Find out why we are never objective and what are the underlying causes of many of our actions.
The capacity of the brain is enormous, but most of them remain a mystery to us. Our consciousness is like the tip of an iceberg, and the rest, the subconscious part, is hidden under water. And it is extremely difficult to penetrate there, if at all possible. David Eagleman in his book “Incognito. The Secret Life of the Mind “mentioned several reasons why we should not trust our brains.
1. Most of our actions, thoughts and feelings are not under our conscious control
The human brain is a very complex device. The huge interweaving of neurons – the real jungle – work in accordance with their programs. We know that in the morning we must wake up early to have time to work. Wash, have breakfast, dress and give time for the journey.
But this conscious activity is only a tiny part of what actually happens in our brain. He, according to Eagleman, lives by his own laws, and we are fairly dependent on him, but we do not command him. Not every decision or thought that comes to our mind appears there by our will.
In a recent experiment, men were asked to evaluate the attractiveness of female faces in different photographs. Pictures were the same format and depicted face full-face or three-quarters. Men did not know that half of the pictures of the women’s eyes were wider and looked bigger. And all the participants in the experiment unanimously recognized the larger-eyed women as the most attractive. They could not explain their preferences, just as they failed to notice the peculiarity of the eyes.
So who made this choice for them? Somewhere in the depths of the brain of a man, information is stored that the woman’s wide-open eyes talk about sexual arousal.
Those who participated in the study did not know about this. They did not even know that their ideas of beauty and attractiveness are deeply and firmly connected with the programs of natural selection formed by our brain over millions of years. When the subjects selected the most attractive women, they did not know that they did not make the choice, but the neurons of their brains, storing the experience of hundreds of thousands of generations.
2. The brain is responsible for the collection of information and takes the steering in addition to our will
Much of our life consciousness does not participate in decision-making, no matter how much we want to believe in it. Rather, the degree of his participation is very small, says Eagleman. Our brain works mostly on autopilot. And the conscious mind has almost no access to the subconscious – a powerful and mysterious structure, the possibilities of which have so little been studied so far.
Especially often this is manifested during road traffic when we have time to break in time or sharply to the side to avoid collision with another machine: our consciousness simply does not have enough time to analyze the situation.
Similarly, you find someone attractive, but you can not explain to yourself why he or she is so good. And despite this, you make a choice that lies outside the logic. This does not mean that it is bad. It only means that you do not make a decision.
In each country, there are factories, factories, communication lines, large enterprises. Products are constantly shipped, electricity, sewerage, courts operate and deals are concluded. Everyone is busy with their own business: teachers teach, athletes compete, drivers take their passengers.
Perhaps, someone wants to know what is happening in the country at a particular moment, but people are not able to take all the information at once. We need a brief summary: not the details, but the essence. To do this, we buy a newspaper or watch a summary of news on the Internet.
Our consciousness is a newspaper. The neurons of the brain work continuously, decisions are made every second, and we have no idea about many of them.
By the time, as in our minds flashed a thought, all the important actions in the brain have already occurred.
Consciousness sees the scene but has no idea what is happening behind the scenes, what stormy work is boiling there day and night. Sometimes it seems that the idea suddenly dawned on us. In fact, nothing sudden is in this: the neurons of our brain have long been treating it for several days, months or even years before giving you an idea in a form convenient for perception. Many geniuses guessed this.
3. In a sense, all that we see is an illusion
Visual illusions serve as a kind of window in the brain. The very word “illusions”, says Eagleman, has a rather wide meaning, since everything we see is somewhat illusory, like a view through the matte glass door of the shower. Our central vision is focused on what is in focus.
Eagleman offers the reader to conduct an experiment: to take in hand several colored markers or pencils, to look at them, and then to look at the tip of the nose and try to name the order of objects in the hand.
Even if you can determine the peripheral vision of the colors themselves, you will not be able to accurately determine their order. Our peripheral vision is very weak since the brain uses eye muscles to direct the central vision of high resolution directly to what we are interested in at a particular moment.
Central vision gives us the illusion that the entire visual world is in focus, but in fact it is not at all. We do not realize the boundaries of our field of vision.
This feature is well known not only to neurologists but also to many magicians, magicians and illusionists. By directing our attention in the right direction, they can deftly manipulate it. They know that our brain processes only small pieces of the visual scene, and not everything that comes into view.
This explains the huge number of accidents in which drivers knock pedestrians right in front of their own nose, collide with other cars and even with trains literally on the level ground. Their eyes are looking in the right direction, but the brain does not see the necessary details. A vision is more than just a glance.
4. The brain does not need a complete model of the world, it simply needs to find out on the fly, where to look and when
If you are in a cafe, then your brain, according to Eagleman, should not encode all the details of the situation in the smallest detail. He only knows how and where to look for what is needed at the moment. Our internal model has an idea of who is on the right and left, where the wall is and what is on the table.
If there is a sugar bowl and you will be asked how many pieces of sugar are left in it, your visual systems will learn the details and add new data to the internal model. Despite the fact that the sugar bowl was always in sight, the brain did not notice any details until it did additional work, adding a few more points to the overall picture.
In fact, we practically do not realize anything until we ask ourselves about it.
Does the left foot feel comfortable in the new shoe? Does the conditioner blow in the background?
We do not suspect the details until they draw our attention. Our perception of the world is inaccurate: we think that we see the full picture, but in fact, we catch only what we need to know, and no more.
5. The visual system is formed by different brain modules, independent of each other
Part of the brain, called the visual cortex, forms a complex system of cells and neural circuits. Some of them specialize in color, others in motion recognition and a variety of different tasks. These chains are closely interrelated. They send us impulses – something like newspaper headlines, says Eagleman. The headline reports that there is a bus or that someone is trying to attract our attention, flirting with us.
The vision can be broken down into separate parts. If you look at the waterfall for a few minutes and then look at fixed objects, like rocks, we can see that they are creeping up. Although we understand that they can not move.
Usually, the neurons with the up-ward signaling are balanced in connection with the neurons with the lowering signaling. This imbalance of motion detectors allows you to see the impossible: motion without changing the position.
Aristotle also studied the illusion at the waterfall. This example proves that vision is the product of various modules: some parts of the visual system insist (wrongly) that the rocks move, others – on the fact that they are immobile.
6. The emotional and rational systems compete in the brain
The rational system is responsible for analyzing external events, emotional – for the internal state. Between them, there is a continuous struggle.
This is well illustrated by the philosophical problem of the trolley, quoted by Eagleman. A trolley rushes along the tracks. She was about to break into a group of repairmen. But next to it there is a switch that will direct the trolley along a different path. The trouble is that there is also a worker there, but only one. What should I choose? Kill five people or one? Most people are ready to use the switch because the death of one is still better than the death of five?
And if you do not need to click the switch, and personally push the thick man’s bridge to stop the trolley or knock it off the road? In this case, the majority refuses to drop the person from the bridge. But in fact quantitatively nothing has changed: the same one sacrificed for the sake of five. However, there is a difference.
In the first case with a switch, a very bad situation reduces to less bad. In the case of a man on a bridge, he is used as a means of achieving the goal, and this causes outrage. There is another interpretation: in the case of a switch, there is no direct effect on a person, contact him. Touch activates the emotional system, transforms the abstract task into a personal emotional decision.
Emotional and rational systems should be balanced, none of them should prevail over another.
The ancient Greeks had an analogy for life: you are a charioteer, driving a chariot with two horses: a white horse of wisdom and a black horse of passion. Horses pull each in their direction, and the task of the charioteer is to keep them under control so as not to lose control and move on.
7. Emotional and rational systems compete for our long-term and short-term desires
We all go through some temptations, momentary pleasures that can turn into unpredictable consequences. The emotional system advises succumbing to temptation, the rational tries to hold back. A virtuous person is not one who does not succumb to temptation, but one who can resist it. Such people are few because it is easy to obey the impulses and it is very difficult to ignore them.
More Freud noted that logical arguments are powerless over human passions and desires. Part of this is able to cope with religion, when it struggles with emotional outbursts, appealing to feelings, and not to logic. But not all people are religious, and even believers are not always able to resist the temptation.
Our behavior is the final result of the battle between the two systems.
But this is not a battle to the death between two enemies, but rather an eternal dispute in which they are able to negotiate with each other. These are preliminary instructions made by a person in one condition, suggesting that he may be in another.
So, to overcome alcohol dependence, a person trying to stop drinking, in advance, cares about that in the house there was not a drop of alcohol. Otherwise, the temptation will be too great. So his rational system makes a deal with the emotional.
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