Sometimes it just comes to us. Sometimes we have to ponder so hard that we break a sweat. But, whatever sort of conscious considering we feel we are performing while trying to solve a problem, it might be the case that all of the real thinking work is happening elsewhere in our brain… just slightly out of reach.
Recent research from Goldsmiths’ College in London and the University of Houston is trying to electrically monitor and predict the moment in a human brain when the “light bulb” turns on. And, it turns out that the light bulb might be flickering on moments before we even consciously know about it.
Our sub-conscious neural networks are working non-stop. You’re likely breathing steadily while reading and you don’t even realize it. (Don’t think about it too hard, or you might breath out of sync!) The research suggests that this sub-conscious also works hard while we are in the process of trying to solve a complex problem, and it might be the one to figure it out before we are aware of the solution.
It almost makes it seem like our consciousness is working hard not at trying to solve the problem at hand, but rather at trying to access the solution from the depths of our brain. Or, maybe the conscious brain is indirectly guiding or monitoring the unconscious efforts while it’s busy cranking away at the numbers… like a nosy boss who is pushing the office assistant to finish the daily reports before tee-time.
However, experimental evidence that might possibly point to this notion of a top-level system controlling a lower-level “ghost” does bring back those old-age ideas–now considered to be bollocks–of the homunculus of the mind where there is a separate entity or function that is the real brain behind the brain. So, how many personalities do you have, now?
“Conscious and unconscious thought” :: Incognito from The Economist:: April 16, 2009 [ READ ]