Unravelling the potential of the unconscious mind

We are conscious beings, yet most of the activity in our brains remains nonconscious. Can we harness this hidden pool of information? The international team used a state-of-the-art method to read nonconscious brain states in real-time. This technique used brain scanning to monitor and detect the occurrence of specific complex patterns of activity, that were then used to determine the optimal answer to a simple action selection. In the learning sessions, participants received a small monetary reward if they selected the correct option, which was determined based on their nonconscious brain activity. This experiment allowed researchers to show how participants can learn to use the nonconscious contents of their mind to make profitable decisions. Interestingly, although based on their self-reports, participants were not aware of the learning, when they were confident in their choices, they were also more likely to be correct and receive a reward. This suggests an unexpected form of nonconscious metacognition; the participants were not aware of learning per se, but somehow, some brain mechanisms must ‘know’. These striking results illustrate the incredible power of the nonconscious mind and how important our feeling of confidence may be in our everyday life.