Sometimes what you don’t know you know is where the action is. With lessons about both personal humility and the future of focus groups, first of its kind research used brain data from a small group to predict behavior in the general public.
In a research report just published online in Psychological Science, public health officials used activity in a very specific region of the brain to predict which would be the most effective of three different anti-smoking ad campaigns. Rather than focus group self-reports, or even the predictions of experts, the useful information was found to be in brain activity not represented in consciousness. That’s right, without my knowing it, my brain can predict what you’ll do.
This is yet another reminder that as much as we may think we’re in control of our minds and selves—smoothly navigating through fast-paced always-connected lives—we are in many ways just along for the ride. The stuff that matters in our brain/minds is often well outside our awareness. And when we think we know what’s best for other people, perhaps we need to throttle back on the aggression and turn up the humility.
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