Brain Efficiency (part 1)

Posted: January 28, 2012 in psychology
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This series of blogs will explain a number of otherwise puzzling human behaviors.  So if that interests you, hang in there for each part.

PART 1: Our brains are efficiency experts, at least in their own operation.  The brain uses a lot of the energy we need each day to survive, so it needs to operate as efficiently as it can.  Over time, it has developed a clever means to accomplish this:  It makes models of the external world that reduce its need to discover what to do every time it gets a bunch of signals from our senses.  If it makes a good model, then it can tell what is happening without having to analyze all sensory input all the time.  In fact, it is not very good at multitasking that requires attention to multiple external stimuli.

A Story: A few years ago I decided to grow a beard.  A colleague of mine in a different department also independently decided to grow a beard.  Some months later, I shaved my beard off.  When I went to work, very few people made a comment as though they did not notice.  That was surprising to me, so the next time I had lunch with my colleague, I was commenting on this experience of people not noticing I had shaved my beard.  He said, “me too.  No one noticed me either.”  at which point and not before I noticed he had also shaved his beard.  How do you account for my experiences in this true story?

Here is my explanation.  People knew me before I grew a beard and during that time, they created visual models of what I looked like as I also did with my colleague.  Then, when we grew beards, people had to create another model of our appearance which they did.  After the initial multiple comments from people about the new beard, things settled down to normal.  However, when I shaved my beard, I reappeared to people as the model they already had built and in fact, they did not realize how their brains just switched back automatically, so much so, they did not in this case notice the switch.  The same thing happened to me when I had lunch with my colleague.

There is a lot more to this model building idea than I can expound on in this one blog, so I will save further comments for later blogs.  (Link to Part 2)

  1. […] Mess Up Posted on February 10, 2012 In a previous blog series, I outline my take on the Brain as a Model Builder.  It outlines how the brain contains models based on our experiences fed by sensory input.  It […]

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