The evolution of higher mammals, including chimps, cetaceans and humans, brought forth a new level of awareness called “self-consciousness,” or, simply, the conscious mind. The newer conscious mind is an important evolutionary advance. The earlier, subconscious mind is our “autopilot”; the conscious mind is our manual control. For example, if a ball comes near your eye, the slower conscious mind may not have time to be aware of the threatening projectile. Yet the subconscious mind, which processes ~20,000,000 environmental stimuli per second vs. 40 environmental stimuli interpreted by the conscious mind in the same second, will cause the eye to blink. [Norretranders 1998] The subconscious mind, one of the most powerful information processors known, specifically observes both the surrounding world and the body’s internal awareness, reads the environmental cues and immediately engages previously acquired (learned) behaviors—all without the help, supervision or even awareness of the conscious mind.
The two minds make a dynamic duo. Operating together, the conscious mind can use its resources to focus on some specific point, such as the party you are going to tomorrow night. Simultaneously, your subconscious mind can be safely pushing the lawn mower around and successfully not cutting off your foot or running over the cat— even though you are not consciously paying attention to mowing the lawn.