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The Idiot Brain

Dean Burnett

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The brain is a tangled mess of habits, traits and outdated processes and inefficient systems. It's like an old hard drive stuffed full of programs, most of them obsolete, and with a wonky directory. Impressive but far from perfect, and those imperfections influence everything we think and do.

The brain interferes with almost everything to do with food. Blindfolded you can't tell difference bt an apple and a potato.

If you're sad or depressed, your brain interprets that as tired and rundown. And so you need energy, which you get from food, and the higher calorie the better.

Obesity inevitable when you make endless quantities of food available to a species that has evolved to take whatever food it can get whenever it is available.

Why do we sleep? Not bc we are 'tired' bc we invariably sleep same number of hours no matter what exertion day before. Instead, our sleep mediated by melatonin levels regulated by pineal gland in brain. While sleeping, the brain shuts down motor control (good idea not to use energy thrashing around in bed). But sometimes this switch doesn't work, so when it doesn't shut down you get sleepwalking, and when it doesn't switch on when you wake up, you get sleep paralysis.

Much of what the brain does is inhibiting many functions bc we can't do everything at once. But alcohol depresses that inhibition control. The brain regions that control euphoria and anger are dimmed or switched off. Higher functions are the first to go: things like social restraint, embarrassment and the little voice that usually tells you "Maybe this isn't a good idea right now."

Much of brain work to make you feel as good as possible, so tends to rearrange your own memory to do that. We have a lot of memory flaws, but a surprising number appear to be egotistical.

("The upside of this is that even if you don't fully understand this book, you'll probably remember that you did, so it all ends up the same. Good work.")

So easy to create false memories, partic if anxious or stressed. A witness might be asked "Did you see the defendant near the cheese shop during the robbery?" and then answers yes or no. But if asked "Where in the cheese shop did you see the defendant?", the Q asserts as fact that he was there. The witness may not rem seeing the defendant there, but bc a higher status person has stated the Q as fact, it causes the brain to doubt it's own records, and so adjust them to conform to the new 'facts'.

Apophenia: seeing connections in places where they actually are not. Sportsmen who had success then assoc with lucky socks or underwear, or pre-game ritual. All conspiracy theories, all superstitions, trace back to someone constructing a meaningfull connection between unrelated events. Our brains struggle with the idea that things happen just by chance. If it's just random, without a cause, ther'e nothing we can do about it, even if it's dangerous, and the thought of that is intolerable. perhaps the idea of a shadowy group of lizard people running the world is better than the alternative - that nobody is in control and/or knows what's going on.

Being intelligent isn't like being strong: a strong person is strong in every context. However, someone brilliant in one context can seem like a dunce in another. Because 'intelligence' is a constellation of both skills and knowledge. Described as 'crystallised intell' - the info you have stored in your brain - and 'fluid intell' - the ability to use that knowledge. Crystallised intell is distributed across the brain, and is resilient enough to last a lifetime. But fluid intell declines as we age.

We get confident clowns and insecure intellectuals (bc smart people are aware of the gapsin their knowledge), and we tend to belive confident people.

Wide use in business of Myers-Briggs Type Inventory for measuring personality. Problem is that it was put together by enthusiastic amateurs decades ago, working froma single study. It looks good, and is easy to understand, but it easily gamed (What would you answer if asked 'How do you get along with others?')

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