Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Medicine Science

Studies Show the Value of Not Overthinking 244

WSJdpatton writes "Fishing in the stream of consciousness, researchers now can detect our intentions and predict our choices before we are aware of them ourselves. The brain, they have found, appears to make up its mind 10 seconds before we become conscious of a decision — an eternity at the speed of thought. Their findings challenge conventional notions of choice, writes WSJ's Robert Lee Hotz."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Studies Show the Value of Not Overthinking

Comments Filter:
  • by khing ( 936015 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @10:11AM (#23980551) Homepage
    There is book by Malcolm Gladwell called "Blink []" that explores something along the same lines, what the author called "the power of thinking without thinking". A quick skim of its wikipedia page [] should give a good summary. It is a good read.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2008 @10:14AM (#23980573)

    Not all decisions. There are *some* decisions that are made even 10s before you are even aware of them.

    Possible examples would be *deciding* to wake up...

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @10:19AM (#23980613) Homepage

    Giving the subject a series of comparisions to make and determine the difference of when they make the decision and when they act on it.

    Use the same apparatus, but ask the subjects to select which they would prefer at that moment in time:

    Steak vs Salad
    Blonde vs Brunette
    Pepsi vs Coke
    Car vs Bicycle
    Mac vs PC
    and so on...

    You could go on and try to week out personal preferences with things that the subject has to evaluate:
    Which would you like in your front hall: A Van Gough or a Gougain?
    Which is funnier: A joke from Steve Martin or a joke from Robin Williams?
    What smells better: Roses or Cinnamon?
    With a given math problem, what is the better of two choices to solve it?

    I would think this approach would be a better way to see how decisions are made within the human mind.


  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @10:33AM (#23980717)
    The article states that the testers (only!) tested 14 people. The subjects pressed a button whenever they felt like it. The testers could see some tell-tales up to 10 seconds before the button was pressed.

    All this really tells us that when we think we're making a random action, we really commit to it some time beforehand. It only tells when people make a random decision - not what the choice is

    bad reporting.

  • Re:10 seconds. (Score:3, Informative)

    by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:20PM (#23981961) Homepage

    "This doesn't rule out free will, but it does make it implausible."

    Big implausible supposition there: that decisions made without immediate reflective consciousness cannot possibly be free. The assumption is made that arguments and observations supporting the premise that we do have free will depend for their validity on all the aspects of agency being within the halo of consciousness - where consciousness is further defined as the capacity to report such self-awareness to an experimenter.

    We can assume that our researcher here once took an intro to philosophy class where he was rewarded if he embraced the notion that Newtonian determinism leaves no place in the physical universe for freedom. His professor, being uneducated in physics, was untroubled by the immense degrees of freedom - perhaps even an essential role for consciousness - required by quantum physics.

    If quantum physics points in the right direction, it might be freedom all the way down. There are even suggestions by serious and respect theorists that in some sense it is consciousness all the way down (although consciousness need not imply immediate reportability in all instances). So freedom need not be framed as some exception to the overwhelming Newtonian determinism of the material universe, provided only by rare miracles of consciousness (or spirit or whatever). Once it's framed in that way, of course we modern scientists don't believe in miracles. But if we believe quantum physics to be a much better theory than Newtonian, that's simply not the frame.

    If that's not the frame, experiments showing practical limits on reportability of the experience of free agency indicate nothing at all about free will's plausibility.

  • Re:I believe it. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gewalt ( 1200451 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @12:32PM (#23982117)
    000000-111111 in binary is 64 possible choices.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake