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Episode 1. The Magic of the Unconscious. 

WDR, Germany, with ARTE and ARD

Over 90 percent of our daily actions are done unconsciously – by an “auto-pilot“  in our head. Automatic Brain takes a look at Martha´s and Jake´s autopilots, two people whose paths cross by chance. Like all of us, their actions are steered by unconscious circuits: from brushing the teeth, to what we wear, from the way we drive the car, to one of the most important decisions in our life: whom we fall in love with. The film maintains that our reasoning is easily overwhelmed and has very little impact on our decisions in these domains. There are many lighter moments in the film, like the magician in Las Vegas whose tricks entrance yet pose significant questions, or the so called “marsh mallow” test on the reactions of young children. But there is plenty of neuroscience as these phenomena are explained. The interplay between emotions and so called rational thought is an issue that has been visited frequently over the years, but this film show how much less demanding an automatic response is than fresh thinking, as we for example can walk, eat an apple and read a paper at the same time. Laced with many examples, the story captures some intriguing insights from neuroscientists on how the brain’s activities are responsible for such automatic behaviour.

Writers and Producers:  Francesca D’Amicis, Petra Hoefer, Freddie Roeckenhaus

Commissioning Editor for WDR : Thomas Kamp, Thomas Hallet


AUTOMATIC BRAIN won the 2012 Science in TV Documentaries Award (supported by Janssen)part of the 2012 European Science TV and New Media Festival and Awards