Understanding the Conscious and the Subconscious Mind


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We literally have two brains: The Conscious and The Subconscious.

The Conscious Mind

The conscious mind is located in the brain’s topmost layers. It includes the neocortex and the lobes. More specifically, it is located at the top and sides of our brain. Some neuroscientists refer to it as the upper brain. I like to to call it the new brain because it represents the most recent addition to our brain. Our new brain has only been around for about 300,000 years. It is responsible for the following functions:

  • Voluntary thought
  • Awareness
  • Self-control
  • Planning

The new brain can overpower automatic routines – habits. It can mute our emotions and sudden impulses. It is where willpower resides. Our ability to focus for short periods of time is fueled by willpower. Our new brain cannot multitask. It can only perform one function at a time. When we “multitask” we are actually switching from one function, activity, group of brain cells to another. This wears out the brain. Willpower is a very limited resource.

The Subconscious Mind

The subconscious mind is located in the limbic system and the brain stem. Some refer to it as the lower brain. I like to call it the old brain because it’s been with us for millions of years. Our old brain has massive computing power. It operates constantly, solving complex problems offline (without conscious effort, without using any willpower). It is responsible for the following functions:

  • Autonomic nervous system – controls our internal organs
  • Forges and manages all habits
  • Insight and creativity
  • Emotions

The old brain is much faster and more efficient than the new brain. It has the capacity to multitask. It gives us the ability to make quick decisions. While our new brain is at rest our old brain is at work helping us solve problems, uncover opportunities, comprehend the incomprehensible, solidify memory and nudges us into doing things or to stop doing things. When you have a gut feeling that something is wrong it is because your old brain identified a problem that is invisible to your new brain. Intuition is the old brain’s way of communicating  knowledge it has that the new brain doesn’t.

Some of the scientists who study the brain (neuroscientists, behavioral psychologists, etc.) believe the vagus nerve or spindle neurons that connect the prefrontal cortex (new brain) to the insula (old brain) may be the communication superhighway that links the conscious (new brain) to the subconscious (old brain). The subconscious brain may be using this very superhighway to communicate intuition, gut feelings and insight (aha moments) to the conscious brain.


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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. Awsome blog! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am taking your feeds also.


  1. […] is the means by which the subconscious communicates with the conscious. Your subconscious knows all and sees all. It is constantly taking in sensory data and information […]

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