Strangers to Ourselves by Timothy D. Wilson


This was the first book I read on the subconscious mind. I love these types of books because they take assumptions that we personally have about ourselves (actions, tendencies, realities) and call to question our perception of them.

What I find incredible interesting about these books is the thing I trust the most is my brain, consciousness, and reason. Then I read it, and realize that there have been so many times in my life when I have seen, reacted, understood, and explained things wrong. Why? Because the thing I trusted the most (myself) is working processes that I had no concept of.

Understanding ourselves is very important if we hope to understand others, this book helps with that.

People have two minds the conscious and the unconscious. Thoughts may arise in the subconscious and then be noticed by the conscious. Feelings may also tend to be derived in the unconscious and brought to the conscious, like pain in the knee before, during, and after talking on the phone.

Opponent Process Theory
There are opponent processes that work against spikes in emotional swings (like from cocaine or burning your hand) that can grow in strength (I.e tolerance)Our conscious minds could find ways to reinforce theories of ourselves and forgot ways we did not act how we thoughtPeople can be unaware of the reasons for their feelings or actions

Categories are formed that see new incoming information and ways to process it. Think about a manager analyzing two different groups. Prior ways of thought could influence responses to results unconsciously

A personality test is ok at predicting how a person thinks about themselves but nonconscious motives depending on social factors to any given situation have a big impact. This is why conscious questionnaire trait theories can be misleading (I.e boy responding to an aggressive situation)

University students incorrectly correlated the impact sleep had on their mood while strangers were able to better predict that quality of relationships with friends was better predictor
This could be because of shared causal theories, or idosyncratic theories or private knowledge

The construct of friendliness or intelligence may be useful for different people. Their accessibility to these traits can affect how they judge situations, the world, or individual people because it’s easy for them to place it.A working model of attachment

infant classification based on study of parent leaving room and returning while infant is playing.
  • secure – distress when they leave but seek comfort when parent returns (parents who are sensitive to needs)
  • avoidant – (parents rebuffed attempts to be intimate) little distress when they leave and do not seek comfort when they return
  • anxious/ambivalent – (parents alternate between unresponsiveness and excessive response) preoccupied with parents availability
  • disorganized – contradictory actions, crying when separated but does not seek attention when they return.

Study was done on children (ages 10-11) at summer camp who were classified in these categories. Children who were ‘secure’ spent more time with peers, were more likely to develop friendships, and more likely to evaluate others in positive light.

The Thematic Appreciation Test can tap non-conscious motives and should be coupled with conscious motivation questionnaires

The split brain, people confabulate reasons for what they saw or did. The shovel, the snowman, the chicken. Left brain is used for language.

Love on the bridge study
Study done on park in British Columbia where attractive females approached males on a bridge. The female asked them to fill out a questionnaire. After, she thanked them and offered to answer questions about questionnaire later. She tore off a piece of paper, gave them her number. To test how attracted the boys were to the girl, the researchers kept track of who phoned her later.
Half of them filled out the questionnaire on a flimsy, narrow, moving footbridge over a gorge. The other half was safely on the other side. Nn the bridge it was predicted that the boys would already have a physiological response to fear and misattribute this response to attraction for the girl. 65 percent of men who filled out the questionnaire on the bridge called the girl asking for a date, 30 percent of boys who were on the other side called and asked for a date.

The low road going to amygdala, and high road going first to cortex.

People fail to recognize a feeling or evaluation of it conflicts with a cultural feeling rule (I.e people love their ponies, wedding day will be happiest ever)

The hindsight bias, seeing events as inevitable after they occur but being very unpredictable before (Clinton getting acquitted)

Psychological immune system, neutralizes threats and negative responses from environment

immune neglect, ‘feel good criterion’ selecting, interpreting, and evaluating information that maintains our self esteem. People are incredible spin doctors and rationalizers and justifiers of threatening information. They go to great lengths to maintain a sense of well-being. the PIS operates mainly outside awareness.
durability bias, first they fail to realize how much external events will influence their feelings, they also fail to realize how quickly novel events will come to seem mundane. Lottery, death of family remember, new car.
Writing about emotions
“For the next three days I would for you to write about your very deepest thoughts and feelings about an extremely important emotional issue that has affected you and your life. In your writing , I’d like you to really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts.”
Benefits; (as time goes by) those who write about emotional experiences report better moods, better grades in college, miss fewer days of work, show improved immune system functioning, and are less likely to visit clinician.
fundamental attribution error, Bill has always loved guitar, but now he has strong situational incentive to play (wedding or for money). You may think he now has two reasons to enjoy playing the guitar. Many studies show people over attribute behavior to situation, and underestimate intrinsic interest in activity. More Bill play pro, the less he will enjoy playing guitar because he feels he is doing it for the money. This is a form of self-fabrication because of a strong situational demand people underestimate their intrinsic interest in the activity.
As suggested by William James, more frequently people perform a behavior the more habitual and automatic it becomes, requuring little effort or attention. One of the most enduring lessons of social psychology is that behavior changes come before changes in attitude and feelings. Changing behavior to match conscious perception of self is a good way to change adaptive unconscious.
he psychologist Terrence Real notes that an important part of the therapeutic process is to “do the behavior first and let the feelings follow.”
“what matters is that people commit themselves to a coherent self narrative that corresponds reasonably well to their adaptive unconscious”

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