PRINCIPLES THAT UNDERLIE THE OPERATING SYSTEMS OF YOUR MIND.
The brain loves to explore and make sense of the world. Your brain is continually searching for new data, for new experiences. Like your dendrites and axons, it is very determined. An important consequence is that, to ensure that your brain is powered up, you need to give it as many new experiences as possible, as well as the time to make sense of them. Another practical result is that, like any explorer, your brain tends to do better when it has a map or at least knows where it is going.
The brain likes to make connections, the way that the brain learns is by making connections. Axons and dendrites link together to enable meaning and learning to flow from one neuron to another. In fact, your brain is so good at making connections that it will often try to fill in the gaps even when it is missing information. You see a cat moving along behind a fence and, although part of the cat’s body is obscured by the posts of the fence, your brain fills in the rest and thinks it is seeing a complete cat.
Or when someone tells us a half-truth or only gives us part of the information we need, our brain immediately starts to make up the missing bits. If you are trying to solve a problem, this tendency is a positive one. But if you are trying to communicate to your colleagues or family and only give part of the story, it can lead to suspicion, gossip, and unease for other people as their brains try to fill in the gaps.
The brain thrives on patterns. As neurons establish the same or similar connections with each other over time, so patterns are established. Pattern making is at the heart of your brain’s filing system, its ability to make sense of what it has learned. If you have never seen a lion, the first time one rushes at you, you may think it is some kind of horse.
Assuming you survive this ordeal, the next time one attacks you will make yourself scarce. Your brain has noticed that a creature with a tawny mane and a worrying roar is not going to be friendly. A pattern has been established. All lions appearing in the future will be “filed” in the part of the brain labeled “dangerous animals.
” Our ability to make patterns is at the heart of our civilization. We organize our communities into houses and streets and towns. We lay out road networks. We create languages and number systems. Interestingly, this is very positive attribute and can also limit our potential when the certain patterns become ingrained and we consequently become resistant to change.
The brain loves to imitate .Allied to pattern making is the brain’s capacity for imitation. Until a synaptic connection has been made there is no “knowledge,” except what we are born with. The most efficient way for connections to be established is by watching what others do and copying them. So, we learn to speak and talk when we are young by watching and listening to others. We learn many social customs by observation.
The capacity of the brain to mimic others its important. For example “Sitting next to Nellie,” as it is sometimes called, is a great way to learn. The use of role models and modeling certain behaviors at home and at work are powerful methods of passing on learning. In the workplace, coaches help to accelerate this process of intelligent imitation. In most families, much of the learning takes the form of copying other family members.
The brain does not perform well under too much stress .The most primitive functions are at the bottom of your brain, the brain stem. Your brain has evolved from the bottom upward. It is here that rapid decisions of life and death are taken, those normally referred to as “fight or flight.” If your reptilian brain and cerebellum perceive a major threat to your survival, they have to act fast.
In practice, they trigger the release of chemicals like adrenaline and which put your body into a state of heightened arousal. Either your arms and legs begin to fight your attacker or your legs start to move rapidly as you flee from the scene. When your brain is under severe stress, it can only think of survival. Blood and energy that would otherwise be available for higher-order thinking in your mammalian and learning brains are simply diverted into ensuring that you live to fight another day.
This is not the same thing as saying that all stress is bad for you. On the contrary, without the challenge on which your brain also thrives, you simply would not grow and evolve. . For effective learning to take place there needs to be a balance between high challenge and low threat. Nevertheless, few people find it easy to think about complex issues when they are staring disaster in the face