Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Unconscious activity is 'thinking'.

When it comes to dissecting the brain, the subconscious can hardly be considered new territory. Freud gave it significant attention almost 100 years ago after all.

There has however been a stack of current coverage which has raised the visibility of this subject, notable contributions being Gladwell's Blink and Robert Walker's Buying In.

Neuroscience has recently shed light on previously unknown processes and activities. Mind Wide Open ably provides an accessible introduction to this emerging field.

All three sources reach the same conclusion. Much of what we believe is ‘free-will’ is apparently far from it. Brain activity below the surface of our awareness accounts from much of what we do, and has an inertia that carries through to our conscious realm.

It’s a theme affirmed in this week’s The Economist. In describing the use of brain imaging upon people given tasks to solve, it reports that EEG traces preceded conscious awareness by a participant of an ‘aha’-type moment by some eight (8) seconds. More curious still, while not all participants solved the task, the character of how brains ‘lit up’ was predictive of which people solved the challenge and which did not.

While the idea of a subconscious is not new - nor is the idea that its processing takes place beyond our ability to access or influence it - such activity is not thought of as, well, thinking. The findings from the study by Dr. Bhattacharya and Dr. Sheth are exciting precisely because they suggest that it is.

So while the magazine's reference to it as 'unconscious thought' might at first appear counter-intuitive, it is highly apt.

The full article appears here Here

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