Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Hidden Brain

We function on autopilot.  Our brains have to take in and analyze so much that if we we had to think about everything, we'd be paralyzed.  Imagine having to think about how to walk, how to drive a car, how to act in a social situation.  In those situations, the Hidden Brain takes over, and the effects are much more consequential than we think.

Shankar Vedantam uses a series of news stories and individual narratives to illustrate studies showing how autopilot affects us on both a small and large scale.  It affects our choice of partner (and how we see ourselves in that relationship), whether we'll survive a disaster, the accuracy of a witness's identification of an alleged criminal, how access to guns increases the chance of suicide, and who we'll vote for in a presidential election.  He also explains how our hidden brains, programmed to stick to the average/normal situation, both cause discrimination and make it harder to stamp out.  That helps explain why what I thought of a critical mass of women studying computer science when I was an engineering undergrad in the late 80s/early 90s turned out to be a peak - pop culture showed almost exclusively male geeks, so 13-year-old girls in 1992 who wanted to become engineers received more, not fewer, raised eyebrows than I did in 1982, and why I Look Like an Engineer is important.

No comments:

Post a Comment