The fourth wall: consciousness


Consciousness is as slow as the brain is fantastically fast. One can speak of incubation time. When we actively work on a problem for 15 minutes, then it is chiefly those pieces of the puzzle that are close to each other in our heads that catch on to each other. But if the pieces can be left in our heads for a longer period (‘in the back of your head’), they can await the possibility of catching in other pieces that happen to turn up in some completely unrelated thought process.

Just as humans are used to thinking in certain ways in the form of riverbeds and thought tunnels, we are also used to thinking of thinking itself in a certain way. This became clear in the Chapter 13, the wall of common sense: thinking seems to be about making logical and conscious decisions. But in the previous chapter, we discussed how the brain works – and thinks! – without our being conscious of it. If we want to use the full thinking power of our brains, we must expand the box by pushing out the wall of consciousness.


Figure 15.1

In order to increase consciousness, we must pull in two directions, as shown in Figure 15.1. The figures vary among different studies and different random tests of people, but on average it appears that we can process a problem consciously ...

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