The hidden brain is the voice in our ear when we make the most important decisions in our lives—but we’re never aware of it. The hidden brain decides whom we fall in love with and whom we hate. It tells us to vote for the white candidate and convict the dark-skinned defendant, to hire the thin woman but pay her less than the man doing the same job. It can direct us to safety when disaster strikes and move us to extraordinary acts of altruism. But it can also be manipulated to turn an ordinary person into a suicide terrorist or a group of bystanders into a mob.
In a series of compulsively readable narratives, Shankar Vedantam journeys through the latest discoveries in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral science to uncover the darkest corner of our minds and its decisive impact on the choices we make as individuals and as a society. Filled with fascinating characters, dramatic storytelling, and cutting-edge science, this is an engrossing exploration of the secrets our brains keep from us—and how they are revealed.
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Shankar Vedantam is a national correspondent and columnist for the Washington Post and a 2009 Neimann Fellow. He lives in Washington, DC.
From the Hardcover edition.
A Washington Post science writer, Vedantam explores the findings of social psychologists about unconscious bias. Recounting people’s stories, he grips attention immediately. Introducing a rape victim whose mistake in identifying her assailant was revealed by DNA evidence that exonerated him, Vedantam establishes his theme of how people get things wrong (in the crime-and-punishment category, he adds death-penalty cases involving possible misidentification) or behave seemingly irrationally. After each individual story, the author repairs to relevant psychological studies. To Vedantam, the studies reveal that subtle biases unconsciously coexist alongside people’s conscious convictions that they are free of prejudice. He cites examples such as Senator George Allen, whose racial remark ended his career; the electorate’s perception of candidate Barack Obama; and the sexual discrimination case of Lilly Ledbetter. Branching into other arenas, such as crowd behavior during crisis situations and the minds of suicide bombers, Vedantam highlights a mental battle of which, he wants his readers to learn, they are largely unaware. This work has strong appeal for the psychology audience. --Gilbert Taylor
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