I lay in bed one morning, considering whether to get up or snooze a bit longer. When I finally decided to get up, I had a startling realization. One foot was already on the floor. I was acting on my decision to get out of bed before I was consciously aware of that decision. Weird, right? Well no. New brain science demonstrates that--strange as it seemed--my experience was pretty normal.
A study published in the journal Nature found,
"Your brain makes up its mind up to ten seconds before you realize it, according to researchers. By looking at brain activity while making a decision, the researchers could predict what choice people would make before they themselves were even aware of having made a decision."
In the study, participants were told to decide whether to press a button with their right or left hand, to announce their decision at the moment they made it and then to follow through on that choice by pressing the button with the indicated hand. Participants were connected to an fMRI machine that measured their brain activity during this process.
By monitoring participant's brain actiity, researchers were able to predict which hand they chose. But, what made this discovery truly amazing is that researchers could see the brain activity and predict the choice as much as 10 seconds before the participant reached their conscious decision and announced their choice.
This reveals the importance of understanding the congnitive biases that influence people's System 1 (their unconscious, intuitive process) thought process when trying to influence their decisions. System 2 (their conscious, reasoning process), it appears, is more of an observer charged with rationalizing decisions System 1 has already made, than actively contributing to the decision.
Spread the fire. GS