“We all like to think we are in control of our lives – of what we feel and what we think. But scientists are now discovering this is often simply an illusion.
Surprising experiments are revealing that what you think you do and what you actually do can be very different. Your unconscious mind is often calling the shots, influencing the decisions you make, from what you eat to who you fall in love with. If you think you are really in control of your life, you may have to think again.”
“At every moment of our lives an unseen presence is guiding us,” announced narrator Hugo Speer. No, not God, the unseen presence is our own unconscious mind, which decades of psycho analysis since Freud has us believing is the Edward Hyde or Caliban in all of us, out to destroy civilisation. It turns out our unconscious is the foreman, brakeman, steersman and navigator of almost everything we do.
We’ve all heard the statistic that we only use 10% of our brain capacity. It turns out that the unconscious mind may be occupying the other 90% and using it quite efficiently, thank you very much. The neuroscientists and researchers taking part in this programme were invited to the amount of the brain devoted to conscious thought on a sheet of A2. None were confident of comfrtable, one almost refused. It seems our unconscious lies like an iceberg below the waterline of our conscious mind.
Various experiments on general observation, motor skills and task management were carried out, looking at concious strategies and skills. It also turns out that what we think are conscious actions, there is a mass of unconscious command-and-control at work. We also saw the study and treatment of involuntary movement as it blights sports (golf) and music performance and how the brain can be re-wired to compensate for faulty connections or illness. It seems that the unonscious is also more efficient than the concious mind; a US military test effectively bypassed the conscious mind for satellite image analysis and suggests the unconscious is much more capable for speed and accuracy.
The unconscious also sways our behaviour; another test demonstrated the unconscious influence in favouring positive information over negative, the rose-tinted, optimistic view that the future will be better than the past – something that has urged us humans onto exploration and settlement.
Freud and his peers didn’t get a look in for this show. This is a hard science study, with lots of CT scanning, dissected brains and lots of articulate academic researchers telling us how little they in fat know about the workings of the human brain – but it will be great when they do (unconscious, rose-tinted spectacles at work, there).
This wasn’t about human behaviour, but provable, empirical lessons in physiology. It’s just a shame the scientists had so little concrete information to give us; indeed, we seemed to get more questions than answers. Well, that’s science for you, apparently.
Without getting into the debate whether Horizon is dumbing down or not, this edition was curiously flat, disjointed and felt a little cheap. The segments worked as little in-plants in this big department store, but somehow this edition felt like less than the sum if its parts. The script wasn’t overly-dramatic and seemed oddly flat, delivered by the competent but not very engaging Speer. Unusually for Horizon, the show lacked personality. Even so, I’ll take Horizon’s flavour of popular science over certain other gad-fly, celebrity-driven pop-sci shows on other channels. SC
Review: Horizon – Out of Control? BBC2
Episode 10 of 15, 2011-2012 Duration: 1 hour
Shown Tue 13 Mar, 2012 21:00 BBC Two
Series Editor Aidan Laverty
Director Ben Lawrie
Producer Ben Lawrie