Is an inner autopilot controlling your brain?

By | September 17, 2008

Evidence suggests self-aware part of our brains isn’t always in charge

experiments show that our unconscious mind can fully act like a conscious self. Take a recent experiment in which French and English scientists had volunteers play a simple game while undergoing a brain scan. The subjects held a handgrip while watching a computer screen. They were told to squeeze the handgrip whenever they saw a picture of money on the screen. The more they squeezed, the more money they would win. Some pictures stayed on the screen long enough to be identified. Others raced by. Regardless, the image of a British pound caused the volunteers to squeeze harder than they did at the sight of a penny, even when it appeared so quickly that they were not consciously aware of what kind of money they were seeing. The brain scans allowed the researchers to compare unconscious with conscious responses and showed that a reward-judging region of the brain, the ventral palladium, became active in both cases.

… Mounting evidence of our inner zombie at work has led some scientists to downplay the importance of our aware selves. Earlier this year in Time magazine, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker declared that “the intuitive feeling we have that there’s an executive ‘I’ that sits in a control room of our brain, scanning the screens of the senses and pushing the buttons of the muscles, is an illusion.” – msnbc

The article says “zombie” but I call it an autopilot. The zombie analogy doesn’t make sense to me. The autopilot isn’t something that died and is coming back to life and seeking to eat brains due to supernatural forces.

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