Mind the Gap
If you live in Britain, ‘Mind the Gap’ [sila berhati-hati ruang di platform in Bahasa Melayu] will almost certainly have entered your awareness like an absent-minded gall wasp burrowing its way back into an oak apple on discovering that it has forgotten some Cynipoidean essential. (Which is the perfect cue to point out that a robin’s pincushion is technically known as a bedeguar.)
Thinking about gaps and ‘being late’, inThe Feeling of What Happens Antonio Damasio’s talks about the “half-second delay”. That is to say, the half-second delay between action and cognition. Neural monitoring and video recording technology have now shown definitively that an action is set in motion before we decide to perform it. We do before we decide to do. In this sense, consciousness takes time to build. “We are late for consciousness”.
Looking at or talking to someone else we can also, in this half-second, observe reactions and passing clouds of emotion and affect on the other’s face - preconscious reactions of which he or she is often unaware.
As Nigel Thrift has observed: “we require a microbiopolitics of the subliminal, much of which takes place in the half-second delay – one which understands the kind of biological-cum-cultural gymnastics that takes place in this realm.”
In a paper on neuroscience and decision making – based on a presentation she made at a SOL-UK meeting - Dr Melissa Lamar explains how emotion informs our decision making at a level somewhere below our awareness (subliminally, in Thrift’s words).
Talking about experiments with packs/decks of cards, where ‘players’ discover by trial and error that some decks are more favourable, she says:
“Using galvanic skin response measurements of micro-sweating, researchers discovered that ‘advantageous’ decision making and the learning process behind it occurs before individuals can verbally explain their card choices. Thus, before being able to verbalize which are the ‘advantageous’ and ‘disadvantageous’ decks, individuals are picking from the ‘advantageous’ decks and showing elevated levels of micro-sweating suggestive of negative emotions immediately before picking from the ‘disadvantageous’ decks… [These studies] would suggest that while cognitive operations are essential to decision making, emotional and physiological influences on these processes are also present.”
Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens