Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
You make decisions every day, don't you?
You assert yourself hourly. Especially if you're American.
You take life by the horns and you show it who's boss.
I have some news: You may be deluding yourself.
A new study from Princeton University suggests that our brain is little more than a propaganda historian.
It rewrites the truth. It exists to make us feel better. It persuades us that the decision we took was the outcome we wanted all along.
The researchers, Adam Bear and Paul Bloom, created a simple test for the guinea pig-headed at their disposal.
They showed them five white circles. They told them to pick one in their heads before one of them turned red.
When the test was over, the participants were asked whether they'd picked the right one, the wrong one or hadn't even had time to pick because the red light came on so quickly.
Statistically, they had a 20 percent chance of getting it right. But when they self-reported their results, the participants claimed to have been right more than that.
Indeed, when the circle turned red quickly, the participants claimed they'd been right more than 30 percent of the time.
Writing in Scientific American, Bear explained: "Because it lags slightly behind reality, consciousness can 'anticipate' future events that haven't yet entered awareness, but have been encoded subconsciously, allowing for an illusion in which the experienced future alters the experienced past."
Free will could, therefore, be something of an illusion. You're just a tool of circumstance, a hapless follower of happenstance.
There comes a point though, said Bear, when you can't even lie to yourself.
"Importantly, participants' reported choice of the red circle dropped down near 20 percent when the delay for a circle to turn red was long enough that the subconscious mind could no longer play this trick in consciousness and get wind of the color change before a conscious choice was completed," he said.
Somewhere in the bowels of the mind, honesty lurks. But it's deeply buried, it seems.
Bear says that when he and Bloom pointed out to people what their minds had conjured, they were entirely unaware of the fact.
Why, though, might our minds play these tricks?
"Perhaps the illusion can simply be explained by appeal to limits in the brain's perceptual processing," Bear speculated.
Perhaps this processing "only messes up at the very short time scales measured in our (or similar) experiments and which are unlikely to affect us in the real world."
Of course it could be that we'll take any chance we can to make ourselves look better than we really are.
It's called building up our self-worth. It's called self-marketing. It's called self-confidence.
Or, in some circles, it's called being a CEO.