cover image Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do

Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do

John Bargh. Touchstone, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0121-2

In this impressive debut, Bargh, a professor of social psychology at Yale University, dives deep into human behavior and social psychology to unlock the enigmatic human unconscious. This aspect of the mind, Bargh convincingly demonstrates, is more influential in daily life than we might think. The majority of the book is devoted to revealing and analyzing various unconscious factors on our emotions and actions. These range from the experience of holding a warm beverage—which studies have shown can lead to “warmer” feelings toward nearby people—to dreams, which often involve important life decisions. Bargh observes that even in infancy, before the brain can register memories, the unconsciousness is taking shape. Moving onto attachment theory, Bargh cites and explains ongoing research at the University of Minnesota into how we learn to trust and form relationships, based on how babies bond with their mothers. Elsewhere, he discusses how, depending on the circumstances, trusting unthinking “gut” reactions can either be lifesaving or life ending. In the final chapter, Bargh explores developing “mind control” over one’s own mind by better understanding how the unconscious works. He has assembled a fascinating compendium of landmark social-psychology research, both by himself and his colleagues. Bargh’s clear, accessible style will appeal to general readers and specialists alike. [em](Oct.) [/em]