Sleeping on it
Conscious deliberation, turns out, not always leads to the best outcomes.
What strategy do you use when making complex decisions? Do you carefully weigh the pros and cons of each alternative Or do you take your mind off the decision and follow the age-old wisdom of "sleeping on it"?
“Careful consideration of all the options can be done by our unconscious mind”. Both decision-making methods have strengths and weaknesses. Our conscious mind is pretty good at following rules, but our unconscious mind—our ability to "think without attention"—can handle a larger amount of information.
Unconscious mind offers creativity, decision making. Unconscious is needed for making complex decisions. In addition, unconscious thought might be more dependable than conscious thought when we are low on energy. Using odor or sound cues during sleep might activate our unconscious mind and improve creativity and innovation.
Most people attribute a lot of their actions to a conscious process, but there are scores of processes that operate unconsciously. Lots of processes are automated and therefore very efficient (i.e. Driving to work). Thinking and deciding can also often be left successfully to the unconscious mind. Imagine you are listening to a song and can't remember the name of the artist. You try to think hard, but are still unable to come up with it. So you tell yourself, "I'll stop thinking about it, and it will come to me in a minute."
This is fascinating. In fact, there is an automatic process that continues to work on your question in the back of your mind. We call that process "unconscious thought."
Unconscious thought can do more than just help you remember facts. It actually has the power to fuel the creative process. While our conscious mind is focused on other matters, our unconscious mind can process the relevant information we need to make important decisions.
Both conscious and unconscious thought have strengths and weaknesses. There are decisions that require application of very strict, mathematical rules, we hypothesize that conscious thought is beneficial. But when it comes to integrating a large amount of information, we think unconscious thought, which gives rougher estimates, is more beneficial.
The amount of sugar people ingested in a three-hour time period showed that while giving people a drink with sugar helps conscious thought—not a strange finding, considering our brain is fueled by glucose—surprisingly, unconscious thought performs better when people receive a drink without sugar in it. It seems that unconscious thought is not as dependent on glucose as conscious thought. Odor has the potential to increase information processing during sleep; it reactivates your memory of the information.
Source: Martha Lagace for Harvard Business School.
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