Book Read The idiot brain

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The idiot brain cover

This is a book I read back in 2018 and gave five stars in Goodreads. Highly recomended if you are interesting how the brain works, why the less knowldgeble persons win arguments and infuence people.

Kindle Highlights

long-term memories are based on new connections

between neurons, supported by synapses, formation of which can be spurred on by doing something like repeating specific things you want to remember.

So the short-term-memory approach of repeating something until it’s remembered isn’t essential for making new long-term memories, but it is often crucial for making sure that a specific arrangement of information is encoded.

our memories are regularly tweaked and modified to suit whatever the brain interprets as our needs (however wrong that may be). Surprisingly, memory is quite plastic (meaning flexible, malleable, not rigid) and can be altered, suppressed or misattributed in numerous ways. This is known as a memory bias.

Anything that might have a negative consequence, no matter how small or subjective, is logged as ‘worth worrying about’. And sometimes even that isn’t needed.

One of the ways the brain sorts out the important information from the unimportant is by recognising and focusing on patterns.

Learning a second (or third or fourth) language utilises crystallised intelligence. Crystallised intelligence is the knowledge you have accumulated, where fluid intelligence is how well you can use it or deal with unfamiliar things that need working out.

One quite telling fact is that fluid intelligence declines as we age; someone aged eighty will perform worse on a fluid intelligence test than he or she did aged thirty, or fifty.

Contrastingly, crystallised intelligence remains stable over a lifetime.

Someone who learns French at eighteen will still be able to speak it at eighty-five, unless they stopped using it and forgot it at nineteen. Crystallised intelligence is supported by long-term memories, which are distributed widely throughout the brain and tend to be resilient enough to withstand the ravages of time.

(intense neuronal activity tends to give off a lot of waste products such as free radicals, energetic particles that are harmful to cells).

The phenomenon of less-intelligent people being more confident has an actual scientific name: the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Dunning and Kruger argued that those with poor intelligence not only lack the intellectual abilities, they also lack the ability to recognise that they are bad at something. The

The efficiency of the brain’s processing and connections play a big part in an individual’s intelligence. but then there is also the fact that certain areas, such as the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, are bigger and have more grey matter in people of greater intelligence.

Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI), one of the most popular personality-measuring tools in the world, worth millions of dollars. The trouble is, it is not supported or approved by the scientific community. It looks rigorous and sounds proper (it too relies on scales of traits, extrovert–introvert being the most well-known one), but it’s based on untested decades-old assumptions put together by enthusiastic amateurs, working from a single source.8

People with a more confident, extroverted personality probably have a dominant left side, while for neurotic or introverted types it’s likely to be the right. But the right side’s influence doesn’t lead to anything being done about apparent threats, so they persist, causing anxiety and stress.

Feeling like a passive victim of events can be damaging; it can reduce the brain to a state of learned helplessness. People don’t feel they can change their situation, so lack the motivation to try.

It seems as if the second best way to motivate a person to do something is to leave it incomplete and

Groups will often adopt a more extreme conclusion than individual members would if alone.

So the more privileged and comfortable someone’s life is, the harder it is for them to appreciate the needs and issues of those worse off.

in extremely stressful experiences it backfires; the memory’s so vivid, and remains so vivid, that the individual keeps re-experiencing it, as if it were constantly reoccurring.

the constant apprehension and persistence of stressful occurrences causes crippling anxiety or panic attacks.

not everyone sees a [[nervous breakdown]] as a helpful thing; not everyone gets over it, and those who do often retain a sensitivity to stress and adversity that means they could more easily experience a nervous breakdown again.16

Our brains are always chattering away, thinking, musing, worrying and so on. This all produces (or is produced by) activity within the brain.