One study revealed that two parts of the brain – the frontopolar cortex and the precuneus - showed activity that predicted the choices of volunteers 7 seconds before the subjects were consciously aware of their decisions.
It suggests that our choices have already been influenced before we become aware of the decision.
When Ivan Pavlov and his dogs led to the discovery of learned behaviour through repeated exposure, and Edward Thorndike discovered the Law of Effect that stated that rewarded behaviours tended to increase, many psychologists were impelled to separate psychology from armchair introspection and formulated their theories as mathematical formulas.
The Drive x Habit Theory. Clark Hull's formula was sEr = D x sHr, which states that excitatory tendency (E) is the result of the drive (D) combined with the habit (H). The drive is nonspecific, such as hunger or thirst. The habit, however, depends on the stimulus (s) and response (r). But the theory turned out to be wrong and even opposite in many cases.
Expectation x Value Theory. Drawing on ideas in economics and game theory, Edward Tolman and Kurt Lewis formulated an alternative account by evaluating motivation based on expectations. Tolman expressed the ideas as the mathematical formula: Subjective Expected Utility = Probability1 * Utility1 + P2U2 + P3U3 + … where subjective expected utility of an action equalled the motivation to act. But, if you expect a reward, why act and not simply passively wait for the expected reward?
Donald Hebb realised that existing theories were too focused on reacting to the immediate environment. Thoughts, ideas and goals could be just as strong for triggering action as sights and sounds.
Together with John Atkinson, they noted that the study of motivation had undergone a "paradigm shift", where motivation couldn't be seen as how actions get started, but how the organism decides to change its behaviour from one thing to another.
Risky career moves, what-was-I-thinking relationships, and just about every '80s fashion trend-most of us have made bad decisions in our lives. And while we're supposed to learn from our mistakes, living with the outcome of a bad decision doesn't necessarily mean that we're immune to repeating it. (See: recent '80s fashion revival.)
Inside your skull is a massive supercomputer. You own it free and clear. With its 100 billion neurons, and with a typical neuron linking to 1000 to 10,000 other neurons, your highly networked brain is incredibly powerful and capable. Pick up a simple object nearby like a pen or a spoon, and look at it....