By Robin Marie on June 22, 2012
There’s a fun little story up at The Times on the imperfections of perception and memory, due to our brains being, alas, less than mere receivers of reality.
It looks at phenomena that most readers are probably familiar with – the power of misdirection, the unreliability of our senses. However I never get tired of reading about these aspects of neuroscience — it seems fundamentally important to me that one always remember that not only are you your brain, but your brain is quite the trickster.
A lot of people know and understand this but do not necessarily apply it in everyday life. For example, how many times have you gotten into a huge argument with a friend about the particulars of certain events that took place maybe days, maybe years ago? Most of us insist our memory of the events are correct. But this is usually a mistaken confidence. More of us should probably, much of the time, really question how our accurately our brain has recorded these occurrences, notorious as it is for rearranging details to fit the narratives we like to tell ourselves.
I personally enjoy questioning my memories — especially my childhood ones — and wondering what was real, and what as been created in post-production. I suppose for some people meditating on this can make them uneasy — knowing that our memories and senses are not entirely reliable can disturb one’s sense of control and understanding. However, I like to look at my cognitive mistakes as another chance to get to know myself — what is my mischievous brain up to now, and what can I learn about my thoroughly human condition from its shenanigans and mistakes? Once you let go of the idea that “you” are completely in control, living with the fact that you are your brain and, moreover, you’re not always in the driver’s seat, instills not so much terror as intense curiosity. We’re all along for the ride, and we’re all unique, so go ahead and get to know your brain — which is to say, go ahead and get to know yourself.