Have you ever drunk a cup of coffee that you didn't remember making, I know I have! Or perhaps you've driven to work without recalling the journey? If so, then you are not alone and having survived the experience you can appreciate how feasible it is to complete tasks competently without engaging our brains fully, even those, such as driving, that require high levels of concentration and control.
Performing activities on autopilot is actually a lot more common than you might think. According to research by Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert, our minds wander for almost half (46.9%) of our waking days. This research mirrored a 2011 survey of 5,000 adults by the UK's Child Accident Prevention Trust, reported in The Telegraph. According to the study, more than half of respondents traveled to work on autopilot and one in five people couldn't remember making a cup of tea or coffee that they drank. When entering this state, our minds drift off and we are often calm and unaware of our surroundings. Could we channel our auto-pilot to achieve higher performance? Yes!
Some can enter this state through practice, others turn to alternatives ways to enter this state of mind. In 2014 Japanese neurologists compared the brain activity of Brazilian footballing superstar Neymar to lower level players and non-footballers, while conducting a series of motor skills tests. Researcher Eiichi Naito, of Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, found that Neymar was able to conduct basic motor tasks using less than 10 per cent of the cerebral function of oth-er athletes, which allowed him to perform more tasks at higher speed. Undoubtedly, Ney-mar's natural ability was key to allowing him to automate performance, but the thousands of practice hours must also have played a significant role.
Research suggests that advanced poker players successfully distance themselves from the emotion and turbulence that can beset beginners or amateurs. In a paper entitled, 'The Competitive Mind: Beginner to Expert,' researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) headsets to monitor the brain activity of beginners, amateurs and advanced players during a game of Texas Hold'em. In later stages expert players were calmer and their decision making ability was far less affected by emotion compared to their less experienced counterparts. Expert players also showed greater self-control and patience when faced with losses com-pared to either beginners or amateurs, allowing them to maintain focus and increase their chances of successful outcomes.
Being on autopilot can help us by freeing up our brains to concentrate on important tasks and acting as a buffer against internal and external distractions. So, next time you don't re-member making that cup of coffee, perhaps you should congratulate yourself for having achieved a higher level performance!