“Know thyself,” a precept as old as Socrates, is still good advice. But is introspection the best path to self-knowledge? Wilson makes the case for better ways of discovering our unconscious selves. If you want to know who you are or what you feel or what you’re like, Wilson advises, pay attention to what you actually do and what other people think about you. Showing us an unconscious more powerful than Freud’s, and even more pervasive in our daily life, Strangers to Ourselves marks a revolution in how we know ourselves.
I was really excited by this premise but the book doesn’t deliver at all. The first few chapters covered the typical social psychology priming and biases material, but with a seriously unconvincing choice of experiments. A particularly painful example involving experimenters inferring hidden subconscious meanings from interview recordings. I skimmed the rest and didn’t find any concrete ideas or suggestions on how to actually observe oneself outside of a laboratory environment. It’s pop-science story-telling all the way down.