- Information processed unconsciously can influence the accuracy of our decisions without us knowing it, new research has found.
- The Summit features political, medical, public health, and community leaders; police; families of victims; and other stakeholders who have come together to discuss the range of harms that alcohol brings to the Australian community, and develop practical solutions to produce a safer, more responsible drinking culture in Australia.
- There has been a spike in the number of children locked in cars across Queensland, according to the state’s peak motoring body.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 29th October 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Information processed unconsciously can influence the accuracy of our decisions without us knowing it, new research has found.
“People tend to think the decisions they make are based on deliberation but there are elements in every type of decision we make that are unconscious — a lot more than people think,” says PhD candidate Alexandra Vlassova, of the University of New South Wales.
“Unconscious information could make your decisions better but it could also make them worse.”
The idea that unconscious information can influence our decisions has been an intriguing but controversial idea in psychology, says Vlassova.
In a paper published … in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she and colleagues report on a study designed to overcome the limitations of previous research into this question.
Participants were given the task of deciding whether a group of grey dots were moving left or right across a computer screen.
“The longer you look at the dots, the more evidence you get and at a certain point you have enough evidence to make your decision,” says Vlassova.
“That’s quite similar to how we make any type of decision. We accumulate information over time until we have enough to make a decision.”
To study how unconscious exposure to the ‘decision dots’ contributed to accuracy, the researchers presented different images to each of the participants’ eyes at the same time.
One eye was shown the grey decision dots and the other eye was shown bright, apparently random-moving coloured dots.
Under these conditions, the coloured dots dominated the participants’ conscious mind, while their unconscious mind took in and processed information on the grey decision dots.
They then removed the coloured dots and allowed the conscious mind to focus on the grey decision dots which were either randomly moving, moving to the left or moving to the right.
The researchers found that the participants’ accuracy was improved by unconscious exposure to the decision dots, but only if the dots were moving in the same direction as those focused on by the conscious mind.
Importantly, the researchers found that they could explain the unconscious decision-making using current mathematical models for conscious decision-making.
The two-day AMA National Alcohol Summit commence[d] at the National Convention Centre in Canberra [yester]day.
The Summit features political, medical, public health, and community leaders; police; families of victims; and other stakeholders who have come together to discuss the range of harms that alcohol brings to the Australian community, and develop practical solutions to produce a safer, more responsible drinking culture in Australia.
AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said a National Summit on alcohol is long overdue.
“Let’s be clear – Australia has a problem with alcohol,” A/Prof Owler said.
“More than half of Australian drinkers consume alcohol in excess of the recommended intake, and one in five Australians drink alcohol at a level that puts them at risk of lifetime harm for injury or disease.
“As doctors, AMA members see the devastating effects of alcohol abuse every day – from victims of domestic abuse in the local general practice to victims of car accidents and senseless violence in our emergency departments.
“This Summit gives us the opportunity to shine the spotlight on this major national problem.
“We are not calling for a ban on alcohol: we are calling for a safer and more responsible drinking culture in this country.
“We want to save lives, and improve the quality of life for millions of Australians,” A/Prof Owler said.”
• On average, alcohol causes 15 deaths and hospitalises 430 Australians every day.
There has been a spike in the number of children locked in cars across Queensland, according to the state’s peak motoring body.
The RACQ said 38 children were rescued in the past week, about 20 more than average.
On the worst day last week, 11 children had become trapped.
In the most common scenario parents give toddlers keys to play with while they pack the car, and the children inadvertently press the car’s lock button.
RACQ’s safety policy manager Steve Spalding said it was a disturbing trend given temperatures were predicted to reach 40 degrees Celsius in some parts of Queensland today.
Tests by the RACQ showed it took just seven minutes for a car’s internal temperature to reach 40 degrees.
Mr Spalding said patrols would be on high alert.
Stewart Walsh, an RACQ patrolman with two decades’ experience, said children should not be left alone in a car, drivers should always keep their keys and the car should be checked before it is locked remotely.
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