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Life on auto-pilot?

I don't have much to say about this New York Times article — "Hijacking the Brain Circuits With a Nickel Slot Machine" — beyond, read it. It offers some insight into how subconscious desires affect people's actions, particularly when it comes to seeking gratification. Apparently, neuroscientists have found, people live their lives essentially on auto-pilot, to a surprisingly large extent.

I confess, I was somewhat gratified reading the article, myself. I seem not to be very susceptible to the types of behavior the article focuses on (I am (I think) not really compulsive about anything; I'm rarely tempted by desire for money or food or stuff; and, even when it comes to things I know I enjoy, I don't have too much difficulty forgoing them (when I think it's the right thing to do)). It's interesting to learn that there might be a relatively simple scientific explanation for why some people are more susceptible to these things than others. (Aside from the fact that some of us are from the planet Xqthgzy, of course.)

I also wonder if these results might shed any light on ambition and motivation. Is a person's motivation mostly conscious, or subconscious? (I suspect the latter, when it comes down to it. Some people just seem to want things more.) There's a big difference between (consciously) knowing the right thing to do and wanting to do it. Maybe this is part of the reason why.

February 19, 2002 5:20 PM

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