wilson...offers a charming, talkative and yet authoritative review of how it became clear that most of what happens inside us is not perceptible by us. In fact, other people often know more about events inside [us]...because they can monitor [our] actions and body language better than [we] can...Strangers to Ourselves is certainly worth reading and reflecting upon. -- Tor Norrentronders New Scientist 20021005 This book offers an intricate combination of page-turning reading, cutting-edge research, and philosophical debate. At some level, Wilson points out, individuals know that processing and decision-making go on below the threshold of awareness; if every decision had to reach consciousness before action could be initiated, people would not be able to respond as promptly as some situations dictate. How does this processing occur? What standards are employed in reaching "less than" conscious decisions? Wilson explores these questions with penetrating clarity, impressively integrating literature from a variety of professions and disciplines including psychology and business...Wilson does an excellent job of covering research that addresses factors (internal and external) influencing decision-making processes that may appear to be unconscious...Highly recommended. -- R. E. Osborne Choice 20030201 [Wilson's] book is what popular psychology ought to be (and rarely is): thoughtful, beautifully written, and full of unexpected insights. -- Malcolm Gladwell New Yorker 20040920 There is much here to arouse interest and provoke thought in any reader, and the book does not outstay its welcome...The writing is clear and engaging, and the subject matter is illuminating and entertaining. Though Wilson insists that introspection is limited in its ability to reveal our true selves, it would be a very dull reader who was not roused by this book into a close self-examination. -- Jo Lawson Times Literary Supplement 20040813
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About Timothy D. Wilson

Timothy D. Wilson is Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.
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Rating details

1,429 ratings
3.94 out of 5 stars
5 31% (439)
4 41% (586)
3 22% (309)
2 5% (70)
1 2% (25)
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