7 reasons not to trust your brain

Figure out why we are never objective and what causes 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 possible. David Eagleman mentioned in his book "Incognito: The Secret Life of the Spirit" several reasons why we should not trust our brains.

1. Most of our actions, thoughts and feelings are not subject to our conscious control

The human brain is a very complex device. The huge interconnectedness of neurons - the real jungle - works in accordance with their programs. We know that we have to get up early in the morning to have time for work. Wash, have breakfast, get dressed and give time for the trip.

But this conscious activity is only a small part of what actually happens in our brain. He lives by Eagleman according to his own laws, and we are quite dependent on him, but we do not order him. Not every decision or thought that comes to mind appears there through our will.

In a recent experiment, men were asked to rate the attractiveness of female faces in various photographs. Pictures were the same format and presented face full screen or three quarters. Men did not know that half the images of women's eyes looked wider and bigger. And all participants of the experiment unanimously recognized the women with the bigger eyes as the most attractive. They could not explain their preferences just as they did not notice the peculiarity of the eyes.

Who made this choice for her? Somewhere in the depths of a man's brain, information is stored that the woman's wide-open eyes are talking about sexual arousal.

Those who participated in the study did not know about it. They did not even know that their notions of beauty and attractiveness are deeply and firmly linked to the programs of natural selection that our brains have formed over millions of years. When the subjects selected the most attractive women, they did not know that they had not made the choice, but the neurons of their brains that stored the experience of hundreds of thousands of generations.

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2. The brain is responsible for gathering information and taking control in addition to our will

Much of our awareness of life does not participate in decision-making, no matter how much we believe in it. Rather, the degree of his involvement is very low, says Eagleman. Our brain works mainly with autopilots. And the consciousness has almost no access to the subconscious - a powerful and mysterious structure whose possibilities have so far been little explored.

This often manifests itself in traffic when we have time to slow down in time or sharply sidestep to avoid collision with another machine: our consciousness just does not have enough time to analyze the situation.

Likewise, you find someone attractive, but you can not explain why he or she is so good. And yet you make a choice that is out of logic. That does not mean that it is bad. It just means that you do not make a decision.

In every country there are factories, factories, communication lines, big companies. Products are constantly shipped, electricity, drains, courts operated and shops completed. Everyone is busy with their own business: teachers teach, athletes compete, drivers take their passengers with them.

Maybe someone would like to know what happens in the country at a certain moment, but people can not absorb all the information at once. We need a short summary: not the details, but the essence. To do this, we buy a newspaper or look at 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 a thought flashed in our heads, all the important actions in the brain have already occurred.

Consciousness sees the scene, but has no idea what's going on behind the scenes, which stormy work there cooks day and night. Sometimes it seems that the idea dawned on us. In fact, nothing is suddenly in this: the neurons of our brain have been treating it for several days, months or even years before you give an idea in a convenient form for the perception. Many geniuses have guessed that.

3. In a sense, everything we see is an illusion

Visual illusions serve as a kind of window in the brain. The word "illusions," Eagleman says, has a pretty broad meaning, since everything we see is a bit illusory, like a look through the glass door's matte glass door. Our central vision focuses on what is in focus.

Eagleman offers the reader to do an experiment: pick up several colored markers or pencils, look at them and then look at the tip of the nose and try to name the order of the objects in the hand.

Even if you can determine the peripheral view of the colors yourself, you will not be able to pinpoint their order. Our peripheral vision is very weak because the brain uses the eye muscles to direct the central, high-resolution vision directly onto what we are currently interested in.

    The 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 recognize the limitations of our field of vision.

This property is known not only to neurologists, but also to many magicians, magicians and illusionists. By directing our attention in the right direction, they can cleverly manipulate them. They know that our brain processes only small parts of the visual scene and not everything that becomes visible.

This explains the multitude of accidents in which motorists encounter pedestrians right in front of them, collide with other cars, and even literally collide with trains on level ground. Her eyes are looking in the right direction, but the brain does not see the necessary details. A vision is more than just a look.

4. The brain does not need a complete model of the world, it simply has to find out where and when

If you're in a cafe, your brain should not encode every detail of the situation down to the last detail, Eagleman says. He only knows how and where to look for what is needed right now. Our internal model has an idea of ​​who's right and left, where the wall is and what's on the table.

If there is a sugar bowl and you are asked how many pieces of sugar it contains, 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 before doing extra work and added a few more points to the overall picture.

    In fact, we realize practically nothing until we ask ourselves.

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 grab our attention. Our perception of the world is inaccurate: we think we see the big picture, but in fact we only capture what we need to know and nothing more.

5. The visual system is made up of several independent brain modules

A part of the brain called the visual cortex forms a complex system of cells and neuronal circuits. Some of them specialize in color, others in motion detection and a variety of different tasks. These chains are closely linked. They send us impulses - something like headlines, says Eagleman. The headline reports that there is a bus or that someone is trying to grab our attention by flirting with us.

The vision can be broken down into individual parts. If you look at the waterfall for a few minutes and then look at solid objects like rocks, we can see that they are sneaking. Although we understand that they can not move.

Usually the neurons are balanced with the upward signaling in connection with the neurons with the degrading signaling. This imbalance of motion detectors allows you to recognize the impossible: movement without changing position.

Aristotle also studied the illusion at the waterfall. This example proves that seeing is the product of different modules: some parts of the visual system (mistakenly) insist that the stones move, others are immovable.

6. The emotional and rational systems compete in the brain

The rational system is responsible for the analysis of external events, emotional - for the internal state. There is a constant struggle between them.

This is well illustrated by the philosophical problem of the car, cited by Eagleman. A trolley hurries along the tracks. She was about to enter a group of repairers. But next to it there is a switch that puts the car on a different path. The problem is that there is one worker, but only one. What should I choose? Kill five or one human? Most people are ready to use the counter, because the death of one is even better than the death of five?

And if you do not have to click on the switch and personally push the fat man's bridge to stop the trolley or hit her off the street? In this case, the majority refuses to drop the person off the bridge. But quantitatively, nothing has changed: the same thing that was sacrificed for the sake of the Five. There is, however, a difference.

In the first case with a switch, a very bad situation is reduced to less bad. In the case of a man on a bridge, he is used as a means to reach 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 with him. Touch activates the emotional system, transforming the abstract task into a personal emotional decision.

    Emotional and rational systems should be balanced, none should prevail over the other.

The ancient Greeks had an analogy for life: they are a charioteer driving a chariot with two horses: a white horse of wisdom and a black horse of passion. Horses pull everyone 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 the temptation to succumb, the rational tries to hold back. A virtuous person is not someone who does not succumb to temptation, but someone who can resist it. Such people are few because it is easy to obey the impulses and it is very difficult to ignore them.
Freud also noted that logical arguments against human passions and desires are powerless. Part of it is able to cope with religion when it struggles with emotional outbursts, addresses emotions and not with logic. But not all people are religious, and even believers can not always resist the temptation.
    Our behavior is the end result of the struggle between the two systems.

But this is not a fight between two enemies, but an eternal dispute in which they can negotiate with each other. These are tentative instructions that are made by one person in a state that suggests that they are in a different state.
So, to overcome alcohol addiction, a person trying to stop drinking in advance cares about it, in the house there was no drop of alcohol. Otherwise the temptation will be too big. His rational system makes a deal with the emotional.
Review of the book by David Eagleman "Incognito: Secret Life of Mind" prepared by the service team of key ideas of literature on business and self-development MakeRight.ru. More than 330 materials in the library, 140 audio versions, key ideas from bestsellers not yet published in Russian.

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