Our Fast & Slow Brains

I’ve always respected my brain, but this just took it up a notch. Smart little squishy thing.

  • ZenDruid

    I’ll acknowledge the inevitable, just to mention the correlation between fundie religionist thinking and fast thinking. It seems they don’t bother with slow thinking.

    • kessy_athena

      (Sigh) You’re missing the point. *All* humans think that way, including you and me. That’s fundamentally how the human brain works. And religious fundamentalists typically have to do a good bit of “slow thinking” in order to deal with cognitive dissonance and the existence of contrary evidence and arguments. It’s our subconscious minds that do the “fast thinking,” and the subconscious always tries to fit new information into your established patterns of thinking – no matter what flavor those patterns happen to be. And we all tend to resist having to revise those patterns.

      BTW, am I just a freak, or did anyone else initially read the card used as an example in unconscious pattern fitting as “A 13 C” not “A B C”?

      • Jude

        No, I saw “A 13 C” too.

      • ZenDruid

        (sigh) Please don’t presume to tell me how I think, kessy_athena.
        As far as I’m concerned, fast thinking has some survival value in uncertain situations, but my argument is that it’s a simple reflex and does not involve higher cognition. Fundamentalists frustrate me in that they seldom appear to be able to properly pursue logical conclusions.

        • kessy_athena

          I’d never presume to tell you *what* you think. However, when it comes to *how* you think, well, don’t complain to me, complain to neuroscience. What the video was talking about was the current scientific understanding of how the human brain works. Unless you’re not human, that is talking about you. You do use fast thinking just as much as everyone else. We all do, it’s not a voluntary system. And that’s a good thing because your conscious mind would never be able to function without it.

          As for slow thinking being higher or superior to fast thinking, that’s a value judgement. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but I disagree with you. To me, the conscious and subconscious minds are simply different parts of the same whole, each with its own functions, its own strengths, and its own weaknesses. Both are essential, and both are equally as much a part of “you.”

          • ZenDruid

            Fair enough.
            I suppose my position is that ‘fast’ thinking does not qualify as thinking in terms of cortical logic processes, but is more a subconscious set of reactions modulated by the hindbrain.

            • kessy_athena

              “Fast” thinking is indeed subconscious, but I don’t think that makes it inferior. I think it’s a cultural bias that makes people tend to think of the conscious mind as the “real” mind. The conscious and the subconscious are simply different, with different functions. In terms of sheer processing power, I suspect the subconscious mind blows the conscious mind out of the water. Consider vision. Most of the time we just take it for granted, but it’s really rather amazing if you stop and think about it. The raw data arriving at the brain from the eyes is a series of nerve impulses, corresponding to the degree of activation of the rod and cone cells in your retina. It’s not dissimilar to computer data. Consider this: 001000101011111. It’s a very simple image, but how long does it take your conscious mind to process it and figure out what it is? Now remember that the human eye has about 120 million rods and 6 – 7 million cones. So your subconscious process about 250 megabits total from both of your eyes, 28 times a second. And the retina reports the degree of activation of each cell, so it’s not simple binary. And it’s in four channels. And the subconscious automatically corrects for the facts that the retina is a curved surface and the image is inverted. And it corrects for things like your blind spot. And *then* your subconscious puts all of that through pattern matching so you automatically recognize what you’re looking at and don’t have to consciously figure out that the red blob is an apple.

              A large part of what your subconscious does is processing the massive amount of raw data coming at you every moment you’re awake, correlating the data with known patterns, and accessing relevant memories. There is absolutely no way your conscious mind could possibly handle such a task. And it’s important because the end product the subconscious sends to the conscious mind can dramatically change how you perceive things. It’s kind of like the news media sorting through everything that happens to every human on the planet each day and sending you a digest of what’s relevant to you. If your subconscious isn’t doing its job well, it’s like you’re getting all your information from Fox News.

              In some ways, the subconscious is actually smarter then the conscious mind. It has access to a lot more information – all that raw data that it’s filtered is still there, and the subconscious can access it at any time. If you denigrate and ignore what the subconscious does, you are depriving yourself of access to all that data. If you respect and pay attention to your subconscious, not only can you indirectly access all that data, but you’re giving your subconscious feedback that makes it better at deciding what’s relevant to the conscious mind and what isn’t.

            • kessy_athena

              Okay, I realize I really shouldn’t be replying to my own post, but a thought just occurred to me. It’s probably not really a good comparison, but those numbers I just looked up for the human eyes means we process visual data at a rate of something around 7 Gbps. An OC-3 fiber optic backbone connection has a speed of about 150 Mbps. Smart lil squishy thing indeed. ^_^


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