We’d like to think that the choices we make are the product of deliberate, conscious reasoning. But Leonard Mlodinow says that’s not the whole story. In his new book, “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior,” Mlodinow discusses the many hidden quirks of the human brain that shape our decisions and understanding of the world.

Mlodinow’s other books include “Feynman’s Rainbow,” “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives” and “Grand Design,” co-authored with Stephen Hawking.

Leonard Mlodinow, author, screenwriter, physicist and lecturer at the California Institute of Technology

  • EdwardBernays

    I wonder what Mlodinow has to say about Edward Bernays, who spearheaded the exploitation of the unconscious in marketing, starting with a scheme to get women to smoke.

    Here’s a documentary about this practice (Century of the Self):

  • David Hume

    What would Prof. Mlodimow think of what is my near-unshakeable conviction that everything we learn about our lack of free agency will have no legal consequence in the slightest? 

    Our entire system is so built upon that assumption that it will have an even harder time assimilating this data than in admitting that some individuals cannot in good conscience be held entirely responsible for their actions…the “Truth” that we must treat each other as if we were free in order for society to function will supervene the mere fact that we are not.

  • David

    i dont quarrel with Mlodinow’s findings per se, but to refer to the brain’s influence as an unconscious mind begs the question.

  • Whether Mlodinow’s findings are right or wrong is beside the point. It’s the conversation that moves the field forward. I love hearing/reading debates and arguments about the brain and behavior. We are truly an amazing species.

    For those of you who haven’t already, be sure to read Oliver Sack’s “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” (, it’s a mind opening read.

  • EdwardBernays

     Michael Shermer is a fraud. He pretends to be a skeptic, but any claim that the Establishment wants to put forth as truth, no matter how flimsy, is treated as unquestionable gospel by Shermer.

    • EdwardBernays

       Michael Shermer confronted as a fraud:

  • Jane Yurkevich, San Francisco

    Many eastern teachings break down the workings of human mind as carriage (body), horse (feelings, desires), driver (mind) and master (I, consciousness, will). Unless we cultivate the master, our mind always operates in the unconscious. There are ways to cultivate the master but it takes a lot of effort and time.

  • Katerix

    Your guest mentioned his own creative work as a screenwriter. What are some of the connections between creativity and the subliminal processes he writes of, and does exercising or developing one enhance the other?

  • Docdur

    Unconscious is typically associated the lack of consciousness I.e. comatose

    What is referred to here is technically the “subconsciousL

  • EdwardBernays
  • Cookhskpr

    One picture is worth etc. etc. etc.

  • John Mccrillis

    This book is similar to Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Minds” which examines morals based on the mind being intuitive first and reasoning second. Much of the reasoning justifies the intuitive instinct.  This is why politics and religion can be so divisive.

  • Morcomm

    And people don’t select their mates as mother or father substitutes? They may make poor or inappropriate choices, of course, but experientia docet otherwise or I haven’t walked the planet for 65 years.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor