Who’s really in charge here?

It ain’t your brain. Half the time your body does your thinking for you.

This becomes ever more apparent.

Take skin, for example. Your skin tightens when it recognises something is wrong. In one experiment people were dealt cards from two packs – a good pack and a bad pack – in a  simple game. After 26 draws people consciously realised that one of the packs was bad and would say no to cards from that pack. In contrast sensors found that the subjects’ skin would show stress signs every time cards were dealt from the bad pack after only 16 draws.

Or take your feet. Another series of experiments show that in a high stress situation you think better if you just step back. I don’t mean metaphorically stand back and see the “big picture”. I mean take a real step backwards. It works!

Or your gut. In the first trimester of pregnancy women’s immune systems are significantly compromised. So the gut creates a heightened sense of disgust. Anything that looks slightly yucky looks way more horrid than normal and therefore the pregnant woman turns away from last night’s pizza (so they say!) and  the risks of illness are diminished.

And here’s a new piece of research which I love. It shows that the most accurate posture to assume when you’re making a guess is to stand up (or sit up) straight. If you lean to the left you will tend to underestimate. I kid you not. (Leaning to the right didn’t appear to affect people’s guessing ability.)

The theory underlying this is two-fold.

  • Firstly, it is known that the brain tends to link smaller numbers to the left side of the brain and larger numbers to the right.
  • And secondly there’s a growing body of science about the influence of our subconscious on our cognitive-processes (such as decision-making).

The conclusions of much of this growing body of research reveal that a large part of the tooth-suckingdecision-making which we think of as entirely conscious and rational is in fact stealthily influenced by our body’s communication with our sub-conscious.

We think we’re in charge but …unh huh.

At which point I check my own body position and realise I am in the classic hunched-Mister-Burns-at-a-laptop-slump and I wonder if that’s why I need a beer. Tsk!