What Kind Of Decision-Making Brain Do You Have? Automatic Or Conscious

Peter Drucker defined a knowledge worker as someone with the “ability to acquire and apply theoretical and analytic knowledge.” How our brain operates, and how our instincts and strengths define us, is instrumental in understanding how we add value. Especially in relation to each other in teams. Let’s consider our brains using a simple puzzle…

A bat and a ball costs $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?


brainIt is likely that you chose one of two answers:

  • 10 cents or
  • 5 cents.

Only one of those answers is correct, the latter. If you chose 10 cents though, worry not. Your analytical skills might not be to the fore, but you made a mistake because you used your automatic decision-making part of the brain to answer the puzzle. You “solved” the puzzle like this:

$1.10….$1.00…difference is 10 cents

Your automatic brain is the place from which rules of thumb evolve. It is the best practice area, honed from thousands of hours of observation of what goes on around you in the world. We use this function most of the time with most of our tasks, for a very simple reason.

If we had to consciously consider everything around us all the time, our brains would probably frazzle to a burnt crisp. Your automatic brain is your friend, it gets you most of the way most of the time.

This time, it happened to be wrong. No worries. If you got the answer correct (5 cents) your thought process went something like this:

$1.10 total. Bat = $1.00 + ball.

This analysis is a conscious process. It leverages the conscious thinking part of the brain. We actually have to think about it. All well and good, except that the cognitive load of thinking is vast. Most of us cannot prosper thinking all the time!

It’s good to know. Some of us veer to the automatic brain, others to the conscious part. In my own “research” it seems to be about 50:50 which is which. You can imagine that those people thinking one way or the other show up differently in a team. Good to know!

Maybe you can take advantage of that knowledge. That’s what personal branding is about…

←This Much We Know.→


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