Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink about how choices are made explained the workings of the unconscious mind process. It demonstrated how we form our opinions and make our decisions at a level we are not even conscious about and can’t intellectually access. Now there is a report of a study which dealt with scanning the brains of people making simple decisions. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (June 27, 2008) scientists discovered that brain appears to make a decision at least 10 seconds before the person becomes conscious of that fact.
This research is pioneered by John-Dylan Haynes at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin. Scientists in Germany, Norway and the U.S. have made studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Their studies show that while we think our decisions are made at a conscious level that may only be just the tip of the ice berg. Researchers argue that many important decisions may be best made by going with our gut rather than thinking about them too much. Other researchers have found that people struggling to make relatively simple decisions such as which car to buy or apartment to rent, appeared to make sounder decisions when they were distracted and unable to focus consciously on the problem.
What all this means is that we think jurors, as well as ourselves, make intellectual decisions after weighing all the alternatives and thinking things out logically. But, the reality is that most, and some say 90%, of our decisions are made at an unconscious level. I cannot repeat too often the fact that as a result of these truths trial is truly a battle of impression rather than logic.