isomd

Our brain is smart | April 28, 2010

Our brain is extremely slow. Can’t process as much information as you think you can. No, there isn’t a contradiction between the first sentence and the title. Our brain is very slow, but very smart at the same time, in fact, because how it handles its disabilities shows how smart the brain is.

Our brain cannot process all the information we take in. For example, we cannot take in every single little color and every single little sound. Because the number of that we take in is so large, our brain cannot process it. But our brain takes shortcuts.

Let me further explain. Your brain sees everything, and sees them again, but they are never seen in the same light or at the same exact angle, ever. Same with sounds too. So your brain “matches” to things in the long-term memory. And does a kind of database search, similar to the fingerprint matches on CSI, how it scrolls through all the possible matches until it finds something similar.

This makes your brain label everything it sees in comparison to things already seen in the past. This shortcut makes you generalize things. But it’s a very useful shortcut that puts things in categories and saves memory space. Puts it in a mental “File cabinet” with all the other things it’s similar too. And also gives it “tags” for search purposes so when something triggers a certain thought, your brain goes through everything that matches. It keeps every foreign thing from being unknown. We naturally cannot be content with the unknown, so our brain caters to that fear and labels everything.

The journey from our eyes to our brain is a far one. Our brain cannot possibly process and mange all the colors and sights we see every second. And to process it in milliseconds like we do. Also, if we were to just take it for exactly what it were instead of relating it to other objects seen in the past, we would only recognize them as lines and nothing more. But this isn’t so. We do recognize and/or label everything we see. But also, we do not take in everything and process everything. We process a fraction of it. Pieces that give it a kind of outline, just enough information is gathered so you recognize and can match it to something in your database of information. This is a shortcut. Saves a lot of time and it makes everything easier to grasp and comprehend. You never know exactly how many leaves are on a tree or how many raindrops are on a window in the rain. Your brain doesn’t take every speck of information, it takes only the main parts to analyze. When you see a tree, you just see the large amount of leaves(or lack thereof), and then classify it as a big or small tree. Same with color. The brain does not take in every single shade of color, just the general description of it.

When seeing things, the brain classifies and labels to relate and identify. The same also applies to hearing. Not every wave is the same length and taken at the same frequency, and size, and angle. All these factors distort what you hear, so your brain relates it, and takes parts of it, and matches to what they hear. A good example is that voices are never the same, but you can recognize if a southern person says “automobile” or if a New Yorker says “automobile”. It all goes through the brain and processes as taking the main parts of the sound and analyzing it. And when hearing sentences too, the brain matches whole sentences and the context to what they know in order to understand better, which makes comprehension easier.

One example of how our brain uses shortcuts is shown in a WordPress article I’ve seen today, it’s here: http://voicingouropinions.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/only-great-minds-can-read%c2%a0this/

Now onto the bad parts of these shortcuts. With sight, we generalize, and to make it easier. But also, we don’t collect all the information, and with what we match it to, we fill in the blank spaces we didn’t pick up. Just like you can’t count the leaves in a tree from memory, even though the tree may be very vivid, it’s because we add those leaves, and since they are fake, we don’t let ourselves pay attention to the leaves so we cannot count them, they are in a way, blurred by our minds even though they look very vivid. But if we see something with a more exact quantity, but didn’t pay attention to the quantity, such as coins on a table, we may fabricate the number and it may not be accurate, but even then, it’s a little more harder to count. When it comes to people, the reason why we do a “double-take”, and see something that resembles something, and we could be so sure that it was whatever you thought, maybe an old friend, it’s because our brain fills in the blanks. Only when we get a good look at someone, do we recognize who or what they are.

We generalize, this process isn’t restricted to our brain’s subconscious workings like I showed in the above paragraph. We also do it consciously, and this leads to disputes and the creation of phrases like “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, etc. I hope I don’t need to explain how stereotyping is wrong, it’ll save me a little ink and you time because you won’t have to read my overly long paragraphs.

Here is a bad example of how our brain uses a shortcut to get out of things, it’s also a classic word puzzle. Read it once through, don’t go slow, read it as if any other sentence, and count the f’s along the way, and then don’t read it again until you know the answer which is in the next paragraph: “Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of years.” How many f’s are in the sentence?

If you have seen this puzzle before, you probably felt smart that you knew, but every time from what I know nobody gets it the first time(unless you stare at each individual letter or went to a similar extreme). It is because your brain processes the word “of” as “ov”, so your brain naturally passes over the letter. The actual number of f’s is six. So, the brain is slow, but in being slow, the best is shown as it didn’t settle with being slow, it used what it had and now is very proficient in its duties.

     Which is how we should be. We, as a culture, should not be alright with mediocre. Being smart isn’t about what you know, it’s about how you handle what you have, how you use knowledge, not how you store it. Same with us. It’s not about complaining about what we don’t have, but doing the best with what we have, and we shouldn’t be happy with less than what we can do. We shouldn’t be happy with being given and being heir to things. We shouldn’t be happy being given what we don’t work for, or settling for what we’re given or told what our limitations keep us from doing. We should strive for something higher. We have become complacent, that’s just not right. We are not great for having it all, we are great for doing great things.

     In comic books, if the struggle were against all-powerful heroes against people who aren’t as powerful that make superheroes great, it’s the lack of power and overcoming their disadvantages that make them great. They are heroes because they realize what they can’t do but then still save the world in spite of that, or in the face of a greater evil power. The lack of power creates a doubt if they can accomplish the herculean task before them, and how they face it, that makes the stories suspenseful, and in the end, gives the reader a better story. We always dream of being heroes because of the power they have, but in reality, it’s not the power that makes them great, but the accomplishments in spite of not being as powerful that make them great.

     It’s the David and Goliath complex. We dream of being Goliath, but he had won, it wouldn’t have mattered, because he was the one with power, who was expected to win, but it’s the David’s that we really are, that we should really want to be. We need can’t lose sight of our shortcomings, but we shouldn’t focus on them, they hold us back. They make us feel like it’s alright to be less than what we can be, who we were meant to be. We should want to be greater, and we naturally have this negative attitude making us less than what we can. Don’t settle for ok. Be versatile. Be creative. Be smart. Utilize what’s in front of you. What we are is wasted potential. But we were never meant to be that. So much potential out there, but we are less because we fail to use it. Mediocre shouldn’t be in our vocabulary.

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