18 October 2012

Daniel Bor: ‘It’s just a gut instinct, but Blink got it wrong’

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Daniel Bor is a cognitive neuro-scientist at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex, and author of The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning.

He disagrees with the thesis put forward in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink:

“Aren’t you meant to trust your gut in these instances, and keep the conscious mind firmly distanced from such important decisions? And isn’t the mind almost entirely made up of a vast, wise unconscious side, with our consciousness a minuscule simpleton in comparison?

This, at least, seems to be the fashionable way to view decision-making right now (see Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink). Much of the science behind this position came from a series of prominently published studies, which showed that if there were a large number of facts to assimilate, trusting your gut was dramatically superior to conscious deliberation. All well and good… except that even more papers have reported the opposite result. In other words, your conscious mind is always better at making these complex decisions. And many tasks, such as logical operations or understanding social nuances, simply cannot be carried out by the unconscious mind.”

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