Decisions are made deep in our subconscious before conscious mind kicks in: study

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-06 12:01:53|Editor: Xiang Bo
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SYDNEY, March 6 (Xinhua) -- A study has shown that some decisions exist in our brains long before we consciously make them, suggesting we may have less control over our personal choices than we think.

Published on Wednesday by the University of New South Wales, the study asked subjects inside an MRI machine to make a choice between two visual patterns of red and green stripes and to consciously visualize them.

Subjects were then asked to rate how strongly they felt that their visualizations were.

By observing the subject's brain patterns, researchers were able to predict with above chance accuracy, the subjects' choices of pattern as well as how they would rate their visualizations, an average of 11 seconds before they consciously made those decisions.

"Our results cannot guarantee that all choices are preceded by involuntary images, but it shows that this mechanism exists, and it potentially biases our everyday choices," Lab director, Professor Joel Pearson said.

Pearson explained that what could be occurring is that our brains have predetermined patterns which they are most likely to follow, based on past brain activity, which then influences what our final decision will be.

"We believe that when we are faced with the choice between two or more options of what to think about, non-conscious traces of the thoughts are there already, a bit like unconscious hallucinations," Pearson said.

"As the decision of what to think about is made, executive areas of the brain choose the thought-trace which is stronger. In, other words, if any pre-existing brain activity matches one of your choices, then your brain will be more likely to pick that option as it gets boosted by the pre-existing brain activity."

While the study does raise questions about our sense of personal choice, the researchers warned against extrapolating that therefore all choices are predetermined by the brain.