The Unconscious Mind

“Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love. The first was when it realized that our earth was not the center of the universe, but only a tiny speck in a world-system of a magnitude hardly conceivable… The second was when biological research robbed man of his peculiar privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world, implying an ineradicable animal nature in him… But man’s craving for grandiosity is now suffering the third and most bitter blow from present-day psychological research which is endeavouring to prove to the ego of each one of us that he is not even master in his own house, but that he must remain content with the veriest scraps of information about what is going on unconsciously in his own mind.” Sigmund Freud

Do you think we are directed mostly by our unconscious mind?

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman famously discusses our unconscious and conscious minds. He refers to two systems. We have our quick intuitive mind, System 1, and our slow thinking mind, System 2. System 1 is good at judging situations that humans have faced for thousands of years, like trusting someone. System 1 is terrible at judging things like how to invest in the stock market.

Even if we recognize that we should not use System 1 for evaluating recent human inventions (like money), how often can we override it?

In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker writes that most of our brain wiring is genetic. Consequently, many aspects of our personalities are inheritable. Given the power of genetics in determining impulses and our tendencies to use our System 1 in judging situations, how much do we truly control? And, what does this mean for lawyers trying to convince a judge and jury of their argument?

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