What is RAS (Reticular Activating System)?

What is RAS (Reticular Activating System)?

Jun 20, 2018

When I first got pregnant, I felt that there were a lot of pregnant women who were going to give birth around the same time as my due date. When we finally had our third son, I noticed a lot of moms who also had three sons, and almost all of them were successful! 🙂

The reality is, there had always been a lot of pregnant women giving birth year after year, month after month, and there had always been a number of moms with no daughters but three sons. It was just that I didn’t notice them. Why? Because pregnant women and moms with three sons were not yet welcomed by my RAS.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is that part of our brain that filters the data around us. There are millions of information bits that we are exposed to each day, but our brain can only process so much at a time. And that is why we have this RAS. It prevents our brain from blowing up! It is our natural mechanism to just allow those that are important to us.

Who/What determines what is important? It is what we focus on at the moment that determines what’s important and this is the basis of our RAS in allowing the information to come in to our system.

At the time I was pregnant, it was the most important thing for me and my husband and we both noticed the women getting pregnant in our midst. When we finally decided that three boys would be fine with us, we became aware of the families with three sons and saw how fun it would be to have three sons in our family.


Goal Setting helps our RAS

I am a believer in writing down goals. We have been doing this as a family tradition for a number of years now. Every yearend we would go to a place we have not been to together as a family and allot one half day during that vacation to discuss our goals – how we fared in accomplishing our goals for the year, and setting our goals for the coming year. (Click links 1 and 2 to read more about this.)

Studies show that writing down your specific goals increases your success rate significantly. The more explicit we are with what we want to achieve, the clearer it is for our RAS to allow the relevant and important information to come in. And if we share this goal-setting activity with our family, each family member’s RAS is also guided by what is important to the other family members. I love it when the boys share with each other information – be it a book, an article, or an experience – that may be of interest to the other family members in fulfilling declared goals.

I think this is the explanation of The Secret’s law of attraction. Some love the message while others consider it too simplistic or downright hoax. Suffice it to say that yes, it is not a matter of just saying the mantra “I will be rich” and then we become rich without doing anything. If we look deeper into the basis of the law of attraction, it is the act of focusing on what we want that activates our RAS to be more aware of what is around us that we can use to achieve our goals.

The spiritual belief of abundance, “Everything I need, I already have” is also another perspective of the function of our RAS. It is a matter of knowing what to focus on and switching our RAS to welcome the information and available resources that we can use to become wealthy.


The flipside of RAS

We should also be aware of the flipside of RAS. It is what we call in Behavioral Economics as Confirmation or Confirmatory Bias. It is our human tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. If we allow this to rule our reasoning all the time, we are prone to becoming closed-minded, automatically dismissing the alternative beliefs as wrong. This may lead to irrational and erroneous decision-making, and also useless arguments. We see this happening all the time especially when it comes to emotionally charged topics such as religion, politics, sex, and money! So the next time you catch yourself getting into a useless debate, pause, step back and check if your RAS is doing you a disservice.

This reminds me of one of the favorite lines my sons learned from a story during a party at home. Person A was strongly defending his belief. Person B had an opposite view and started defending her stand. Persons A and B got into a heated debate that went around in circles until the other guests started to feel awkward. Then here comes Person C who sided with Person B but just calmly said to Person A, “You know, you may be right!” And that ended the debate.

Up to this day, the boys would tell us stories where they too, used that line to end useless arguments, “You know, you may be right.” And usually, they end up “winning” in the situation.


What now?

Knowing what you know now about our inherent filtering system called Reticular Activating System or RAS, I hope you can tame it so that it will help you achieve your goals, and also allow you to step back and become more open-minded. wallet-icon





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Rose Fres Fausto is a speaker and author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions). Click this link to read samples – Books of FQ Mom. She is a Behavioral Economist, Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards. Follow her on Facebook & YouTube as FQ Mom, and Twitter & Instagram as theFQMom. Her latest book is FQ: The nth Intelligence.



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