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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The main focus of Psychology is to study the mind and its effects on an individual's behavior. Research studies are extremely important because they provide empirical evidence that can support a psychology based hypothesis. Without these studies, many may deem psychological ideas as incorrect assumptions that should not be taken seriously. The mind is very powerful and influences many decisions that the individual may not realize it wanted to do. The unconscious and conscious effect on decisions is a topic that many studies focus on and is a topic that is interesting to focus on. Many may not notice, but the unconscious mind does a large amount of the decision making for them even if people tend to believe their conscious thought is doing all the work.

Although many decisions are made by the conscious mind, some are also made by the unconscious mind. The idea of consciousness means one is aware of what is going on in their environment. One's consciousness is affected by the individual's culture, environment, and background; meaning those two factors are apart of the conscious minds power in decision making. One's cultural, and family backgrounds will influence many of their future decisions and when they are pondering these decisions they will be reflecting on the information they already know of. The conscious mind has power in one making decisions but it is believed that the unconscious mind has an effect too. In this essay, there will be a focus on how the conscious and unconscious mind affects one's decisions and reflect how both implicit and explicit information influences the individual.

The unconscious mind, a theory created by Sigmund Freud, is the part of the mind that holds thoughts, feelings, memories, and urges which are outside of our conscious awareness. The easiest way to define the conscious mind is the idea that you are aware of what is happening, on the other side of the spectrum is the unconscious mind which correlates to our deep mental processes. The unconscious mind is said to have a connection to one's daily choices without the individual having any awareness of how the came to pick that choice. Many people believe the unconscious mind is only used for an automatic task that requires little to no thinking, but recent studies show that the unconscious mind may do more than individuals previously believed.

In the article “Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain” by Chun Siong Soon, Marcel Brass, Hans- Jochen Heinze and John-Dylan Haynes (2008) a study was conducted that focused on the brain activity when a decision is made and compared to the activity of the brain seven seconds before the decision. The participants were connected to a computer that measured their brain activity, their task was to press a button with either hand that they decide on. The study leads to the discovery that there is brain activity in the prefrontal and parietal lobes for up to ten seconds before the brain enters awareness. This essentially means the process of making a decision occurs before the stage of awareness and as well as when you are conscious. The unconscious mind is an important aspect in the decision-making process and is looked over because many people do not believe that the unconscious mind actually does something for this process.

To start with a rather basic topic, when one goes to the grocery store, how do they decide on what specific groceries to get? Do they grab at random? Do they look at the packaging? Nutrition label? In the article “Smart Choices front-of-package nutrition label. Influence on perceptions and intake of cereal” by Christina A. Roberto, (2011) a study was conducted that took two hundred and sixteen participants and tested how nutrition information on the front of a cereal box affected their decision on which box to purchase. In specific, this article focused on how cereal boxes began to include what was called the "smart choices” food label, which was essentially a green check mark in the front of this box. This checkmark leads consumers to the assumption that it was healthier than other options that did not include the check mark. Rather than read the nutrition label and focus on specific categories such as fats, sugars, cholesterol, etc. Consumers decided that the check was enough for them and bought these products because others deemed them the healthier option.

The label did not make the cereal more beneficial for the individual and the study concluded that the cereal that was provided to the participants had little to no nutritional value, but the logo made them believe it was healthier than other brands. This reflects the environmental influence on one's conscious which leads to a different decision than previously suspected. Without the label, consumers would be able to decide on what they wanted to buy solely on personal preference and prior information they knew about the topic. The new stimuli of the logo led to a new perception of the product leading to a different conscious decision. This environmental change led to a possible new decision even though the product did not change, the only part that changed was the label.

This reflects that one will simply look at the basic information of something a decipher the meaning of it and decide if they are for or against either a topic or object. Many individuals will merely scratch the surface of their conscious mind to come up with a decision, and this study reflects that about human beings. Such basic information can sway a decision easily, and one will not have the desire to look more into the product and then decipher if they would still like to purchase the product.

Another focus on the conscious mind on decisions is how one decides on their preferred mate and the personality traits that the individual should have if they want them to be their mate. In the article “Kind towards whom? Mate preferences for personality traits are target specific.” (Lukaszewski, 2009) a study was created to discover which personality traits were performed in a partner. It was discovered by the conductors of the study, Aaron W. Lukaszewski and James R Roney, that an individual's preferences changed based on the specific targets of their partners' behavioral actions. The study discovered that people prefer when their partners are kind and trustworthy when associating with themselves or their friend's and family but their preference shifts to desiring these traits at a much lower amount when directed towards other individuals.

This study concluded that in general, both sexes preferred when their partners asserted higher levels of dominance which was seen as surprising. Lately, women have been making great strides to attain more dominance in the world but historical facts can prove that dominant women were not a common entity. To relate this to a psychological area, the fact that both sexes prefer a dominant attitude can be connected to Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the need for safety. Individuals want to feel safe and protected so they attempt to find a mate to do so for them, this feeling can relate to humans ancestors and their fight for survival. This evolutionary aspect influenced humans decisions when they are looking for a potential partner in their life which reflects intrinsic motivators affecting decisions

This article reflects how our family, cultural values, can affect our ideas and influence our decisions. This is not a simple decision like buying a box of cereal, this decision is based on whom the individual wants to spend the rest of their life with. So no matter the intensity of the decision extrinsic motivators will always influence your conscious mind and lead to different decisions. The conscious brain is in effect her because one needs to truly think about what they would like to find in a potential mate and cannot implicitly make a decision on this. So that would mean this study strongly relies on the conscious mind and if it was not used this study would not have gone as perceived and the data collected would be incorrect.

To reflect the unconscious effect on our decisions one can think about our prejudices in life and biases we have against specific groups of people. In the article “ Implicit anti-fat bias among health professionals: is anyone immune?” by BA Tachman and KD Brownell (2001), a study was made to determine whether or not there was a present bias towards obese or overweight people in medical professions. Prejudices are created by extrinsic motivations but sometimes because unconscious and thought and individuals act on these prejudices without realizing they are doing so. These study results conclude that there is strong evidence that implicit anti-fat bias was found in the individuals tested. This reflects that one decides to do things implicitly which has a strong correlation to the unconscious mind because one does not have control over implicit thoughts. Implicit thoughts occur without any conscious awareness towards any object or the individual, so these thoughts studied reflect unconscious effects towards decisions.

The study was based on quick immediate responses to words correlation to the idea of obese individuals and had to relate it to one of two words that have either a negative or positive connotation. The reason they need to immediately respond is that they would not be able to study an implicit response if the participants had time to analyze their responses. Once the conscious mind enters the decision-making process the participants would have a completely different response as morals would most likely be a factor and they would feel shameful for such negative responses. Individuals may not accurately report negative attitudes toward a group if they feel it is not appropriate to do so.

The way to truly analyze individuals perceptions without the possibility of false information being collected scientist would use an IAT test. An IAT test measures a reaction time that an individual has towards the certain positive or negative trait. The IAT is a widely used measure to reflect automatic attitudes and they are typically related to social prejudice, including gender stereotypes, racial evaluations etc. Due to the responses found in this study scientist have become far more interested in the implicit attitudes of the individual rather than the explicit attitudes of people.

Being conscious of how one's actions can affect others is another form of how consciousness can affect an individual's behavior and decisions, be able to understand the consequences is very important. Consequences affect behavior, and behavior is the result of choices an individual has to make. Knowing that something positive will occur after their action plays out will usually lead to the person performing the action in question. On the other end of the spectrum if one knows that their actions will lead to negative consequences there is a large chance that the individual will not do the action that would cause the negative consequence. A great reflection of this in today's day in age would be how people deal with money and how they tend to spend it.

The article  “If money doesn't make you happy, then you probably aren't spending it right” by Elizabeth W. Dunn, Daniel T. Gilbert, Timothy D. Wilson,(2010) writes about the common idea that money can buy one's happiness but proves that this is a misconception in today's society. The article speaks about the decisions people make when using their money and what they buy, it talks about how many people will buy an object to feel instant gratification but those feelings soon disappear and the individual no longer feels happy. The article states that people must change the way they spend their money and rather than buy objects they need to buy life experiences. A study made in 2010 (Carter and Gilovich) asked Americans if they preferred a material purchase or an experiential purchase, the data showed that 57% of respondents reported that they found more joy and pleasure from experiential purchases as opposed to the 34% that preferred material purchases. So why do people still buy more materialistic objects?

Our conscious mind believes that this will make us happy so it decides on this but does not understand that there are different ways to spend your money to reach happiness. The conscious mind only knows so much information so it bases its decisions based on what it knows, this article is targeted to inform and to change the minds of individuals so they make a new conscious choice. The article states that one should do these three things with their money: spend it on experiences, not materials, helping others with your money rather than spend it on oneself, and to buy oneself small pleasures rather than grand ones. All of these options are said to lead to a positive outcome which is an incentive for the individual to follow these ideas on where to spend their money. Once they are aware of this new information and place it in their implicit memory they will be able to make a conscious new decision that can create happiness for the individual.  New information to the conscious brain will influence the individual to try other choices to improve themselves.

Many small unnoticeable changes can lead to a different decision for an individual, these small insignificant changes become subliminal messages and affect our decisions. These subliminal messages are placed in movies, television programs, music, etc. they are placed here to influence the individual without them realizing that it is happening. In the article “ A Rose by Any Other Name…: Color- Naming Influences on Decision Making” by Jeanine L. Skorinko, Suzanne Kemmer, Michelle R. Hebl and David M. Lane, (2006) a study was conducted to test what colors participants preferred where one color had a bland name and the opponent had a fancier name attached to it. Both of the colors that were being compared to the other were the same. The results of the experiment were that the colors with the fancier names were favored over those with the generic names. This revealed that individuals are influenced greatly by the name changed and it leads to a completely different perception of a color.  Such a small change can easily change one's perceptions and lead to an individual making a completely different decision than they would have prior to the minor change.

The article reflects the unconscious effect on making decisions because one did not realize and was unaware of the name change that led to their choice, they had no preconceived notions on these colors so the colors were a new stimulus for the participants. They made the decision with their conscious mind but their unconscious mind had influenced their decision while they were in the process of deciding which color to choose. Subliminal messages do affect individual and that is a big reason why many marketing companies use them and why popular forms of media also tend to use them on their platforms.

After focusing on subliminal messages and seeing their effects on an individual's decisions, it becomes apparent that it is far easier to manipulate the brain than previously believed. The brain can be manipulated by extrinsic forces which can lead to a different perspective on topics which ultimately leads to different decisions being made. In the article “Brief Exposure to Misinformation Can lead to Long-Term False Memories” by Bi Zhu, (2011) a study was created around the question of if false memories will last in our brain. The study focused on in experimentally created false memories would continue to live with the individual for a long duration of time, in this case, they experimented with one and a half years.

Three hundred and forty-two participants were put through a three-stage misinformation procedure with the goal of making individuals believe that they lived an experience and tested to see if the remember the memory. After being tested the results showed that a large amount of false memory was created by the misinformation given to the participants. The participants were then asked to return after the one and a half year period and were then tested again to view the changes after the time break from the study. It was discovered after they were tested that around half of the misinformation false memory stayed with the individual and this is at the same rate of any true memory. This meant that a brief exposure to misinformation can influence one's memory and can lead to long-term false memory.

This study reflects how easy one's brain can be manipulated without the individual realizing it is happening to them. This means that one can be manipulated without realizing what is occurring their decisions could be affected, this would relate to the unconscious control over decisions. One may believe they decided on something consciously but manipulation influenced their decision and one may not realize manipulation had occurred so the shift in decision goes unnoticed for them. Extrinsic forces can easily manipulate an individual's unconscious brain leading to new decision making that is not affected by the conscious brain. This left the question, can the brain also be manipulated by intrinsic motivations to lead to a different form of decision making?

The idea of intrinsic motivators manipulating one's brain to decide on different things or to essentially feel different things would closely relate to the ideas of superstitions and how those affect an individual. A superstition is an unjustifiable belief with ties to supernatural causes that cause specific desired actions or events and many individuals practice based off of the beliefs derived from these superstitions. In the article “ Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How Superstition Improves Performance” by Lysann Damisch, Barbara Stoberock, and Thomas Mussweiler, (2009) focus was placed on individuals who relied on superstitions in their daily lives to achieve good luck. Research conducted reflected performance benefits of superstitions, examples they studied were the phrases used to give good-luck, such as when an individual says “break a leg” before a college is about to perform an action that would be benefited with the assistance of luck. It was discovered that the activation of the superstition led to an increase of confidence in the participants, increasing their ideal of self-efficacy, leading to them performing better at the tasks.

This study reflects on how intrinsic motivation can manipulate the brain into performing better than it had performed previously. The study reflects how powerful the brain is that it can manipulate the individuals' thoughts and perceptions of themselves to lead to better performance. If the brain can manipulate itself to perform better at a task, who is to say it can not do the same in order to perform better daily decisions to improve their life. It has been proven how beneficial intrinsic motivators are on decisions, so if one was to apply these beliefs to their conscious mind they would be able to manipulate the mind into making better choices for itself in order to benefit the individual in the future.

    Intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are impactful for the conscious and unconscious mind and help influence both of these parts of the mind in making decisions that lead to positive outcomes. The conscious mind is the forefront for making decisions and is used more frequently than the unconscious brain. This does not mean that the unconscious brain does nothing, in the few seconds before a conscious decision is made, the unconscious mind influences the conscious mind with dormant information that the conscious mind can not access. These articles all contain human subject research that helps provide empirical evidence for not only the topic that is specifically focused on but, as well as one, can use the data and create new conclusions from them. Human subject research is extremely important as it creates many different conclusions that help advance psychological findings, without these research methods many hypotheses would not have the empirical evidence is needed in order for it to not be debunked by other psychologists.


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