Strangers to Ourselves
Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious
Timothy D. Wilson
Narrated by Joe Barrett
Approximately 8.5 hours
Book published by Harvard University Press
"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.
Timothy D. Wilson is Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.
Joe Barrett (narrator) has narrated dozens of audiobooks for major companies and is the winner of multiple Earphones Awards (AudioFile).
“[Wilson’s] book is what popular psychology ought to be (and rarely is): thoughtful, beautifully written, and full of unexpected insights. ”
—Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker
“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. ”
“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. ”