Gravity affects how we make decisions

Man, like all creatures of the planet Earth, in the course of evolution has adapted to life in conditions of stable gravity. Before flying into space, we did not have to deal with a change in gravity, so our body did not need to measure it and respond to a change in environment. But now that people are seriously planning flights to Mars and beyond, the effect of gravity on consciousness - and in particular, on decision making - is becoming a pressing problem.

The human vestibular apparatus contains otolith pebbles that float in a liquid, and, under the influence of gravity, tend to take a stable position relative to the Earth. If a person bends down, changes the position of the body, the otoliths move, and this generates a signal in the nervous system. But in zero gravity, they remain motionless, and this confuses our brain - which affects the moments of decision making.

In a simplified form, the body perceives the vertical position of the body as states of activity, and the horizontal position as rest. During a period of activity, the brain tends to look for new solutions, to be creative in solving any problems and to dare to gain new experiences by doing something for the first time. The mind at rest simply repeats routine, stereotyped decisions, which in many situations can be a mistake. In space, this is fraught with disaster.

In experiments at the Royal Holloway University of London, subjects were forced to solve creative problems by changing the position of their bodies. And it turned out that in the lying state people are more inclined to be lazy, to repeat the usual patterns, to ignore criticism and arguments than in the standing state. As long as cosmonauts are trained with the utmost zeal and the best of the best are sent to zero gravity, this factor is not acute. But in the future, when flights become massive, we will need to find a solution to this unusual problem.