Research – Mapping Our Irrational Brains


I have scribbles of my What If questions and Areas of interest, will scan it in and upload later.

But for now, I’m circling in the area of thinking more about the brain and how we actually behave pretty irrationally despite our best intentions. For example, people know it’s a good thing to save money for retirement and yet they don’t. Or, to pull an example from Dan Ariely’s book “Predictably Irrational“, people were easily swayed on which house or TV to buy based on whether they were able to compare it to something else as a frame of reference (e.g. you were more likely to buy the Colonial house if you’ve seen two examples of a Colonial in your house-hunt rather than just one example of a Victorian, even though that house may be just as good). Why do we do this? 

At the same time, Obama’s administration just announced they were pouring close to $100 million into brain science research, an effort dedicated to being able to map and visualize the brain in real-time. To really understand the brain, we need to understand how it works as a whole, not just at a neuronal level or in a very localized region. Maybe with this research we’ll be able to see why we can hold conflicting thoughts in our minds, or hold one set of beliefs but act in an entirely different way in another?

At the same time, despite the promises of brain mapping research to unlocking a better understanding of how the brain works and the mechanisms of diseases like Alzheimer’s, and the notions popularized in pop-psychology books LIKE “Predictably Irrational” we need to be cognizant of these types of findings paint a picture of how the brain actually works. This Scientific American article gives a good overview of the things we need to be wary of in pop-psychology, as does this one talking about the perils of jumping to conclusions with Brain Imaging (it’s behind a paywall but I have the article–the summary is helpful though).



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