The brain is an important organ that defines all our mental experiences from emotions and thoughts to actions and decisions. However it does not process these mental experiences in a consistent way using repetitive or predictable computations and hence, can be termed a heterogeneous processor.

If the vastness of these computations were to be categorized broadly, we can end up with two realms of processing – a logical, conscious brain and a reflexive, non-conscious brain. In this article know how your thinking process is governed by two distinct schools of thought and how you can optimize decision-making.


The Reflexive Brain – Auto-Pilot Mode

This non-conscious system is not fully aware and largely takes into account environmental stimuli. It is reactionary, irrational, effortless and fast. Once this system is activated it ejects onto an auto-pilot mode without much control. This system of the brain pretty much runs the show most of the time.


The Logical Brain – Consciously in Control

On the other hand, the conscious system is fully aware and involves a complex processing capability. It is intentional, logical, voluntary and gives a sense of control. In return, the system requires more time and your willingness to exert effort. 

Most of the time, we like to believe that we are in control and make logical or rational decisions. Here is the real thing – many studies in psychology state that the reflexive brain is activated most of the time, putting the logical brain in the backstage.


Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover

As much as you try not to judge someone by their outward experience, the brain non-consciously reflects on it because of your immediate reflex mechanism. Judgment is most of the time based on a pre-programmed mindset or stereotypes.

What is needed here, is to appeal to the logical conscious brain to override the miscomputations of the reflexive brain so that you can make efficient judgments, without deliberate prejudice.


Logical vs Reflexive Brain – Which is Better?

Ideally, the logical brain is more effective. However, when both the systems are pitted against each other, the reflexive brain often wins. This is because the reflexive brain is faster and the logical brain needs more exertion of effort.

In fact, this is so prevalent that psychologists call it the “law of least effort” and some of us are even what social psychologists call “cognitive misers” trying to avoid thinking too hard.

Moreover, when the brain is damaged due to stroke or other medical conditions, the last thing that gets compromised is the non-conscious brain.

For your efforts to be successful, you need to target both the logical conscious brain and the reflexive non-conscious brain.


Re-Program Your Brain to Optimize Decision-Making

Can we reprogram our non-conscious mind or are we just going to be at the whim of these reflexes? Just like how Internet ads are tailored to show up according to your browsing history, you can train your non-conscious brain to work in your favor.

You should train your reflexive brain to produce reflexes called habits and train the brain waves to re-condition your reflexes that are based on developed experience and expertise. 

The first step is to re-program your brain is to concede and acknowledge that the non-conscious brain is working most of the time. 

Eventually, it would be much easier for the logical brain to come to the forefront and work in tandem with the reflexive brain so that it shapes your mental experiences in a positive way.

Don’t let the reflexive and intuitive mind take over your entire thinking process. Remember that it is fine to trust your gut feelings, but it pays to think and exert a bit of effort to call upon your logical brain, especially, when you are making important decisions.

The logical mind serves the reflexive mind and an unchecked reflexive brain leads to wrong decisions, affecting your choices and judgments in life. 


Intuition is Fallible

The reflexive brain does not necessarily work according to your desires as wanting something deeply cannot be a primary reason for intuitive or reflexive reasoning. However, by learning or observing patterns and working to improve your reflexive thinking can help you make better-informed decisions.

A sudden realization of an alternate approach to quick judgment can help you become more conscious to make better gut decisions. It becomes essential to over-ride your intuition when it misleads you, therefore don’t indulge in lazy thinking. 

Let go of a stubborn mindset to give your mind some time to form a different story and invoke your rational mind. This will help you shape your reflexive mind while also being more conscious and aware.


Dig Deeper

‘A mind that is exposed to garbage eventually stinks’. Therefore expose your mind to enriching experiences that teach your brain to go into the logical mode than relying just on reflexes. A healthy brain is one that is not wired for laziness. As described by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, hone your process of thinking to reflect and make effective decisions.