Press release: Trusting your instincts leads you to the right answer
9 January 2007
A UCL study has found that you are more likely to perform well if you do not think too hard and instead trust your instincts.
Participants who were asked to pick the odd one out on a screen covered in over 650 identical symbols, including one rotated version of the same symbol, actually performed better when they were given no time at all to linger on the symbols and so were forced to rely entirely on their subconscious.
Dr Li Zhaoping (UCL Psychology) said: "This finding seems counter-intuitive. You would expect people to make more accurate decisions when given the time to look properly. Instead they performed better when given almost no time to think. The conscious or top-level function of the brain, when active, vetoes our initial subconscious decision - even when it is correct - leaving us unaware or distrustful of our instincts and at an immediate disadvantage. Falling back on our inbuilt, involuntary subconscious processes for certain tasks is actually more effective than using our higher-level cognitive functions."
The study shows an instance when our rational mind is more likely to perform worse than our subconscious - but the conscious mind still tends to veto the subconscious.
Read the full press release.