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Welcome To Your Brain

[Why you lose your car keys, but never forget how to drive]

Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang

Because for most of our species existence we've often had to react quickly to both emergencies and opportunities, your brain usually aims to give a half-assed answer in a hurry rather than a perfect answer that takes a while to work out.

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To do that it takes a lot of shortcuts and makes a lot of assumptions.

Brain continually receiving and discarding a lot of info it regards as unremarkable.

Try to quickly solve this - bat and ball together cost $11. Bat costs $10 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? The intuitive (wrong) answer is $1. Correct answer is .50 cents. Most people use QAD intuitive logic like this all the time unless they are strongly cued to think carefully.

Our brain is wired to justify what we say or do rather than re-evaluate the possibility that we might be wrong.

Urban legend "We only use 10% of our brain". A pseudo stat that no-one can figure out where it came from. In fact, we use all our brain, all day. If big chunks of it were never used, damaging them would not cause noticeable problems.

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Playing Mozart to kids achieves absolutely nothing. The only study ever done was on teenagers, and they showed a temporary (as in 15 minutes) gain in learning. The only thing proven to help is actually learning to play a musical instrument.

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Daring animals take more risks so get more food but also more likely to be eaten. Outgoing people get more dates but also have more accidents.

Conventional belief that in dating, men the aggressor, women passive. But men rarely approach a woman unless she's given a non-verbal signal to proceed. This is called solicitation behavior, and includes glancing at the man, smiling, primping (smooth hair etc). Less attractive women with high solicitation levels are approached more often than attractive ones with low solicitation levels. Researchers could predict how likely a woman was to be asked to dance simply by how frequently she glanced around the room.

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2 different styles of decision making - Maximiser and Satisfier. Maximiser spends a lot of time worrying about the differences - can't recognize an alternative that is 'good enough'. Satisfier chooses something that achieves the goal and then stops worrying about it.

Chimps, crows, parrots are good at solving problems. But there is an invertebrate - the octopus - which has a brain the size of a dollar coin but can learn, imitate and solve problems. Can teach an octopus to distinguish between a red and a blue ball for a reward. A novice in a tank beside it will learn the trick after just watching other perform it.

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'Recovered memories' polluted by repeatedly asking leading questions then rewarding the most interesting answers with attention. people in vent plausible answers/explanations when they don't recall exactly what happened ('filling in').

Autism defined by 3 features (1) lack of social reciprocity (2) disrupted verbal and non-verbal communication (3) inflexible or repetitive behavior.

Asperger's Syndrome is normal language but 1 and 2.

Autistics have no Theory of Mind - cannot imagine what others are thinking and so have trouble recognizing lies, sarcasm and mockery.

Historically people looked for someone or something to blame - birth problems, environmental problems such as innoculations, 'refrigerator mothers' - but now know genetic - twin studies etc show much higher probability.

Debate beginning of '70's in classical music community as to whether women cd play as well as men, given that orchestras were overwhelmingly male. Feminists convinced orchestra directors to have musicians audition behind a screen, so that judges cd hear the playing without seeing the player. Surprise - 20 years later half the players in top 5 US orchestras are women. In Europe blind auditions are rare, and orchestras are still largely male.

Dalai Lama asked if neuroscientists came up with artificial means (drugs or surgery or electrostimulation) of getting people to enlightenment, wd he use it? He said definitely wd, bc the time he saved getting there by meditation he cd have used to do good works.

He also said that when doctrine collides with science, it's doctrine which must give way.

Two categories of meditation - (1)stilling the mind (2) developing understanding and compassion towards others.

Suggest that animals do have a Theory of Mind - they can imagine what others are thinking. Anecdote about dog who was temporarily paralysed and had to be carried up and down stairs. Got into habit of waiting at the top or bottom to be carried, until one day owner came home early and caught dog walking down stairs by himself. The dog saw him and froze, with a "I am so busted" expression on his face.

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Temporal lobe stimulation or seizures can produce intense 'religious' experiences including feeling the presence of God or feeling that you are in heaven.

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