In the last 20 years neuroscience has made some remarkable advances. We’ve learned that our unconscious mind is playing a far larger role in decision making than we previously thought. It turns out that human beings are not logical, rational actors who consciously think through decisions based on the best available information—as economists have proclaimed and business schools continue to teach. Psychologists have now convincingly demonstrated that a great deal of human behavior is either driven or significantly influenced by our unconscious minds. Economists have had it all wrong, but the business community has yet to catch up with what the scientific community now knows.

The concept of an “adaptive unconscious” was first proposed by Daniel Wagner in 2002. The idea was later expanded in Timothy Wilson’s 2004 book, Strangers to Ourselves where he explained, “The mind operates most efficiently by relegating a good deal of high-level sophisticated thinking to the unconscious, just as a modern jetliner is able to fly on automatic pilot with little or no input from the human, ‘conscious’ pilot.”

Malcom Gladwell’s 2005 book, Blink added to the popular awareness. And in 2011, the Nobel Laureate (in Economics) and Princeton psychologist, Daniel Kahneman (one of the founders of the behavioral economics movement) published a review of the research to explain in layman’s terms the stunning breadth and depth of what he describes as the two systems of our minds entitled, Thinking Fast and Slow. System 1 is unconscious and reflexive. System 2 is conscious and deliberate. These two systems are engaged in the following five automatic behaviors—of which we take little notice and over which we have no control. Click the link for each behavior to read a deeper explanation in our blog.

    • Human beings have an auto-pilot for self-preservation that we never knew we had.
    • We are incredibly susceptible to suggestionsboth overt and covert.
    • We are terrible at anticipating things we haven’t encountered before. If we don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
    • Our brains are constantly experiencing rolling brown-outs.
    • We don’t work off reality. We work off our gist of reality. Others have to work off a gist of our gist.