09 Apr How to Use the Power of Your Subconscious Mind in Your Decision-Making Process
We’ve reached a point in neuroscience research where it has become universally accepted that the subconscious mind impacts many of our cognitive processes. In the case of decision-making, several studies have alluded to the subconscious mind as being a better judge than the conscious mind when two or more options are presented.
Inherent in the decision-making process is “implicit egotism,” which is the idea that most people positively associate with things that remind them of themselves. Both archival and experimental research have provided evidence that our judgments and behaviors are often subconsciously affected as a result of our self-associations — and further, that our self-associations are generally subconsciously positive. As illustrated by the “mere-ownership effect,” it’s postulated that the worth of anything becomes greater to us once we possess it, because we identify more strongly with our possessions and more or less adopt them as extensions of ourselves.
Both implicit egotism and mere-ownership effect have been studied in the context of making major life decisions, and the conclusion is that while we might believe our choices to be rationally based, they are predominantly governed by subconscious mechanisms.
Along the same lines exists the Unconscious Thought Theory, which drove such experiments as that of Dutch social psychologist, Ap Dijksterhuis, meant to prove the unconscious mind makes decisions more effectively than the conscious mind does. In the same experiment, repeated three times and involving the selection or analysis of different options, based on whether the options had positive or negative attributes, three groups were instructed to reach conclusions about the options, each using different tactics. The first group made instantaneous selections, while the second made selections after analyzing the choices, and the third made selections after first being preoccupied by an unrelated task. In all three experiments, the third group, who had the time for their subconscious minds to analyze the options while they were otherwise engaged, made the most accurate selections.
In a 2008 study carried out by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (Leipzig), in collaboration with the Charité University Hospital and the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience (Berlin), participants were given cues for pressing a buzzer as a way for them to choose between two options. While the participants could make their selections at any time, most decisions were not consciously made instantaneously. By analyzing brain activity, scientists found they could predict which decisions would be made up to seven seconds before the participants hit their buzzers.
It was also concluded, by University of Rochester researchers, that humans will make optimal choices when they don’t allow their conscious minds to interfere. In studying the decisions made by our brains without our conscious awareness — such as dodging an errant Frisbee — it was found that they always chose the best option. One particular experiment illustrated this process: Participants were shown a number of dots on a computer screen, most moving in random directions, and the remainder moving uniformly to the left or the right. The participants were instructed to verbally choose which of the two directions the dots were moving in. While they were watching the dots move and working on an answer, the participants’ brain activity was shown to be accumulating data, building a case for the correct answer. When they reached their conclusions, the participants believed to have just suddenly realized which direction the dots were moving in the whole time. Their subconscious minds, though, were busy accumulating data to support the correct answer. Thus, the participants already knew the answer that would be selected long before their conscious minds could become confident of it.
Many conclusions can be gleaned from the extensive research conducted on the subconscious mind’s decision-making capabilities. The most fundamental ones, it would seem — and those whose principles form the basis of Choice Compass — posit that the subconscious mind is wont to decide favorably upon options that are associated positively with itself, do far better in the process of selection when not interfered with by the conscious mind, reach conclusions faster than the conscious mind, and are constantly collecting data in support of one option over another. When having a tough time making choices within your own life, you can use Choice Compass to draw upon these findings and provide access to the wisdom of your subconscious mind.