Our first impressions are powerful. Research by Willis and Todorov of Princeton found that we make a decision about a person’s competence, likability, and trustworthiness within the first tenth of a second that we meet them and those impressions hold true for us months later. Take a moment and think about how long one tenth of a second really is …. a snap judgment. Yet we are constantly advised not to make decisions too quickly … but rather to think about it, sleep on it, so that we don’t make a rash decision we will regret later. While all this advice sounds good the reality is that we rarely follow it. We form our instant opinions and then convince ourselves that we are right regardless of evidence to the contrary. The impressions which cause us to make snap decisions come from deep inside our subconscious where intuition, biases, genetic messaging, character traits and social norms have been slowly, over years incubating to become such a part of us that we don’t even realize they are constantly front and center in everything we see, feel and believe. The unconscious basically decides what we are either drawn to or repelled by on a momentary basis.
While we would like to think that we are in total control – on a conscious level – of everything we think, feel and do nothing could be farther from the truth. Our subconscious mind is constantly giving us a barrage of messages and feelings. This amazing part of our brain is the ‘true brain behind the brain.’
As David Brooks said in his New York Times bestseller, ‘The Social Animal,’ the subconscious is the source of character, love and achievement. It collects the wisdom of the ages. In fact, as we learn more, experience more of the world and develop deeper character traits this amazing part of our anatomy is so powerful it constantly orders and reorders the new information to help us become wiser and more adept at living. Brooks went on to say that his book “would not try to discern God’s role in all this but if there is a divine creativity, surely it is active in this inner soul sphere, where brain matter produces emotion, where love rewires the neurons.”
Amazing to think about right – especially when we have been taught that the subconscious simply contains the the baser elements of survival – particularly the fight or flight instincts.
Realizing that our unconscious mind affects so much of our behavior it behooves us to learn from research how to decipher the patterns, tendencies and predictable behaviors so that we harness the strength of decision making. Some of these facts I will be writing about will shock, some will surprise but all will cause you to shake your head in wonder. Think of the next few blogs coming to you as ‘The Farmer’s Almanac of Human Behavior.’
Have a great few days!