Had that thread been posted a few months ago I would have been appalled, but not for the reasons that you are thinking, I would have been appalled at
the response of some members who took part in that thread.
We saw responses such as “she should be burnt to death using blow torches
The anger that drives people to make such a response is the very same anger that caused that woman to behead that child!
If we don’t learn how to control it, then how are we any better?
For just a few minutes I’m asking you to please put aside your anger and take in what you are about to read.
For some (myself included) long pieces of text seem daunting, it’s supposed to, we have been programmed to react in that way, fight it and read
Allow me to introduce Dr. David Eagleman.
This guy is my new hero, and I very rarely have heroes!
He has just written and directed a series of documentaries (shown on the BBC) about the way our brains work.
Why is he my new hero? Because he’s showing us how we are being manipulated, although I’m not sure that was his intention.
To know how you are being manipulated you first need to know how your brain makes decisions!
Dr Eagleman carried out some experiments. He got a group of volunteers and wired them up to a computer that can detect tiny facial movements,
movements that are so tiny we are unaware of them.
While they were wired up he showed them a series of photographs of people with many different facial expressions.
What the computers revealed!
The computers revealed that the volunteers were mirroring the expressions they saw on the screen - They were trying on the facial expressions of the
faces they saw on the screen!
This mirroring is completely automatic, and not noticed by the participant! It’s also too tiny to see and could only be picked up by the
So, what purpose does this mirroring serve?
Dr Eagleman then asked a second group of volunteers to perform the same experiment. They were similar to the first group except for one thing, the
people in this group had Botox treatment to reduce facial wrinkling.
Botox paralyses the facial muscles.
Both groups, when shown the facial images, were asked to pick a word from a list that best described the emotion shown in the image.
Those with the botox treatment showed reduced output on the computer graph, that was to be expected, but they were also greatly impaired when it came
to describing the emotion shown in the images!
Because they could not ‘try on’ the facial expression, they were less able to describe the emotion!
It seems the lack of feedback impairs their ability to read other people.
The frozen muscles of the botox people make it hard for us to read them, but it also makes it hard for them to read us because they are less able to
‘try on’ our facial expression.
And that tells us something!
When we are happy or sad, part of that feeling relies on the unconscious feedback from the muscles in our face, and our social brains take advantage
of that, so when we’re trying to understand what someone else is feeling we try on their facial expression.
This automatic mirroring is just one way in which we understand others, but the brain also has a deeper way.
When we go to the movies and we sit and watch the movie, we may laugh or flinch or even cry, yet we know it’s just an act, so why do we fall for it?
Why do we flinch or even cry?
To understand why we care about other people when they get hurt, we need to understand what is going on in our own brain when we get hurt.
Imagine someone were to stab your hand with a syringe needle! That activates a network in your brain called the Pain Matrix.
There’s no single spot in the brain where pain is processed, instead the perception of pain arises from several different areas of the brain
networking together, and this pain matrix is at the heart of the areas that we use to socially connect with other people.
So, when you watch someone else get stabbed in the hand, your pain matrix gets activated, not the parts that tell you you’ve been touched, but the
parts that get you involved in the emotional
experience of pain, in other words, watching someone else in pain, and you
being in pain,
use the same neural machinery, and that’s why we react and scream or flinch when we watch a movie, we feel the emotions that would go with the pain,
and its the basis of empathy.
To empathise with another person is to literally feel their emotional pain; you run a compelling simulation to see what it would be like if you were
in their situation.
Our capacity to do this is why stories and movies and novels are so absorbing, we can experience the agonies and ecstasies, and we can become them and
see what its like from their vantage point. You can tell yourself that the stories aren’t real, but some neurons deep in our brain can’t tell the
We can’t help but connect with other people; we are hard wired to be extremely social creatures.
A simple game of catch.
A neuroscientist created a simple experiment; she created a computer program to simulate the game of catch.
The participants thought they were playing against other people, but the game was rigged, they were playing against the computer. After a little time
the computer stopped throwing the ball to the participant, the participant was excluded from the game and the computer controlled characters only
threw the ball to each other.
The participants had been wired up to computers and it was discovered that being left out of the game activated that same pain matrix that we read
Not getting the ball might seem insignificant, but to the brain social rejection is so meaningful that it hurts!
That pain however is useful; it pushes us in the direction of bonding with others.
We all seek out alliances, we join with friends families and with colleagues, it could be which team we support, what style we go for, what our
hobbies are, we do it because it gives comfort to belong to a group!
It gives comfort to belong to a group!
That gives us a critical clue as to our success as a species.
Survival of the fittest isn’t just about individuals, it’s also about groups!
As a group we are safer, more productive and we can overcome challenges.
The drive to work in groups has helped the population thrive all across the planet.
And yet, there’s a flip side to this drive that pulls us all together!
For every ‘In Group’ there are rejected outsiders! And the consequences of that can be very dark.
How are your empathy levels when you take a good look at this poor child? Put yourself in her place!
edit on 1-3-2016 by VoidHawk because: (no reason given)