From inside our own consciousness, it seems to us that our thinking and behavior follow a somewhat linear progression in which we perceive the world around us, gather information, interpret what we perceive, decide, and act. From this perspective it’s possible to believe that if we all had access to the same information (and understood it) we’d all reach the same conclusions. But human decision-making is complicated by the fact that our minds are products of the genetically-determined wiring that has evolved over millennia and our individual histories of past experiences, all of which contribute to what we notice, what we think, and what we do. Of course, the structures of human brains evolved in ways that advantaged survival and procreation at a time when the circumstances of human existence were very much unlike those of contemporary society. And as brains developed in even the earliest epochs of human evolution, older structures were not replaced with newer ones; newer structures and enhanced capacities for cognition complemented what was already in place. This combining of older and newer ways of thinking are at the heart of the seeming complexity of how we think, decide, and act.
In a series of five etudes and a culminating discussion, our goal is to reveal the multiple dimensions of human thinking and behavior, illuminating aspects of our perceptions and decision-making that in many ways function outside of our conscious awareness. To quote Professor Gold: “These issues will dominate what our society does about healthcare, quite independently of what our hot-shot science leader thinks flows automatically from omics.”