Thursday, February 19, 2009

How the Brain Makes Quick Decisions

How do You Make Snap Decisions?: "t's the last set at Wimbledon and Serena Williams needs a little magic to take the match. Her opponent makes an amazing shot, but Williams somehow knows where the ball is going, and she's there. How could she have read her opponent's mind?

She didn't. But she may have been helped by a kind of human memory that scientists have been struggling to understand. Using her 'implicit' memory, a short-term memory that people are not consciously aware they are using, Williams could have recognized her opponent's moves just before she hit that amazing shot, because she had had seen the same moves a few minutes earlier when her opponent made a similar shot.

Of course, that's not the only thing that got Williams to the finals. Athleticism, conditioning, hard work and talent were the main reasons. But she had something else at work, and the rest of us use it all the time even if we don't know it. Sometimes, when we have to make a quick decision, we may think we're guessing, but we may be basing that 'gut response' on real information, collected a few minutes earlier."