We are literally bombarded with sensory images, sounds and goings on all day long. Just imagine what your life would be like if you were aware of every single one of them—it would be mental bedlam! The hair down your neck after a haircut, the clicking sound of your keyboard, the hum of the fan, the voices that surround you. You are saved from that sort of nerve-racking experience by a wonderful design feature of your brain called the Reticular Activating System.
The RAS consists of a bundle of densely packed nerve cells located in the central core of the brainstem. Roughly the size of a little finger, the RAS runs from the top of the spinal cord into the middle of the brain. This area of tightly packed nerve fibers and cells contain nearly 70% of your brain's estimated 200 billion nerve cells or a total of 140 billion cells.
The RAS acts as the executive secretary for your conscious mind. It is the chief gatekeeper to screen or filter the type of information that will be allowed to get through. Everything else is filtered out. You simply don't pay attention to those other 'messages.' Like the restaurant noises at high noon when you are engrossed in a meaningful conversation—you screen them out.
Only two categories of information are allowed in:
1. Information that is valuable for you to have right now. For example: say that you live in New York but you will be traveling to Kansas City to conduct a seminar. You check the weather there for several days before you leave so you will know what clothes to pack. Ordinarily, you never pay attention to the weather in that city. But now you have a special need to know because it affects you. After your visit, will you continue to monitor winter storms there? Yes, if you form some bonds with people you care about. Perhaps not if you have no further ties there.
Maybe your husband is a car buff so he always notices all the cars on the road. You couldn't care less until it is time to shop for a new one. Once you decide on what you want you may stop paying attention, unless you notice the same model of the one you now drive.
If you are at a party and conversing with an interesting person in a crowded room you are fully engrossed and unaware of any specific sounds, even the din of voices. But let someone across the room say your name and you most likely will hear it instantly. 'Why are they talking about me?' you wonder.
2. The other kind of information that is allowed in is the sort that alerts you to a threat or danger.
You don't pay much attention to ads for refrigerators until your 15-year-old model begins making strange noises..Suddenly, your food investment is threatened. Replacemnt is the only option. That's when you see the full-page spread of refrigerators ads. They are everywhere. Really, those ads have been there all along. You just didn't pay attention. Now your RAS alerts you to key you in on what is available because you need to know.
If your children are riding bikes on your busy street and you hear a sharp horn blast you race to the window to check on them fearing danger. But, If they were still inside you might not even hear the sound.
In view of this, it is easy to see why it is that people so often say, "I'm not interested." They have no need to know information at that time. Sales people know this very well so the diligent ones seldom throw away a name. They follow up.
Circumstances may change, sparking fresh interest all of a sudden.What a good reason to watch how this censoring device works in people! If you want others to tune in to what you want to get across to them (think kids, spouses, bosses) answer their question: "What's in it for me?" especially if you are making a request.
If you think this is being manipulative there is something else we need to talk about. It will be coming sometime later so stay tuned.