brain

We will usually pick anecdotal stories and narrative over data and evidence

storytelling-bainLet me tell you a story. Today during lunch I did what I always do, I read an article by people who are supposed to be much smarter than I am. Surprisingly what I read explained my interactions with other people, especially when it comes to their disdain for data and preference for personal stories.

As I processed this article, I began to realize that there is a biological reason for why we prefer to believe the anecdotes our friends tell rather than cold, hard, facts. It turns out we humans are hardwired to prefer narrative.

Apparently a bunch of really smart scientist-people at Emory University did some tests and they discovered that hearing a story releases a chemical called oxytocin (don’t get excited, that’s different than oxycodone) and as it happens, this is the chemical released by breastfeeding mothers that illicits bonding.

“Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate School, found that reading simple, humanistic stories changes what is in our blood streams. Taking blood samples of subjects before and after reading a story about a father and his terminally ill son, Zak found their blood levels contained an increase of cortisol and also oxytocin after reading the story. Called the human bonding or empathy chemical, oxytocin is also released by breastfeeding mothers.” (1)

In addition, brain scans of subjects who listened to stories “showed heightened connectivity in a specific part of the brain. The left temporal cortex lit up, and not just for the period immediately following the reading assignments. The neural changes persisted for several days. This is why we sometimes say that a story was so powerful we just can’t seem to shake it.” There and a few other factors make us select narrative over data.

And thus sat and wondered whether I should just give up on charts, facts, evidence, and perhaps just start telling stories.
The end.

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Brain cancer cause mans immoral behavior, surgery “cures” his pedophilia

In 2000 a previously normal Virginia schoolteacher began having pedophiliac sexual urges, he tried seeking counseling help, but failed a Sexaholics Anonymous course.

The day before jail, he checked himself into the emergency room where they found a large brain tumor. The tumor was cut out and his urges went away, he easily passed the SA and became completely normal.

A year later the aberrant sexual urges returned, he went back to the hospital, and the doctors found a peice of the tumor was left behind/grew back. After a second surgery the man again lost all abnornal sexual urges and began to live a normal life.

Dr. Stuart C. Yudofsky, a psychiatrist at the Baylor College of Medicine who specializes in behavioral changes associated with brain disorders, also has seen the way brain tumors can bend a person’s behavior. “This tells us something about being human, doesn’t it?” Yudofsky said. If one’s actions are governed by how well the brain is working, “does it mean we have less free will than we think?” (1)

1. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2003-07-28-pedophile-tumor_x.htm 

Our brains have the capability of inventing ghosts and spirits

Our brains can trick us into “feeling the presence” of spiritual beings because of a malfunction that happens to the way our brains represent us in space. This feeling occurs in people with a mental disorders bit also in healthy individuals under extreme circumstances.

In a study scientists were able to recreate this feeling in the lab. “Some of the volunteers reported that they felt they were surrounded by ghostly presences that were touching them, with two of the twelve participants reportedly so disturbed by the feeling that they asked for the experiment to end.

“Our experiment induced the sensation of a foreign presence in the laboratory for the first time. It shows that it can arise under normal conditions, simply through conflicting sensory-motor signals,” said Professor Olaf Blanke. ” (1)

 

Lab experiements show that lower primates have an innate sense of justice and fairness

Are ideas of justice and equality only human traits? Do these rise out of a Platonic soul deep within our being? Or are these biological traits?

There is evidence that this is indeed dictated by our biology. In this experiment, two monkeys are taught a trade system, rock for food, and this trade works fine with a cucumber, until the second monkey receives a better trade (a grape) which causes the first to become upset about the injustice.

Click here to see the video (starts at 13 minute mark):