No, I do not intend to write about Brexit, but I am interested in the decision-making process taken before the referendum. I wanted to make an intelligent choice, but all I got was conflicting opinions from soi-disant experts. In the end, and not until the day of voting, I made the choice which I thought would most benefit my grandchildren. This was an important decision, but we all make decisions every day. How does our brain cope?
It maximises its capacity to process information, first, by recognising new information which is important and by filtering out information which is unimportant, and, secondly, by comparing the new information with patterns already in the brain. These stored patterns provide our pre-packaged judgments, responses and attitudes. For example, our recognition of the characteristics of certain types of people or useful ways of behaving in particular situations.
Some of these patterns appear to be common to human beings, and have probably developed through the needs of evolution. Others have been developed through personal experience or genes. Throughout life we continue to tailor our own individual patterns as we encounter new situations.
While the brain needs to work this way, it can generate problems. Some of the inherited patterns are no longer appropriate for modern life, and there is no guarantee that the patterns we have developed ourselves are correct or correctly applied.
Fortunately the rational human brain is able to override the patterns and check them for objective accuracy. But to do this we have to recognise that there is a pattern at work, and that we need time to think more deeply.
For example, how could our decisions concerning the opposite sex be affected by our patterns? We might start off with evolution: we inherit patterns which have developed over countless of years. Then we have a lifetime of living with the opposite sex – from our parents, our siblings, to our day-to-day observations and relationships.
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