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In common with all animal species, our sensory perceptual interpretation and behavioural action is also recognisable in basic physiological structure of (a) the peripheral nervous system, in our case the eyes, ears etc., and (b) parts of the central nervous systems, frontal lobes, the visual cortex, hypothalamus, amygdala, etc. that are within the brain. These are significant and extensive hardwired components. Using these structures, we can detect, recognise and evaluate a huge number of sensory patterns. For each of us these patterns are given emotional value. This is perception and learning at a distributed physiological level, on fine-grained scale that works in response to all the changes in our environment as they occur. We have a large memory to store the patterns we ‘see’, with a facility to recall and match. Emotional experience attaches new or revised values to each pattern. Where it is novel, innate curiosity is aroused. If it is seen as an unexplainable or a threat we avoid, if it is seen as an opportunity we approach. If, as is the case most of the time, it is determined as neutral we are initially attentive but tend to ignore or habituate to most of it. Moreover we physiologically tend to seek situations where our environment is largely ‘known’ and not one where the unknown continually confronts us. It is very demanding having to make highly aroused conscious decisions. There are only so many we are capable of dealing with in a period of time. However some degree of non-threatening novelty can brighten a routine day. For any individual our daily waking lives are dominated by fine grained decision-making and action instigating mechanisms constructed from our perceptions and affective memory. By about 10 years of age these collective processes are extremely well developed . Dependent upon circumstances they could be the basis of an independent survivable life though in western society another 6 to 12 years social support is the norm. Nevertheless despite extensive experience there is an innate requirement to make decisions. This is dominant and continuously operational and manifest many individual discrete decisions. As the world is ever changing we remember the pattern and the experience of our interaction. Second time round the response maybe quicker, eventually our action becoming almost sub-conscious; we gradually habituate to a potential changing complex environment. This gives rise to our almost unbounded ability to 'see' and easily decide what to do in the complex world about us - most of the time. Thus given an appropriate worldly experience then – scratching an itch, avoiding cars in traffic, jumping on busses, keeping clear of alligators, buying and selling stocks and shares, eating lunch in the park on a sunny day, flying planes, performing surgery or kicking pigeons in Trafalgar Square – all seems routine. In fact it is. It is the basis of living our everyday life.
The consequences of the innate and engrained nature of ‘decision making’ means that for most of the time we are not very interested in decisions we don't have to make and by things we can’t actually see. We are 'aroused' or 'activated' by what we see and hence do; by what the environment 'tells' us we need to do, now. We do not easily see the inevitability of something that happens in two years’ time, in fact we hardly see beyond two weeks into the future. How often do we wish we could replay a situation? With hind sight surely we could do better. For hind sight read planning - strategy -working out how a situation might play before it happens. There is an unconscious acceptance of an unfolding world to be negotiated. Most of the time this may appear as rational considered thought but in reality it is action man who is king and planning beyond the weekend is for nerds.
The perception, arousal, appraisal decision, action sequence is the basis of what we do every day maybe 99% of the time. Sometimes there are nuances of difference, new things to accept as for example when we travel to new places on business or on holiday. The bed room and bath room are not the same. Which side do I get out of bed? Where have I put the tooth brush? Where can I get a hot drink? In such circumstances we have to make lots of simple every day decisions. The regular business traveller is frustrated by those starting out on our once a year holiday. He knows how airport systems work – we don’t. However we quickly learn and habituate to this and drift with the flow.
Rarely are we stimulated to consider any major discontinuity. When this rare occurrence happens we are usually required to deal with an urgent threatening or opportunistic situation. In the modern world our usual range of innate coping mechanisms are inadequate. Unless we have been trained to perform in unusual situations as are soldiers or airline pilots we tend to do something immediate rather than something appropriate. Those with psychological and physiological processes that arouse significant longer-term consideration in their perceptual decision-making actions are the exception and not the rule. They are aroused by curiosity and an even smaller number by abstraction and formalism. Nevertheless we are all susceptible to our increasing complex world that requires more of us to think before we act rather than the acting before we think. However we are not very proficient at this latter course since in past time it was the least conducive to survival. Now we need to better understand factors that moderate decisions and improve our scope for performance and learning. How we do this is critically important and what this list is about. However the list alone is not sufficient. It is necessary to take the majority and human neurophysiology is not in our favour.