I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Decide in under 500 milliseconds!


A new study indicates that web users make decisions about websites in under 500 milliseconds.  Interesting, huh?!?  The fact that we can make some sort of pre-cognitive decisions about things is very interesting.  “Pre-cognitive” simply means that we decide whether we like a website before thinking about it.  We all like to pride ourselves on having “reasons” for things – especially men, I think, and those of us more “rational.”  But I have long been interested on how many decisions we make and things we do that are affected by pre-cognitive (prior to rational thought) factors:  intuitions, emotions, and various psychological factors.

Now, here is what is really interesting about this whole thing:  Is it possible that we have certain spiritual inclinations and dispositions that are pre-cognitive (prior to thought and reflection)?  Consider belief in God.  Do we have a disposition to believe or not believe in God based prior to even beginning to think about it?  And even after we begin to reflect on God, how does our bias (either for God or against God) affect the way we think about God?

Consider ice cream as an example.  If you have a deep love (call it a pre-cognitive bias!) for a certain kind of ice cream it can affect your thinking process.  If you are on a strict no-ice-cream diet and then are suddenly confronted with the possibility of indulging in your favorite ice cream suddenly a wide array of possible excuses and justifications begin to enter your horizon!  These justifications challenge the mind and the will, pushing them to the brink and the breaking point!  And why???  Because you want the ice cream.  This is a pre-cognitive influence.

The same kind of thing could be said of our moral decisions.  When we want to commit a sexual sin a wide array of possible justifications and excuses enter our horizon that challenge our thinking and even our own conscience.  And this is just one of several ways that we have pre-cognitive spiritual inclinations.  For better or worse that’s our human situation.


References from the web article:
Ledoux, J., The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Lindgaard G., Fernandes G. J., Dudek C. & Brown, J., "Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!"
Tested subjects by displaying web pages (saved to disk) for 500ms or 50ms for "visual appeal." The report concludes that "...visual appeal can be assessed within 50 msec suggesting that web designers have about 50msec to make a good first impression." Behaviour and Information Technology, 25:115 - 126 (2006).