De omnibus dubitandum
16 Aug 2008
I recently finished reading a book that has changed my life. Not in a evidently significant way, as I’m not the kind of guy that believes in radical changes. Well, sometimes I do, but generally I’m more in favor of subtle tweaks and improvements.
This book has inspired such a subtle tweak, but one that has, befittingly below the surface, made a huge impact on how I approach things.
The book in question is Het Slimme Onderbewuste (the smart subconsciousness) by Ap Dijksterhuis. So far it’s only available in Dutch, which I consider to be a huge disappointment. A book of such profound insight and significance should be available for all the world to read.
The core message of the book is that the subconscious mind, all those mental processes that we are unaware of but that do occur, are actually vastly more powerful, influential and significant than we believe. The conscious mind gets all the credit for our intelligence, our decision-making capabilities, and our creativity, while actually the subconscious mind is responsible for most of those things.
Naturally, due to the nature of the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind, we are unaware of the power of our subconsciousness. That is precisely why we so stubbornly believe our consciousness to be the seat of our mental abilities.
The author demonstrates, through countless outcomes of experiments he and others in his field have performed over the past several decades, exactly why the subconscious mind is so much more powerful and important in our daily lives than our conscious mind. Anecdotes from great thinkers like Newton and Einstein tell us that their greatest ideas came not from deep conscious contemplation but from the efforts of their subconscious minds.
What the book taught me is that we can safely rely on what we often call ‘instinctual’ decision making. It’s not instinct but actually our subconscious mind telling us what to do. Most often this turns out to be the right decision and runs counter to what our conscious train of thought would have led us to decide.
We cannot always rely so blindly on our subconscious mind, and Ap Dijksterhuis tells us this as well. Sometimes the conscious mind rightfully deserves to be in the driver’s seat. But most of the time it doesn’t, and isn’t, but still claims it is.
I don’t think I need to elaborate here on the power of subliminal messages that are ignored by the limited bandwidth of the conscious mind but which the subconscious mind, so vastly more capable, picks up effortlessly. The book spends a great deal of time on priming and subliminal influences, and this is must-read material for all marketers.
I can only hope that this eye-opening work will receive a proper English translation soon.