The Subconscious Life of You

The subconscious makes up the vast majority of all the mental processes that happen in the brain. And this should come as no surprise. Can you imagine what it would feel like to pay attention to the tap of your foot while playing guitar, or the constant feeling of your watch on your wrist? Scientists have put the proportion of unconscious processes to around about 95%(!).

Our mental limitations prevent us from accepting our mental limitations

In one experiment researchers offered people a variety of jam choices to taste. With a little sleight of hand, the researchers asked the participants why they preferred the jam (that they turned down, but did not know it). Less than 20% of participants noticed the change. This phenomenon, known as choice blindness, has widespread implications for how customers are quizzed about their choices. We have less insight into our motives and actions that we would like to believe. The Invisible Gorilla experiment is one that is not supposed to catch us out, but when it does, we are so surprised by it. Why? Firstly, we do not pay proper attention. And secondly, many events happen that we are not aware of. As Robert Burton confirms in On Being Certain, “Our mental limitations prevent us from accepting our mental limitations”.

The value of innovations such as eye tracking, fMRI, and Galvanic Skin Response scans become all the more clear when taking into account that people often rationalise their decisions after the fact. Since the autonomic nervous system controls involuntary functions such as sweating and heart rate, they are very valuable in understanding consumer responses to advertising messages, website design, retail store layout etc.

How might reduced costs in future change the usage, of combination of the neuroscience methods?


Further reading and references

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