What makes us different is not who we are, not what we think, but the decisions we make. That defines us, it’s what makes us different from others. But aside what you’d want to think, it turns out decision-making may be a process handled to a large extent by unconscious mental activity.
A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, in collaboration with the Charité University Hospital and the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin have shown how the brain makes the preparations for the decisions (analyse data) unconsciounsly. Basically what happens is that everal seconds before we consciously make a decision its outcome can be predicted from unconscious activity in the brain.
They used a brain scanner to investigate exactly what happens in the human brain just before a decision is made.
“Many processes in the brain occur automatically and without involvement of our consciousness. This prevents our mind from being overloaded by simple routine tasks. But when it comes to decisions we tend to assume they are made by our conscious mind. This is questioned by our current findings.”
They were able to show that brain activity predicts with 7 seconds in advance how a person is going to decide. But it should not be understood that this rules out free will:
“Our study shows that decisions are unconsciously prepared much longer ahead than previously thought. But we do not know yet where the final decision is made. We need to investigate whether a decision prepared by these brain areas can still be reversed.”
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!