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The Rational and Experiential Minds

Human minds operate in two ways. There is an experiential mind and a rational mind. The experiential and rational minds both play important roles in the thought and action processes.

The rational mind

When you are aware that you’re thinking, you’re using your rational mind. This is the conscious part of the brain you use to plan, analyze, and consider. The rational mind is what people traditionally consider the “brain.” The rational mind:

Uses evidence and facts to make decisions – It wants logical proof and evidence. This is the part of your mind that often evaluates purchasing decisions. You use schedules, prices, and features lists to decide on the best choice.

Is free from emotion – It behaves based on logic and reasoning only. This part of the mind operates especially well during low-emotion events.

Thinks slowly – It plans, analyzes, and considers before deciding on a course of action. When you plan a project, you rely heavily on your rational mind.

Carefully looks for cause-and-effect events – It doesn’t jump to conclusions about events. For example, the rational mind would not associate bad news with the person who delivered it.

The experiential mind

The experiential mind is unconscious. Its goal is to help you take in information, interpret events, and take instant action. It relies on information you’ve collected during past experiences to make these decisions. The experiential mind

Learns from experience – It uses experiences to make decisions. It learns from each experience, then applies this information to new events. Emotionally significant (good or bad) events help the mind learn and develop.

Reacts quickly – This part of the mind is tied closely to evolution – it’s like a survival system. The experiential mind is designed to think fast. This is why you react before you think in some stressful situations.

Reacts automatically – The experiential reacts without conscious thought. If someone tells you of a death in your family, you immediately start to cry. You don’t think, “I’m upset; I’m going to cry.” Instead, tears start flowing before thoughts are active.

Pays attention to outcome – The experiential mind looks for causes of pleasurable events. It also looks for people or actions to blame when outcomes are not pleasurable. It does this through association, not logical analysis.

Is tied to emotions – The experiential mind seeks to manage your emotions. The goal is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. It is also more susceptible to emotions. The more happy or upset you become, the more your experiential mind takes over. This is why people can become irrational during times of stress.

The rational and experiential minds are both important parts of the brain. The rational mind makes slow, in-depth decisions using logic and evidence. However, you won’t always have time for this kind of analysis. The experiential mind takes over when quick decisions must be made. It’s designed to adapt and respond quickly.