Mind – How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect

Mind – How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect – NYTimes.com.

There are so many ironic, sarcastic and flippant reactions you can make to this article in the New York Times. It discusses academic research in how the human brain works hard to find patterns or order in chaotic or confusing situations.

My immediate reaction was that Thai people should be exceptionally adept at this since they’re surrounded by disorder and illogicality.

The brain evolved to predict, and it does so by identifying patterns. When those patterns break down — as when a hiker stumbles across an easy chair sitting deep in the woods, as if dropped from the sky — the brain gropes for something, anything that makes sense.

It may retreat to a familiar ritual, like checking equipment. But it may also turn its attention outward, the researchers argue, and notice, say, a pattern in animal tracks that was previously hidden. The urge to find a coherent pattern makes it more likely that the brain will find one.

I do this in Thailand, trying to find explanations or order in things that may well have none.

One thing the article does not mention but which seems relevant is that the order we seek is likely to be highly determined by our native culture and background. As an observer dropped into a society that developed (in the past) independently of my Western Anglo culture I am likely to come up with explanation that try to fit Thai life into my cultural frames of reference – and often be just plain wrong.

The wrongness will show up eventually as people or situations don’t conform to my model. This produces more activity to fit an explanation to the new facts and so on.

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One Response to “Mind – How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect”

  1. BKKPhotographer Says:

    Is “illogicality” a word?

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