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Automatic Brain: The Magic of the Unconscious Mind

“Automatic Brain: The Magic of the Unconscious Mind” is a fascinating first segment of a two-part documentary about the brain. The 52-minute film is based on the belief that your subconscious mind manages about 90 percent of everything you do whether you are asleep or awake. Through a series of interviews and entertaining demonstrations, neuroscientists and magicians team up to explain — and vividly demonstrate — the relationship between your conscious and unconscious brain.

You may be surprised to discover your conscious mind plays only a minor role in guiding your life. In fact, most of what you think, say and do every day is a function of your “automatic,” or unconscious brain (also known as your subconscious). As such, much of the time, your brain is running your life on autopilot.

For example, think about brushing your teeth or even driving, and how often you perform those and other routine tasks without being fully conscious of them. The movie is seasoned with plenty of sleight of hand tricks and visual experiments designed to both educate and entertain you. If you have children at home, you might want to share some of the trick segments with them. Watching with others or alone, I think you will benefit from taking a closer look at the inner workings of your brain.

What Do Scientists Know About the Unconscious Mind?

Given that your brain weighs just 3 pounds and has been the subject of countless scientific studies, you might think we’ve already learned all we can about it. To the contrary, the brain is remarkably complex and we have much, much more to discover. This film suggests your unconscious mind drives most of your daily routines and habits.

“The brain decides things before we can consciously think about it,” says Allan Snyder, D.Sc., director of the University of Sydney’s Center for the Mind. “Decisions are almost dictated to us.” For starters, consider how your brain can handle this mixed-up sentence: “Wyh sohuld yuo wacth tihs flim atbou yoru barin?”

Without much effort or conscious thought, your brain fills in the gaps of perception, enabling you to understand the question to be: “Why should you watch this film about your brain?” Psychology professor John Bargh, Ph.D., founder of the automaticity in cognition, motivation and evaluation laboratory at Yale University, suggests the unconscious mind is asserting itself more and more as researchers continue to study the human brain. He states:

“Unconscious influences are … everywhere, and as research progresses, it's never going the other way. We’re not saying ‘oh, we used to think these things were all unconscious, but now we find out they're conscious.’ It's exactly the opposite. All these things we thought [were conscious] — because we thought everything was conscious — [are getting] smaller and smaller.”

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