Saturday, October 29, 2011

your brain won’t allow you to believe the apocalypse could actually happen

io9 | You may love stories about the end of the world, but that's probably because, deep down, you don't believe it could ever happen. But that's not because you're realistic. It's actually a quirk of the human brain, recently explored by a group of neuroscientists, which prevents us from adjusting our expectations about the future — even if there's good evidence that bad things are about to happen.

A group of researchers from Germany and the UK designed a fairly complex psychological test to determine how people planned for negative events in the future. First, they asked the about the likelihood of 80 different disturbing events happening, such as contracting a fatal disease or being attacked. After they'd recorded people's responses, researchers told each subject the actual, statistical likelihood of such events happening. In some cases, people had overestimated the likelihood and in some cases they'd underestimated it.

Then, after some time had passed, the researchers asked subjects again about the likelihood of these events happening to them. Interestingly, they found that people had a much harder time adjusting their expectations if the real-world statistical likelihood was higher than what they had first guessed. They had little trouble adjusting expectations for a more favorable outcome. It was as if people were selectively remembering the likelihoods of future events — forgetting the bad odds but not the good ones.

And in fact, that's exactly what was happening. The researchers had been doing fMRIs on the people when they did these tests, and were able to see which areas of the brain became active when people remembered (or failed to remember) how likely it was that they would face a horrible calamity. In their paper, published this week in Nature Neuroscience, the researchers write:
We found that optimism was related to diminished coding of undesirable information about the future in a region of the frontal cortex (right IFG) that has been identified as being sensitive to negative estimation errors . . . this human propensity toward optimism is facilitated by the brain's failure to code errors in estimation when those call for pessimistic updates. This failure results in selective updating, which supports unrealistic optimism that is resistant to change.
Basically, human optimism is a neurological bug that prevents us from remembering undesirable information about our odds of dying or being hurt. And that's why nobody ever believes the apocalypse is going to happen to them.

There is one fascinating exception to this rule, though. As the researchers note, the only people who consistently offer accurate estimates of bad things happening to them are clinically depressed. So — perfect depression is perfect awareness?

Ultimately our neurological bugginess could serve an adaptive function, which is preventing us from becoming so depressed about the impending apocalypse that we can't get out of bed in the morning.


nanakwame said...

1) Most folks always find those who agree with their premise. And read the smart comments there about social science and physical science.
2) Changing your reference point may be an evolutionarily old strategy, but it’s also a smart one. And as any golfer can tell you, if you look carefully you can always find a worse putt.
3) You go to a site that is inundated with facebook followers, and we know what a crowd does with independent thinking process. And free will is now imho choice mechanism. 
4) I like the way they laid this out, which says the warnings are clearer now than the time of John in the NT
4)Evolution is Design out of Chaos Without the
Aid of Mind. - Sue Blackmore, meaning that vitalism is not a true science in the face of random chance, and  also predictions has never been precise.  . One of your poster btw has no children
5) Look up how many groups of people embrace Apocalypse and how many groups have committed suicide from the 1900's, how depress America is? And how fear as a group is overcome by the outstanding individuals, an evolutionary fact.
consistent thinker is a thoughtless person, because he conforms to a pattern;
he repeats phrases and thinks in a groove.

Reason is
itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts
have any relation to reality at all. I would always trust the old wives' fables
against the old maids' facts.

Chapter IV: The Ethics of Elfland, 1909

Uglyblackjohn said...

Who was tested in this survey?
Would the numbers be higher if it tested people who'd survided natural disaters, lost everything and are now homeless, or Catholics who were abused?
If ones faith is shaken would they be more likely to believe in an Apocalypse?