The non-conscious mind also plays a role in more sophisticated actions, whether it’s deciding on attraction to the opposite sex, completing mathematical sums or forming political views. There are even strange cases where people who are ostensibly blind can ‘see’, thanks to the non-conscious part of their minds: a phenomenon known as blindsight.
“There is debate in the field about whether consciousness even has efficacy,” says Eagleman. “By the time your conscious mind registers something, is it always just the last guy to get the news, and it doesn’t even matter what it thinks?”
Indeed, designers and advertisers have known how to control our non-conscious decisions for centuries. By using subtle cues designed to bypass conscious awareness, they can “trick” us so that we drive more safely, navigate cities in ways we do not realise and even drink more alcohol at the bar.