I recently finished an online Neuroscience Course and have read about 9 books on the brain, neuroscience, why we believe what we believe, weird sociological behaviors, and consciousness. It was a bit weird because I sensed my brain understanding more about how it worked… and I kept wondering who the “I” was that was noticing what it’s brain was learning. Strange huh?
If you are like most people the Reading Test above was pretty easy as long as you just kind of skimmed over it and read like you normally do…which is to absorb the word without thinking about the letters. Many of you read the whole paragraph just as fast as you would have if the words been spelled correctly. The more I learn about the brain the more fascinating I find the human in general. We read that paragraph easily because we basically saw the first and last letters and
and filled in the the rest with whatever our brain decided should be there. Some of you just read the last sentence without noticing that the word “and” was used twice in a row and the word “the” was doubled up as well.
Many of you have done this experiment before but try it again just for kicks.
Just read it one time and count one time. No Cheating.
How many f’s are in the following sentence?
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE-
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIF-
IC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.
In case you need to know, there are 6 of them. A vast majority of people don’t get the answer right.
We see what our brain has programmed us to see. We remember only parts of what we think we remember. Our memories are being formed in different places in our brains where there are little neurons firing making up things that fill in the blanks, thereby creating false memories. We believe what we have been taught to believe, and it’s really hard to change those beliefs, especially if we have had them for a long time. This is true even when we are face to face with a reality that shows for certain that our belief is incorrect. When Galileo looked through his telescope and discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe and that our planet actually revolved around the sun, no one would believe him. Great scientists with great minds would come and look through his telescope and come to the conclusion that the instrument evidently worked fine when looking horizontally at objects in the distance but somehow malfunctioned when looking up into the sky.
Their sacred beliefs about how the universe was set up could not be challenged in their minds no matter how clear the evidence was. It took 300 years for people to finally accept what Galileo so clearly could prove. They even put him under arrest, knowing he was brilliant, and made him say that he was wrong.
Upton Sinclair once wrote “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it”
Sometimes our brain decides on its own(seemingly) that it won’t believe, or can’t comprehend something because somewhere down in our subconscious we feel like we have too much to lose if we “change our minds”. Galileo’s friends had too much to lose to comprehend what was so easy to see.
So why would I write about that? We do have the ability to re-think. We have the knowledge that we actually do fill in blanks in our minds and memories with things that just aren’t true. I think we should think more about how we think and what we think. I think we should be more open to other people’s thoughts and recognize that maybe we don’t “know” what we think we know.
I have two friends who were at an event together a while back. They got into a discussion about a book that is quite controversial. One of them had a strong belief about that book and how “off base” and dangerous it was. The fascinating thing was that he had not even read the book himself. His pastor had told him what it said, and why he shouldn’t read it, and why it was wrong.
Life is too darn fascinating for us to allow someone else to do our thinking for us. Heck, our brains are filling in gaps for us all the time with untruths about things we think we read or saw or experienced with our own senses.
Let’s just keep on reading and listening, and looking and learning…and therefore evolving and changing. We need to give ourselves the opportunity to fill in the gaps with the truth. And the truth is often not easy to decipher. As Fox Mulder would say, “the truth is out there”. And I believe it can set you free.