Neuroscience is the frontier that is finally here. Every day we learn more about the brain and about how we make decisions. And what we are learning is a fascinating complex interchange between System 1 and System 2, both of which are active when we are awake. Kahnman (2011) details what System 1 does--generates impressions, intuitions, intentions, and feelings "and if those are endorsed by System 2, impressions and intuitions turn into beliefs and impulses turn into voluntary actions." (p. 24) He goes on to say that usually works just fine--except when it doesn't.
Have you ever shopped for a new car? Have you researched models, prices, sizes, shapes, and decided that a black, no frills mini van would suit your purposes only to drive a pink Cadillac off the lot that didn't meet your needs at all. Some version of this happens quite a bit to almost everyone. The decision comes about because System 1, which is intuitive and automatic, convinced System 2, which is reflective and rational, through interplay that you weren't even aware of to buy the Cadillac.
In my previous life, cognitive biases fascinated me. They still do. The brain has all sorts of heuristics to filter through too much information. For example, falling in love is a heuristic of making the decision to marry, because if you think about it, really think about it, that decision is a complex mess of values and beliefs.
When conversations don't provide enough meaning, that little voice inside your head that you never hear whispers "I know what s/he's thinking" and that allows you to fill in the blanks and feel much more comfortable with the ambiguities.
The brain is fascinating and how my characters use theirs has kept me at the computer trying to understand more and more about big questions like how and why.
A few research books that are worth the time.
Daniel Kahneman's text Thinking Fast and Slow (2011). The rational model for decision making, so highly prized in the echelons of leadership, collapses under his scrutiny.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck (2006) challenged me to question everything I thought I knew about education and how people learn.
The Watchman's Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction by Rebecca D. Costa (2010) inspired me to create a fictional thought leader who could solve some of the world's problems.
Thinking edited by John Brockman (2013) is a "cutting edge exploration of the mysteries of rational thought, decision-making, intuition, morality, willpower, problem-solving, prediction, forecasting, unconscious behavior, and beyond."