Don’t Underestimate Your Brain

I know I did, I most certainly still do every damn day.  I take it for granted despite my efforts not to, and I have more reason than most not to do so.  I think it is impossible not to do so, but the effort not to is of great worth in itself.

Right this second your brain and mine are conducting millions of actions, most of which we are not at all aware of.  All adults know this at some level.  People consider this instinctual, as if that somehow bypasses the brain and just is.  We are breathing, digesting, purifying, eliminating, and growing new cells simultaneously all our lives.  Our heart beat drives us right up until it does not.  All of these things are being done by our brains while I am writing and you reading.

If you imagine your own mind as the computer window open; and what you are reading is what you are doing:  then realize that all of these brain functions are not just other tabs open on the browser, but large complex programs running on your brains task bar.  Like running 30 or so top end computer games or simulations all at once on your unit. That is what your not thinking about, but doing all the time.   This was all happening while Vincent was painting “Sunflowers” or Einstein was contemplating relativity, and when you are reading a blog or I am hugging my grandchild.

One aspect of our brains which is often overlooked is pattern recognition.  Pattern recognition is an evolved trait in our brains which allows us to see patterns in things which may or may not be there in an instant.  Our brains sees three or four points of reference and make an intuitive leap to judgement that the pattern is real, and we have an emotion accompanying this recognition.  In early human development such recognition was a lifesaver, thinking there was a face in the bushes made you leap to a conclusion of “TIGER” and grab you spear and holler, which increased the chances of the tribe surviving.  A false alarm was a pain, but no alarm was death.  We see this today in all kinds of things.  People see their favorite sports teams logo in clouds, or Jesus in a piece of toast, or collect potato chips shaped like movie stars.

Patter recognition also happens in life with repetition, this is why you so often see it in advertising.  If something is repeated often enough, it will no longer matter if it is correct, or right, or good, because it will soon become all you can remember.  This is how propaganda works to coerce a population to think in certain ways.  Plop Plop fizz fizz, and you probably know how it goes if your over 35, because you heard it a multitude of times in your youth.  I am sure you can think of many examples yourself.

Pattern recognition of this type is often present in a detrimental way in interpersonal relationships.  All it takes to form a negative pattern with another human is to repeat a negative action three times consecutively;  after that most people will expect a negative action from you.  To offset this effect you need to do 11 consecutive positive things to create a positive pattern recognition in those around you.  In this way if you are short with a waiter a mere three times because you had a bad day, it is quite feasible for them to conclude you are always short when you just had a bad day.  Might want to check your sandwich or avoid the Bearnaise sauce in such a case.

Another problem with pattern recognition is that we wind up as pattern filters, whether we intend to or not.  The act of living creates it in us.  If you get 100 people who witness an event and interview them, their stories will differ, often in dynamic ways.  Our brains routinely fill in the blanks for us, often faster than we can consciously think.  Studies show a full 25% of eyewitness testimony may be erroneous due to this , but we still hold eyewitness testimony as the best type of evidence as jurors.

The speed of our brains is also amazing.  Research recently has even shown that the very words I am writing now might not be my own conscious selection.  I am a stream of thought writer and often my thoughts are well ahead of where my feeble fingers pace lies.  Neuroscience has shown that it is far worse than that, that long before the neurons for my fingers fire the brain had long ago fired for my writing, perhaps before I even formed a thought itself.  I might not be writing at all, but merely transcribing for my brain.  Such research has people debating free will itself.

It is safe to say these things are not certain, we know about as much for certain about our brains as we know about the surface of Mars, which is to say both not much and not enough. We are also making great strides forward to learn more everyday, yet we still labor under many archaic ideas about our brains, like the 10% myth.  It is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain;  we use it all, just not all at once or consciously.

Intelligence is another thing we misunderstand about our brains.  Most people think of intelligence in the form of an IQ test, but that is a frail way to view intelligence.  Intelligence is normally defined  as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.  However the tests actually measure your book smarts, your knowledge of literature, math, history and science.  It ignores many other aspects of intelligence, like physical intelligence.

Chole Bruce is an excellent example of a human with very high physical intelligence.  Her capabilities in Martial Arts are world class, literally one in several million or more.  There is musical intelligence, now how many people just came to mind for you there?  How many phenomenal musicians with unparalleled skills can you think of?  None of these things are even touched upon in an IQ test, we do not measure them.  Spatial intelligence, Social Intelligence, Combat Intelligence (not the same as Military intelligence), and so on.

Consciousness itself is an as yet almost unexplored avenue of research.  Our best understandings are as yet rather infantile.  Recent experiments with magnetic fields on consciousnesses have produced very interesting results.  Mild variations in the fields affect the  brain and can produce all kinds of mental states often attributed only to the divine, spiritual or mystical.  The case is still out, but the information is interesting.

Memory is another aspect of our brains not often considered.  People view their own memories like a film or photo album when the memory is a lot more like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces missing and quite a few your brain made to fill in the blanks.  It all seems perfectly normal and real to us;  right up until you get a dozen people recalling a past event, then the arguments start over “that’s not how it happened”.  In cases of trauma this aspect can be exponentially greater and actual false memories are a very real possibility.  All memories are reconstructions of the bits our brains stored.  That is why actual precise memorization takes effort for most folks.

Emotive states are another aspect of the brain which most people do not fully appreciate.  I love my grandson, to me this is palpable, it is so real a feeling it is indisputable to me.  It is entirely subjective however, I cannot take love out and hand it to you to prove love.  I can show you my Grandson and my feelings for him will be self evident in our interactions.

In this same fashion people often have very strong emotions about God and spiritual matters. These feelings do not prove God anymore than my love of my grandson proves love.  Since one cannot show God to prove the interaction as I can my grandson,  it is possible it is simply a feeling they have.  For many people of faith this simple concept feels humiliating, as if they are being duped by their own brains.  We all are,  in some way shape or form.

Such things are actually quite common, kids love Santa, adults have strong emotional attachments to fictional characters in films and books, people routinely cry over sad advertisements of abused animals or children they do not know at all.  It is the empathetic response.   All of this proves exactly how emotive and empathetic our brains can be because emotions can convey complex concepts without conscious thought.

A emotion can have a great benefit to survival, by the power of it a person will rise to overcome a lethal event to save another.  A father leaping in front of a train to save their son, a mother fighting off a villain for her children at the cost of her own life, or a soldier sacrificing themselves to save  their “brothers”.

My life has taught me that my memories are just that, memories.  They are not facts although they feel like that to me.  Others who went through the very same events might have very different memories of them.  They are my recollections.  Life has taught me that my feelings arise from complex issues, not just the event which unveils them.  Although they feel real, they are simply emotive states, in this way my children and grandchildren cannot truly feel my love for them.  I need to show it both in word and deed.

My fall taught me that the brain I have always relied upon may not always be there, not as it was.  It taught me that you can be both up and about and apparently fully conscious yet not really conscious at all, and have no recollections of what you did.  It taught me that things that had once been simple could become impossible or so difficult you avoid them like plague. Realize I suffered a minor brain injury, mild edema or swelling on the brain, not worth surgical risk vectors.

Look at all the things above, autonomic systems, pattern recognition, forms of intelligence, memories, emotions, and consciousness; and realize they are all a part of what you call you.  All happening right now in your very own brain.  Even any idea you have of the divine also resides in your brain, without it you could not conceive of God itself.  So do not take your brain for granted, and don’t ever underestimate your brain.

D.N.B.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Underestimate Your Brain

  1. ==The speed of our brains is also amazing. Research recently has even shown that the very words I am writing now might not be my own conscious selection. I am a stream of thought writer and often my thoughts are well ahead of where my feeble fingers pace lies. Neuroscience has shown that it is far worse than that, that long before the neurons for my fingers fire the brain had long ago fired for my writing, perhaps before I even formed a thought itself. I might not be writing at all, but merely transcribing for my brain. Such research has people debating free will itself.==

    When you use the words ‘before I even formed a thought’ implies that your thinking _only_ happens in the conscious mind. You remember things and usually don’t have to do any conscious effort to recall them, they just appear in your conscious mind. How do you think that happens? However you end up defining what a single thought is, most of them happen outside of your conscious experience of them. Some of what you called pattern recognition is actually subconscious thinking. When you walk through someone’s house you recognize a chair as a chair but this never enters your conscious thoughts – exactly because the thinking was done subconsciously.

    All that subconscious activity happens then some result or conclusion or pattern gets pushed to the conscious mind and we suddenly think we want to do something or say something. If we were consciously aware of all the thoughts that we have to have in a day it would drive us insane. When you meet someone and you think to yourself they aren’t quite right somehow but you’re not sure why – that was your subconscious thinking doing all the hard work and letting you know that something is wrong with the person in some way that is not quickly articulated

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Patter recognition is itself a subconscious process, one of many. Like our vision actually being distorted as hell by vein structure which we never consciously see because our subconscious brain activity “corrects” the visual model we see.

      I was trying to illustrate that separation for the reader not so familiar to looking at their brain’s functions.

      Like

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