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The Secret Life of the Mind: How Your Brain Thinks, Feels, and Decides by Dr. Mariano Sigman

“Where do our thoughts come from? How do we make choices and trust our judgments? What is the role of the unconscious? Can we manipulate our dreams? In this mind-bending international bestseller, award-winning neuroscientist Mariano Sigman explores the complex answers to these and many other age-old questions.

Over the course of his 20-year career investigating the inner workings of the human brain, Dr. Sigman has cultivated a remarkable interdisciplinary vision. He draws on research in physics, linguistics, psychology, education, and beyond to explain why people who speak more than one language are less prone to dementia; how infants can recognize by sight objects they’ve previously only touched; how babies, even before they utter their first word, have an innate sense of right and wrong.”

I bought this in Spanish last year and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’ll be available in English on Amazon as of June 27th. I cannot recommend it enough. The part I found most interesting was on prejudice(s). Sigman explains how judge’s decisions, for example, are in large part based on the physical appearance of the people being judged. Familiarity (as in sameness to the self) playing a major role in the equation. He explains how this process is something that’s with us from birth. A young child/infant has positive reactions to familiar features and accents and en-garde or full blown negative reactions to strange accents and unfamiliar facial features. We don’t like to admit these things, but they’re undoubtedly true. I’ve been thinking about this recently in regards to the French election. Just looking at the candidates, I’m automatically drawn to François Fillon.

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I don’t like his program at all, but something happens somewhere in my mind that says: I recognize those features, that hair, that manner of speaking; he’s from “my tribe” and so I should be more open to his message. The mental shortcut is sameness = safety/success. Just imagine the weight of that in reverse when thinking about racism…

Anyway, I won’t give it all away, but he talks about love, loss, jealousy and the role of the mind and biology in all those things.

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27 comments on “The Secret Life of the Mind: How Your Brain Thinks, Feels, and Decides by Dr. Mariano Sigman

  1. Arkenaten
    April 18, 2017

    One wonders if this is at least one reason why Christians go gagga over the popular, blonde, blue-eyed image of JC that is regularly bandied about?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Steve Ruis
    April 18, 2017

    We are in a time when research, meaningful research, is going to tell us more and more about how we think and about our built in biases. Before we make a significant decision, we should all be running through a checklist of our common biases. The real problem is that it is way to easy to overload our conscious data system, which throws us back on our unconscious decision-making systems which are, of course, fairly invisible to us. This is what made the book “Thinking Fast and Slow” such a revelation. We have slow, considered judgment abilities, but when they get overwhelmed, we divert to the faster, more “from the hip” ones. We need the faster ones because any particular way you avoid a bus running through the space you were stepping off of a curb into is a good one.

    We are in for an interesting time scientifically, especially because it seems as if people are turning away from science as being too difficult and too remote to accept (plus we have politicians spouting propaganda continuously against certain sciences because of economic or religious interests).

    Liked by 3 people

    • kjennings952
      April 18, 2017

      I’m learning to practice my “slow” decision making skills (it’s a form of energy work). It’s a little out there! But I feel like we are in desperate times where we need to call on skills other than relying on “facts,” since those can be so misleading (or false outright).

      Liked by 1 person

      • But if they’re false can they be called facts?

        Liked by 2 people

      • kjennings952
        April 18, 2017

        Intentional use of “airquotes” Pink. I’m suggesting that there’s an alternative too for those of us who like to believe that we can “think” our way out of everything. It’s tiring for one to expend all that energy discerning “truth”.

        Listen to the force, Luke.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Do you not think the pendulum will swing back?

      Like

  3. makagutu
    April 18, 2017

    Looks like a book I will look for once it’s out.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Can we manipulate our dreams?
    Yes I do it all the time. In my self directed dreams most of the time I tell myself to cut it off, don’t make the story go there, stop and wake up. Then I wake up. I can’t remember the last time I was not actively controlling my dream. I don’t dream that often but I did just dream last week. I can go a year or two without having a dream.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. belasbrightideas
    April 19, 2017

    Again (and again and again), I’m reminded of the Enneagram subtypes: image, feeling, anxiety/head. So some people make decisions based on images, others by feel, still others because either seeking to overcome or flee from anxiety motivates them in some way. It’s so interesting. So though I’m a feeling type, I’m still engaged with imagery, it doesn’t preclude this. (For example, take Trump – he’s so disgustingly revolting to me physically, I cannot get past it. This is only exacerbated by the feeling I’ve already had that he’s an evil, evil human being.) These Enneagram identifiers are just about our primary motivation, our ‘first takes’ on subjects or encounters.

    Since you’re studying the workings of the mind 😉

    I would in no way say, for example, “I don’t like his program at all, but something happens somewhere in my mind that says: I recognize those features, that hair, that manner of speaking; he’s from “my tribe” and so I should be more open to his message.” I smiled when I read that, too, so no judgment. But if I look at him, I’m feeling neutral about him, so I might jump in or I might not. Too many years of studying Psych already 😉 Cheers, sweet. Thanks for the recommend. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • But you mean your neutrality is learnt, right? You counter the impulse.

      Liked by 1 person

      • belasbrightideas
        April 19, 2017

        I would not say learned, no. My perceptions are innate, the way I perceive/comprehend the world. Knowing this, as I’ve studied so many means by which to analyze and understand my own perceptive mechanisms and motivations, I know I may consciously choose to override my initial feelings or ‘gut reactions.’ But I know when *not* to do this, for it is at my own peril if I do. My feelings are right more times than not, which is not as true for, say, a head type (analytical mind gets in the way or anxiety pushes one to a conclusion) or an image/heart type (needing something from the other or from the situation always coloring perceptions …).

        The Enneagram is different than most systems, as it is ancient and identifies ‘what the soul comes in as,’ – the baggage we came to untangle, the means by which we navigate this life. So yes, there are identifiable childhood patterns, but they are karmic, in a way – predestined? We don’t ‘change types’ in this life. A Nine comes in as a Nine and leaves the same way. Hopefully more conscious and self realized.

        Hope this helps. FMI, I took trainings from this organization, but it is by no means the last word: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com

        xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        April 20, 2017

        Interesting, Bela, and begging of the question, “What precedes the thought?” Some, when talking of the mind (maybe we need to call it ‘mind-body’?), tend to regard or presuppose thought as being objectively discrete, in other words purely a construct of the mind and intellect, purely in the so-called ‘mental’ realm; we’re (mis)led to this conclusion because most of us think in verbal and, to a far lesser extent, visual forms, so it all appears to be happening ‘up there’ with voices (or images) ‘in our head’. Yet all those words and images (thoughts) get organised, they’re related to themselves and to what the other is saying, or to the environment’s current state, or we find they’re related to our inner workings which we weren’t priorly aware of. It’s an enactive system at work. Thoughts don’t appear out of nowhere.

        Pink’s suggestion is interesting to me because this guy Sigman appears to be taking a multidisciplinary approach, and I came to regard this as the most fruitful. If we get stuck in Cranialism, as so many do, we get trapped in our reductive paradigm, I think. We end up explaining away the so-called Hard Problem of Consciousness by dismissing consciousness itself in saying it’s nothing other than physical states; it’s identical to brain states. That conclusion, it seems to me, hangs on what may be a falsely dichotomous paradigm of mental vs. physical. This is where a multidisciplinary approach seems to pay dividends, as we embrace an array of perspectives in a bid to see the whole. I’d better stop prattling away.

        Aloha, Bela!

        Liked by 2 people

    • Hariod Brawn
      April 21, 2017

      Bela, talking to you down below.

      Liked by 1 person

      • belasbrightideas
        April 22, 2017

        Thanks, luv. Will give this proper attention once I get some solid sleep. In AUS right now, just arrived. Enjoy your weekend, and I promise I’ll respond soon! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • belasbrightideas
        April 23, 2017

        Hariod, all that comes to me to say after re-reading your comment is that I completely agree there is on One System to rely on in attempting to understand the complex human being. I have personally studied so many systems, and it was simply Pink’s post, itself that immediately brought the Enneagram to mind, once again.

        The mind as mind/body absolutely – a far more wholistic and sensible, not to mention truthful means by which to describe how we relate to ourselves, one another and to the environment – none of it being separate, in the end. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  6. notabilia
    April 20, 2017

    There are some very good, accessible books out there on this area of the brain’s inherent maddening unreliability – Dean Burnett’s “Idiot Brain,” David McRaney’s “You are Not So Smart,” David DiSalvo’s “What Makes your Brain Happy, and Why You Should Do the Opposite.” Yet training our brains to go against our own brains seems like a recipe for needing a good stiff drink instead. Perhaps this book you recommend has a different angle, or perhaps they’ll all just cite the same round of studies to tell us how screwed by our unconscious we are.
    Fillon is from “your tribe”? That seems strange – isn’t he one step ahead of the prosecutor? What is your reaction to Melanchon – that he’s from a different, enemy tribe?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting question. I like Mélenchon as a speaker very much. In fact in that regard he’s by far the best candidate. But that’s my brain talking.

      When I say tribe I mean from the angle Sigman discusses. I’ve always lived in a Fillon world- because of accident of birth and then work. Standards of appearance, tone, posture, manner- are all so incredibly important in perception that despite his very likely corruption, he’s still in the race and has a chance to make it into the 2nd round. My conditioning (not my brain!) tells me Mélenchon is clever, but not from the governing class. (Old) Europe has reasonably strict rules on who’s what.

      Like

  7. acflory
    April 21, 2017

    As a writer of fiction, I have a very different view of the sub-conscious. To me it’s a powerhouse of creativity, and I don’t see it as some sort of ‘poor cousin’ in the cognitive family. It’s a global ‘thinker’ whereas the rational, conscious brain is [mostly] linear. Imho, the trick is to balance these disparate types of thinking to achieve the best of both.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t mean poor cousin. In fact, if anything, I think the subconscious plays a more important role than the conscious. Which is why I think we need to be exceedingly careful of mental shortcuts that don’t land us in the right spot.

      Like

  8. Hariod Brawn
    April 21, 2017

    Interesting stuff, Pink, and I may get around to reading his book some time soon. I watched his TED talk yesterday.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. appletonavenue
    April 24, 2017

    It looks very interesting. Hope it’s not too over my head.

    Like

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