3.01.2010

strangers to ourselves...

Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious

Jerry Swartz, the founder and former CEO of Symbol Technologies simply called this "Wilson's Book". One day he said to his assistant, "get Wilson's book for Alistair"...and she reached into an overhead cabinet where a dozen of these hard-covers were stacked.

Jerry believed passionately in intuition, and as a physicist I expect he felt he needed this proof to his, well, intuition. How else would he counter the data carrying MBA's that questioned his "gut"?

I admit I started burning out at the half-way mark...but Timothy Wilson changed forever how I thought about thinking. He uncovered a world of adaptive unconscious perception (not subconscious) that is always happening in our brains, and the separation of our self awareness versus our true perceptions, motivation, and behavior.

A few years later, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a brilliant, somewhat similar, and more finish-able version of the book entitled Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. It bothered me that Wilson was only a passing reference in it.

I think of this book as Blink for psychologists. Pedestrian interlopers such as myself have to be content to take from it what is meaningful to what we do. In my case a humbling but broadened awareness of the complexity of human behavior. A small slice of Wilson has fed me for several years.


I would point hopeful novelists to chapter one, where the narrative of war, coincidence, drugs, doctrines, and blunders that spotlit Freud and set the course for psychology is worthy of a screen play and musical score.

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