Your mind plays trick on you, mind games. The human brain was slowly developed over many millenia in situations that were very different from anything modern people experience. This leads our brains to do funny things, leaving us confused and frustrated.
Modern neuroscientists and psychologists are doing great experimental work into the functioning of the brain. They’ve put forth some funny and very interesting ideas about what and why our brains do what they do.
Your Brain Sees What It Wants to See
Web designers have known this one for a while now. The brain bases its perceptions on previous perceptions. In web design, user experience experts like Jakob Nielsen advise that site builders base their pages on pages that look like the ones people are used to seeing.
This is because your brain likes to be a little lazy. The more new things it sees, the more your brain has to work. By making your vision line up with things it has already seen, your brain saves itself stress and hard work.
Magicians and other tricksters also understand this stuff. Magic tricks fool your brain into seeing things it expects to see; this helps bring the illusion that audiences get such a kick out of.
Your Brain Saves Energy By Automating Its Responses
This one can get dangerous. Much as the brain tries to save itself effort by seeing that it wants to see, your brain also likes to save itself energy by automating its efforts. Here’s how it works. When you learn new tasks, your brain spends a lot of effort doing them. The more you get used to the task, the less energy your brain needs to spend.
This can be a very good thing. It’s why you don’t need to relearn to drive your car every time you hit the highway. You’ve done it before, so you don’t need to panic. It just sort of happens. Nicholas Carr has written extensively of the way that relying on machines can ruin your mental automation. This prevents experts like airline pilots from adapting to new situations, leading to some scary results.
This can also be a bad thing. When you get too used to familiar tasks, you get lazy. Your brain doesn’t want to experience new things, so it uses its old patterns. This is where we get the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Your Brain’s Flexibility Changes Throughout Your Life
Brains change as your age. When you exercise your brain, you build up its flexibility. Neuroscientists calls this flexibility neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is very high in children. That’s why they can so easily learn languages and develop new abilities.
When it comes to neuroplasticity, the brain needs exercise. Neglecting your brain can lead to long term mental dullness. If you’re worrying about your brain’s flexibility, you would do well to do things like reading books, completing puzzle solving games, and keeping in contact with close friends. This could even help you fight off alzheimer’s disease some day.