(Lots of good stuff here, but obviously needing alot of editing, but you can certainly get the ideas clearly.)

The not-conscious mind is not some woo-woo, aerie-faerie, magical, mysterious, all powerful "being" that will rule our lives and overpower us.  We make up all sorts of things about it, which is what human beings do.  And there are many people "making up" how it works and then selling the often "magical" so-called solutions on how to manage the unconscious - a lot of bullbleep.  Michael Shermer documents and makes that clear in his book The Believing Brain,  (See this site's summary piece The Believing Brain.

"We believe that when we choose a laptop or a laundry detergent, plan a vacation, pick a stock, take a job, assess a sports star, make a friend, judge a stranger, and even fall in love, we understand the principal factors that influenced us.   Very often nothing could be further from the truth.  As a result, many of our most basic assumptions about ourselves, and society, are false."

                                       Leonard Mlodinow, Subliminal (X)

The wiseman knows how we think and how inaccurate the unconscious mind can be if one does not apply a higher process when needed.  He knows that the mind is proven to "make up", to "fill in", what it doesn't even see, perceive, actually remember nor understand - and then to operate on it as if it were the truth.   Instead, he understands the "approximations" and "made up information" that the brain creates, appreciates its efforts, but only considers it as possible inputs, but not "truth".  He understands the source of our 'passions' and how they skew what we see - and then the wiseman "adjusts" the mind's mechanical thinking to create what works better.  Even when a person does something harmful, he knows "the other side" probably is not evil or stupid or whatever, but that we are simply not in our right minds when those occur.  He understands that most of life's elements includes trade-offs and he does not get stuck in the misperception and misweighting of one side or the other - and consequently his decisions are correct and wise far more of the time - and his life works so very much better...

"Hidden they [our subconscious minds] may be, but their effects are anything but, for they play a critical role in shaping the way our conscious minds experience and respond to the world." Mlodinow, op. cit.

"We perceive, we remember our experiences, we make judgments, we act - and in all of these endeavors we are influenced by factors we aren't aware of."  Mlodinow, op. cit.

It's not that you should know the unknowable, that which is in the unconscious.  Of course, is we are not conscious of something we cannot "see" it, or be conscious of it.   What you must know is how the brain operates, that it can be wrong more often that you think, and that you must not attribute correctness to it!  That allows you to question it where needed, especially in important matters. 

A seemingly peculiar phenomenon here is that people will swear that their intuition is correct (when it is often not correct) and fight vigorously to defend that belief, as it "seems" to be a matter of survival to them.  (See why it seems to be a matter of survival.)   Along with that people will insist that they can assess all the signals (from tone of voice to facial and/or body movements) so well that they can "read the minds" of others - they do not seem to know the inaccuracies that must, physically, be involved in such a complex process so they attribute infallibility to what is actually an educated guessing system designed to help us survive by making quick decisions and sacrificing accuracy in the process.)

Yes, the subconscious mind plays a critical role and an often unseen one, but we must not make the irrational conclusion that "it rules" or is some mysterious "force" that determines our lives.  It is a major major "inputter" and actor, but it is not the ruler!!!!


Sensory information inputs processed             11 million bits/second
Bits of information processed by conscious     16-50 bits/second
Ratio of conscious to total                             1 to 200,000

As you know, we are completely unaware of the vast majority of events going on inside our brains. The ratio, above, is astounding.

Glucose used by the brain, as a % of body:     20%
Extra energy used by concentrating                  1%
Portion of brain devoted to processing vision   30%

Just because it is bigger, that does not mean that the unconscious has many of the powers attributed to it by those who insert their own explanations of what is unobservable and unexplainable (in terms of accuracy).  The common conclusions in the "magical" miracle cures and powers of the mind materials are flat out incorrect and are just "made up", fabricated, from insufficient facts that could never survive a scientific look.  See The Scientific Method - The Only Way To Go In Life! 


Principles of the mind (with no aery-faery explanations of the unknowables):

1. The mind is a mechanical device - a machine. (Many people object to this, but they
     must understand how it is, or they will not be able to operate it better!)

2.  It evolved to enhance the odds of surviving.

     - If "instinctual" ways of surviving seem threatened, the mind seeks to correct that.
     - If "instinctual" ways of surviving are available, the mind draws you to them.
     - In both cases, it emits chemicals that are either unpleasant (motivating change) or
       pleasant (motivating behavior "toward" higher survival).

3.  It has simple, crude, but consistent rules for making decisions on what to do.

4.  It fills in what is missing in the visual, memory, and emotion sensing processes
     - and believes it actually sees, remembers, or feels that. 
     - Those are called illusions and/or inferences, where we fill in the blanks
       Accordingly the "information" can be inaccurate (though people "explain" them as
       being accurate, which is not true and a common mistake.   And people having
       those "emotional illusions" will often, as with the visual and memory illusions,
       provide reasons for them being true - but they are not. 
5.  We can "trick" the mind if we learn and use its common mistakes in perception and

As cautioned above, we must not overestimate or make mysterious the actual power of the subconscious on the variable elements of our brain.  It clearly has massive raw power, especially in running the body without our being hardly involved.  It is massively efficient, but not "refined" enough not to make a great number of factual and "belief" mistakes.  It has evolved, naturally, to take the actions that are needed for us to survive, but it is inept at the more meaningful jobs that the conscious does.  The final determinant that makes the difference, but which does not overpower the subconscious is the conscious - as that is what produces the true meaningful, refined power.  Without it, there is no meaning, as that is "part of its job".  And it is meaning that determines the quality of our lives.


Yes, of course, all the subconscious includes all those body functions and mechanisms to have our body run well.  And we probably won't be able to go in consciously and unravel a cancer cell.  However, we can use our higher brain to deduce how to better take care of ourselves in order to permit the body mechanisms to work better. 

Who is more powerful is a question of how we choose to use our energy toward an objective that is desirable.   Were the slaves, who were many and did many functions just like our cells do, more powerful than the rulers?  In a sense, they had more potential power in terms of numbers, but the power was not directed toward what would benefit them and harm the rulers.  So it was mere potential power, which is not actual power (implemented).  (To see the difference, read Having Power In Life.)

In a contest between a very complex but primitive brain with lower intelligence and a highly intelligent conscious brain being used deliberately, which would be more likely to produce a good result on solving a problem we are conscious of? 

The answer seems obvious, especially when defined this way, but many people believe in "the power of the subconscious" as if it is of "oracle wisdom".  It isn't.  It marvelously does what it has evolved to do, but it doesn't do as well as the higher brain in dealing with the world. 

Of course, we can get data from our minds, from our memory, from the matching of neuronal patterns (recordings) with what has occurred.  So, of course, we would not ignore data from a particular source, because it came in some unexplained way.  We would pay attention to intuition, but we would be foolish to believe that intuition was infallible or even highly accurate.  Read Intuition - Useful But Not Accurate.

Of course, the unconscious mechanisms in our body do run things that are done unconsciously (running the heart and body systems) better than our conscious systems, since our conscious does not know what is happening in the functions of which we have no consciousness.  (Duh!)   Yes, its evolution is largely responsible for us surviving at all (living long enough to pass some genes on) but the final coup d grace that had us survive was the development of the higher brain.  These are additive, not competitors.   However, the primitive brain is much like Lennie in Of Mice And Men:  it means well, but there are some things it is not capable of doing.  (See the 20 page briefing called How You And Your Brain/Body Operate And How You Can Create Happiness Or Not - The Overview.  


Perceptions are skewed by beliefs and pre-suppositions some of which are conscious but many of which were not consciously arrived at (so they were never thought through, questioned, or examined).  We all have "implicit frames of reference" that couple up with beliefs, as well as "efficiencies of thought", that couple together to produce habitual thinking and behavior.  We all have "intuition" and some people sense that intuition may not be accurate, but others believe it is totally correct.   (See Intuition - Useful But Not Accurate.)

The bottom line conclusion:  Answers that "seem to make sense" are often completely wrong.

The wiseman knows this.  He knows that his "definite" conclusion can be wrong, especially if he has not run them through the effective thinking process (the "scientific method").  He knows he must look deeper and establish what is actually true, to the best of his ability, and then apply his higher thinking capabilities of reasoning and logic to come to a scientifically based conclusion.  Otherwise, one is living in a sea of vagueness, and sometimes of complete certainty, while being totally incorrect.

We skew things based on what we want (happiness, relief [to be free of believed threats], to feel good about ourselves.  There is even a part of the brain, the dorsal striatum, that is designed to deal with this.  Why?  it is good for survival, otherwise it would not have become more prominent and dominant through evolution. . 

We are unconsciously biased in favor of traits similar to our own.

Humans have a high ability to detect but lesser ability to interpret feelings accurately, yet we take feelings as being highly accurate and having clear meaning.


We humans are "fooled" by certain "illusions" or "unseens".  It is our job to learn about that and then to use them to our advantage, converting them to being helpful rather than harmful.  Smaller packages and eating off of 9" plates cause us to eat less.  Colors, pleasing shapes, sexy suggestions all are part of this.  Marketers often know this and use it to their advantage, hopefully ethically.

We should use these on ourselves.  "Flowery modifiers" will make us more inclined to buy a product - and they will make us more inclined to be happier if we "do it to ourselves"   Even our perceptions of the taste can be changed.

Even the font that something is printed in can seem more harmonious or to flow easier and make us more inclined to buy a particular product.

Given that there is too much for us to be conscious of or even to be aware of in a learning environment, we cannot know to the depths of how each neuron moves nor how it works in every detail, but we can see the effects and identify, or infer, the causes of those effects.  "We judge products by their boxes, books by their covers, and even corporations' annual reports by their glossy finish."  We even need to package ourselves to get a better response others!


Our brains "fill in" what is missing.  For instance, we think we see a whole picture through our eyes, and we don't "see" the actual totally black blindspot where the retinal nerve is attached to the eye - it gets "assumed in".  If there is something in that small space, we will not be able to see it.  Our brains "create" to "fill in the holes" in even our tasting something and in any perceptual experience.  You've certainly seen two people in identical situations have two very different experiences of it - and also different perceptions of "the facts" (as in "selective seeing" or what is often called selective evidence where we choose to see that which supports our beliefs).  These are not "wrong", per se, but it is essential that we are aware of this phenomenon so that we can use it appropriately, adjust for it, allow for it, and stop, look, and think about it to get the best results.   Even our moods "colors" our experiences.


automatic, unthinking data and influences
    often not screened, directly going into our "programming"

factual, soundly based, thought out      


In all we do, since we don't often have the time to do otherwise, we rely on "unconscious" processes that support us to handle the complexities of life and the thousands of functions in the body.  That is most often helpful, but we must know also that it is not necessarily correct, unless it was consciously, scientifically determined to be accurate and true.

"the unconscious mind has knowledge unknown to the conscious mind"
our conscious mind is an optional feature in evolution for most creatures.

the human sensory system processes 11 million bits of information per second.  The conscious mind can handle 16-50 bits per second  (Mlodinow, op. cit.) We make many decisions per second, in the body, in the lower minds - but most of those are not in the awareness of "the boss" (the higher brain) as the boss can only handle a certain amount of information and thinking at a time.  The 95% that goes on without our awareness is what makes our staying alive possible.  The crucial higher thinking brain is what can make our lives better.  Without using the latter more than minimally, we cannot create a great life in today's world.

"Deep concentration causes the energy consumption in your brain to go up by only about 1 percent."  It is the unconscious mind that uses up most of the energy.  What comes up for the conscious mind to consider is already digested and interpreted - so we must, in our conscious mind be aware enough of that fact that we question what needs to be questioned and prioritize what we will spend our higher brain's energies on. 


sunshine, how simple something is  - all influence us.

language is handy, but we humans have social and emotional connections that transcend words, and are communicated - and understood - without conscious thought."

social connection is such a basic feature of human experience that when we are deprived of it, we suffer.  Many languages have expressions - such as "hurt feeling" - that compare the pain of social rejection to the pain of physical injury.  Those may be more than just metaphors.  Brain-imaging studies how that there are two components to physical pain: an unpleasant emotional feeling and a feeling of sensory distress.  (both physical and emotional pain are run through the cingulate cortex)  [less survivability, brain urges you to adjust!!1]

Do we actually "hurt" from an emotional response?  Yes, since an emotion is a chemical that is uncomfortable, which we equate with pain.  Indeed, if we are rejected by someone this can be interpreted by the primitive mind to mean that we are moving away from or not sufficiently close to surviving well - and the primitive mind must, mechanically, emit a chemical to motivate us to do something to make ourselves more survivable.  (See The Story Of Our Happy And Our Unhappy Chemicals - A Tale Of The Mechanisms For Survival.)

Touch imparts a subliminal sense of caring and connection.

To survive better we needed to develop the ability to sense and interpret the intentions of others - both for better survival in a social sense and to know whether another intends to kill us (in the caveman days).  Consequently, we have a desire and ability to understand what other people think and feel.  

Also to better survive, we are an organism that is capable of reflecting about is own state of mind, about its own beliefs and desires", 2 about others  - and ability to look at it from another's viewpoint, but we must do that consciously, engage the brain.


"the ability to form organizations that can create such achievement is as impressive as the achievements themselves."


"The obvious conclusion is that our voices act as subliminal advertisements for our sexuality."
"for example listeners instinctively detect hat when we lower the usual pitch of our voices, we are sad and that when we raise it, we are angry or fearful."  The incorrect conclusion from that is that we "know" that our conclusions are correct.  but the wise person knows that the primitive mind uses simple rules to screen and fails to differentiate when outside the range of those rules.  The mind has within it a record of patterns that it has put together into a structure that "screens" what is going on.  It uses simple rules, such as "if the voice tone is lowered it means...", but the conclusion may or may not be true - and to rely on one's knowing the unknowable and holding it as truth is a major cognitive thinking error.  These are called simple algorithms (by simple, I mean not complete enough to come to always valid conclusions).   "a series of steps and/or rules to perform a task (the task may be to solve a problem) "  See, offsite article, Your Life Is An Algorithm, Your Brain Is An Operating System   The brain has to have simplified rules or sequences to decide what to do in reaction to a matched event.  Because they are simplified, they, by definition, are not complex and complete - and often are not even true.

Our memory will add the details of a scene we remember only in broad strokes and provide a vivid and complete picture of a face even though our brains retained only it general features.  In each of these cases our subliminal minds take incomplete data, use context or other cues to complete the picture, make educated guesses, and produce a result that is sometime accurate, sometime not, but always convincing.  Our mind also fills in the blank when we judge people and a person's category membership is part of the data we use to do that.  "


complexity will uses up mental resources, slowing you down." 
the "implicit association test" IAT unconsciously associate traits with social categories = stereotyping.  the crux of the IAT, when the labeling you are asked to do follows your mental association, it speeds you up, but when it mixes across association, it slows you down."  'the moral of the story is that if we wish to overcome  unconscious bias, it requires effort."
"it is the simple act of  knowing that you belong to a group that triggers your in-group affinity."
"because of the role of subliminal processes, the source of our feelings is often a mystery to us, and so are the feelings themselves.  We feel many things we are not aware of feeling.  To ask us to talk about our feelings may be valuable, but some of our innermost feeling will not yield their secrets to even the most profound introspection.  as a result, many of psychology's traditional assumption 's about our feelings simply do not holed."  (we explain the unexplainable...!)
"emotions..are like perceptions and memories - they are reconstructed from the data at hand.  Much of that data comes from you unconscious mind, as it processes environmental stimuli picked up by your sense and creates  a physiological response, expectations, and information about the current circumstances.  All of that information is processed, and a conscious feeling of emotion is produced.   That mechanism can explain the ...and more general the effect of placebos on pain.  In the subjective experience of pain is constructed from both our physiological state and contextual data, it's no that our minds can interpret the same physiological date - the never impulses signifying pain - in different way."  beliefs affect...

'if emotions are constructed from limited data rather than direct perception, similar to the way visions and memory are constructed, then, as with perception and memory, there must be circumstances when the way the mind fills  in the gaps in the data result in your 'getting it worn.'  The result would be "emotional illusions" that are analogous to optical and memory illusions.."
"bot the informed and the control subjects observed the apparent emotions - euphoria or anger - of the confederate who had been planted in their midst but feel no such emotion in themselves.  The ignorant subjects, however, observed the fellow ?, depending on whether he seem to be expressing euphoria or anger about the experiment, drew the conclusion that the physical sensation they themselves were experience constituted either happiness or anger.  In other words, the fell victim to an "emotional illusion.", mistakenly believing that they were reacting to the situation with the same "emotions" the fake subject was experiencing."
"p.186 but it turns out that there is a window of several minutes after exercise during which you feel that you body has calmed but it is actually still in an aroused state..."

"The examples I've talked about so far imply that we often don't understand our feelings.  Despite that, we usually think that we do.  Moreover, when asked to explain why we feel a certain way, most of us, after giving it some thought, have no trouble supplying reasons.  Where do we find those reasons, for feelings that may not even be what we think they are?  We make them up."

"Whine you come up with an explanation for your feelings and behavior, your brain performs an action that would probably surprise you: it searches your mental database of cultural norms and picks something plausible.

Context of yourself (& beliefs) "Accurate introspection makes use of our private knowledge of ourselves.  Identifying a generic, social-and-culturl-norms explanation as the source of our feelings doesn't>" p. 191

"but in hindsight you chose that person for the reasons you thought you did?...retroactively, you unconscious employed social norms to explain your feelings about that person

'evolution designed the human brain not to accurately understand itself but to help us survive.  we observe ourselves and the world and make enough sense of things to get along.  Some of us, interested in knowing ourselves more deeply - perhaps to make better life decisions, perhaps to live a richer life, perhaps out of curiosity - seek to get past our inattentive ideas of us.  We can.  We can us our conscious minds to study, to identify and to pierce our cognitive illusions.  by broadening our perspective to take into account how our minds operate, we can achieve a more enlightened view of who we are.  But even as we grow to better understand ourselves, we should maintain our appreciation of the fact that, if our mind's natural view of the world is skewed, it is skewed for a reason."

"how accurately do we perceive ourselves?"  "94 per cent of college professors say they do about-average work."  physicians in one common disease where a fairly large number of people die reported an average of  88% confidence in their diagnosis but proved correct only 20 % of the time.

Misestimating, bias:  acquiring firms typically pay 41% more for the target firm's stock than it current price, feeling they can run it more profitably, while the combined value of the merging firms usually fall, indication that impartial observers feel otherwise>" 198
our ego fights fiercely to defend its honor."

the human mind is designed to be both a scientist and an attorney, bot a conscious seeker of objective truth and an unconscious, impassioned advocate for what we want to believe.  Together these approached vie to create our worldview."

[people are passionate that their view of the arguments on the other side is right, even after reading the subliminal book]

The brain is a decent scientist but an absolutely outstanding lawyer [it's survival after all, this is why we are passionate!  "it is the impassioned advocate that usually wins over the t truth seeker. {the unconscious min is a master at using limited date to construct a version of the world that appears realistic and complete to its partner, the conscious mind.  The rational scientists of our conscious minds then innocently admire the self-portrait, believing it to be a world of photographic accuracy. "

ambiguity "ambiguity crates wiggle room in what may otherwise be marginal truth and our unconscious minds employ that wiggle room to build a narrative of ourselves, of other, and of our environment that makes the best of our fate, that fuels us in the good time, and gives us comfort in the bad."

"205 Because motivated reasoning is unconscious, people's claims that they are unaffected by bias or self-interest can be sincere, even as they make decisions that are in reality self-serving. "
206 "they show that when assessing emotionally relevant data , our brains automatically include our wants and dreams and desires."
parts of the limbic system "one makes emotionally laden moral judgments.  That's the physical mechanism for how our brains manage to deceive us"
in order for your inflated self-image to serve you well, to have survival benefits, it must be inflated to just the right degree and no further Psychologists describe this balance by saying the  the resulting distortion must maintain the "illusion of objectivity."  The talent we are blessed with in this regard is the ability to justify our rosy images of ourselves through credible arguments, in a way that dos not fly in the face of obvious facts."
"motivated reasoning" - creative!
"more important, it would be enlightening for all of us to face the fact that our own reasoning is often not so perfectly objective, either.
[people justify their conclusions, saying well I would never vote for him, that is just how I believe, how I feel...they set themselves up to be wrong or wrongly biased frequently...operating off the shortcuts of the primitive mind...]
215 "It's a cliche, but the experience of walking in the other side's shoes does seem to be the best way to understand their point of view.
if having a bad day "if you just wait long enough, it'll improve.

"reality distortion field" - jobs "which allowed him to... convince himself and others that they could accomplish whatever they set their mind to."

216 'belief in the self is an ultimately positive force in life."
"our unconscious is at it best when it helps us create a positive and fond sense of self, a feeling of power and control"
217 "motivated reasoning enables our mind to defend us against unhappiness, and the the process it gives us the strength to overcome the many obstacles in life that might otherwise overwhelm us."
"studies show that the people with the most accurate self-perceptions tend to be moderately depressed, suffer from low self-esteem, or both.  An overly positive self-evaluation, on the other hand, is normal and healthy."  [but we can create that, consciously]
"but with so many  insurmountable barriers in life, nature provided us with the means to create an unrealistically rosy attitude about overcoming them - which helps us do precisely that. [reconstruct data]
"motivated reasoning" and motivated remembering and all the other quirks of how we think about ourselves and our world may have their downsides, but when we're facing great challenges..the natural optimism of the human mind is one of our greatest gifts." [really?, how does he know?]

"We choose the facts that we want to believe."  [cite BB]
'it is a gift of the human mind to be extraordinarily open to accepting the theory of ourselves that pushes us in the direction of survival and even happiness. '

In finance, the prime belief is that a manager can, if smarter, cause higher gains.  Surely, this must be true!  It is so logical!   But it is, alas, not true, if you look at the actual data. You should not be operating from this viewpoint, but should be considering a wiser way to invest.  See The Irrational Investor

When we humans "feel" passionate about something, we "feel" it is true and we dismiss information that represents the opposite or something different.  We employ "motivated reasoning" and "motivated remembering, but it is in a "reality distortion field".  But we are certain the other side is wrong and sometimes that they are bad, stupid or deluded.  "What's wrong with them.  They're just a bunch of politicians ruled by the buck [here one is using a 'partial truth' perhaps, which is usually not actually the truth, but we believe it is absolutely true.  We refuse to look at the valid tradeoffs and/or arguments, because we are right.  And we can tell how inaccurate we are, usually, by how emotional we get about - and that indicates we are not fully thinking, because the real thinking process to come to the truth involves objectivity, not pre-determined biases of emotional significance.  People on both sides can care about life, but one side thinks it is right, where there may be no way to determine what is right.

being aware of selective evidence and bias is the first requirement if one is to effectively deal with life and its pieces.  An intuitive guess, like any somewhat informed guess, can be right, but it is surely not a valid conclusion to generalize it being right when it is only so some of the time. 

If a person is prone to "motivated reasoning", "selective perception", "bias", and "motivated remembering, that can be dangerous for relationships, as any solution in anything, not just relationships, depends on the ability to step back and use effective thinking.  In the emotional realm of relationships, we are prone to "making things up" about the other person and then gathering selective evidence for that side - this ruins relationships and should be vigorously guarded against where we should cut it off as early as possible, from oneself or the other person, so that it doesn't grow into a cancer of improperly replicated DNA from a bad thought process.

Some people are so much into "impassioned reasoning" that they dismiss, as being less worthy and stodgy, using logical thinking.  What one "feels" becomes the magical test of validity, even though one cannot "feel" a thought.  A thought is a representation of data, often with a remembered valence (positive or negative value).  The feeling is a bodily sensation which we often collapse into being part of the thought, but it isn't.  Nevertheless people come to their conclusions justifying that that is just how they feel - no, it's what you think!!!  (See Expressing Feelings And Thoughts, And Differentiating Between The Two...)

We must know that the mind "fills in" what is missing, inferring it into the "picture" in our brain, and then it forgets that it made up what was missing and holds it as the truth, sometimes defending it to the death.  The latter comes from war, but the people who do mini-versions of this, such as in strong political views with great emotion, are engaging in and encouraging the same type of thinking that creates war - and one of the things the person, ironically, could be impassioned against is war!  They are against war but they fail to see that they are engaged in the same thinking process that creates war - and are thus part of the problem, at least a contributor - sadly, I might say. 

The Thinking Brain Contents/Links


The conclusions made in this piece and in Mlodinow's book are consistent with, though from different viewpoints:

The Believing Brain, Shermer

(Article: The Believing Brain. - Where we "make up" things and then hold them as facts, think we see what we don't actually see, and explain the unexplainable.)

Thinking, Fast And Slow, Kahneman - By the psychiatrist who won the Nobel Prize For Economics!

(Related articles:

The Pause - Vital to leading a good, smart life, where one is calm and centered and intelligent.

System One And System Two - Our Gifts To Work With - The subconscious or lower brain and the higher brain must be engaged for the right purposes for which they are better equipped.)