I read about some interesting studies the other day.
I was in one of Stephen Pinker’s books (I’m a big fan), and he was talking about the “cause – effect” mechanism in our brain.
I guess back in the day, when we had to chase our food instead of buy it at the store, and before we had any kind of scientific clue what was going on, Mother Nature provided us with this “cause – effect” mechanism to help us survive.
That way, once we’d come up with some basic “rules” through simple observation, we could save serious brain power later on.
Stated in language (which we hadn’t likely invented yet when these brain structures evolved) they might be expressed like “tiger means danger,” or “bring colors means flowers which means water” or “loud noise in sky means danger.”
These structures are still within our brain, as indicated by a study in Pinker’s books. They sit down a baby in front of a computer screen (before he’s learned to talk) and show him two random dots moving around.
The dots are completely independent, but based on how the baby looks and responds to them, the baby assumes they are connected. Meaning one dot is causing the movement of the other dot.
The scientists who set up this experiment know this isn’t true, but the baby thinks it is. When they shut off one dot, the baby becomes visibly frustrated, and frantically looks around for the other dot, wondering how in the heck the “effect” can still be moving around without the “cause.”
Most of us carry around hundreds, if not thousands of these “incorrect” cause and effect relationships in our head.
No college degree means I can’t ever get rich.
Being overweight means I’ll never fall in love.
No job experience means I’ll always be broke.
The great news is that any kind of “cause – effect” relationship you’ve got in your head, unless you’ve proven it repeatedly in a laboratory, is absolutely false.
And if it’s false, you can replace with something much, much better.