Mlodinow, in Subliminal, delivers a clearly written book that helps
us understand Listening and Remembering. He explains that it all
comes from William Carpenter’s book “Principles of Mental
Physiology” in which he told that human brains carry out three
things simultaneously– autonomous functioning (without formal
thinking), conscious mental actions, and unconscious processing.
When we listen we hone in on specific utterances and fill in the
gaps with our unconscious. It is similar to the way computers
capture images and store them as thumbnails. Taking in certain
‘pixelated’ data, allowing us to reconstruct by filling in the details.
Our memory on the other hand is known to be “faulty”. We are
almost always never right with our recollections unless we take
special precautions to capture details. People try to maintain a
story’s general form, drop and change others to make us be able
to tell stories “confabulating” choices we make in the dropped
Thus, false memories and misinformation is a common human
frailty. With time we drop more and more information.
Mlodinow offers several examples one of the most striking is
James Dean, President Nixon’s personal attorney, in his responses
in the Watergate hearings. Mlodinow writes that Dean misstated
and mixed up nearly every detail of the affairs in which he was
involved based on a comparison of actual tape recordings from
the Oval Office and the Watergate hearings. At the time, we
were informed that Dean had a nearly perfect memory.
This goes to point out the importance of having and maintaining
a calendar, a professional daily diary, an ‘idea notebook’ and records
of key goals, accomplishments, master resume, and personal