Recently, I received a variation on an old email chain letter:
TH15 M3554G3 53RV35 TO PR0V3 H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1NG TH1NG5! 1MPR3551V3 TH1NG5! 1N TH3 B3G1NN1NG 1T WA5 H4RD BUT NOW, ON TH15 LIN3 YOUR M1ND 1S R34D1NG 1T 4UT0M4T1C4LLY W1TH OUT 3V3N TH1NK1NG 4B0UT 1T, B3 PROUD! 0NLY C34RT41N P30PL3.C4N R3AD TH15.
Here’s one of the originals:
“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”
While it’s true that there was never a study at Cambridge or any other university that can be verified, the sentences are rather simple and it is another email hoax, it is amazing that our brain easily organizes the jumbled up letters. Experts argue that this is not a real test of the mind as the patterns are predictable and reorganizing the letters of a word greatly slows down our reading speed. Even so, it is still an amazing triumph of the human brain that it yearns to make sense of a topsy-turvy world and fill in any void.
Memory – We like to believe that our memory is accurate and cognitive. We think of our memories as a sequential recording rather than a collage of experiences, but the collage is more correct. Our brain despises an enigma and will go to great lengths to fill in the gaps when pieces are missing. In filling in the missing information, we are very susceptible to outside suggestions. Partially or completely false memories can be formed that are as real as actual experiences. For instance, eyewitness testimony is highly regarded by juries, but many studies have shown the vulnerability of memory especially in the presence of outside influences and long periods of time. Memory is affected by telling the story again and again. We tailor the story to our listeners and embellish for effect often so subtlety that we don’t even realize it.
Learning – If you have spent time with a three-year old, you have certainly been amazed at how human beings learn. In three short years, they become masters of their universe and expert in analyzing the actions of adults. There are many different learning styles. We all learned by the rote technique with alphabet flashcards and times tables, but we experience learning in many different ways. We explore, evaluate, conclude and revise throughout our lives. Sometimes unconstrained imagination gives us the greatest results, but other times conforming to convention works best. There are numerous models that attempt to combine our senses and intellect into a coherent basis for learning and each has merit. Most important is to be a lifelong learner. See wonder, explore and share just like a three-year old.
Perception – Perception is the brain function of understanding environment through sensory information. It is reality as what we perceive in our mind’s eye can be as real as reality. In fact, our brain makes the world stable even while being bombarded with sensory input that would otherwise confuse us. The modular structure of our brain allows our senses to feed each other without being overwhelmed which can cause a full or partial shutdown.
Self-Awareness – “I think, therefore I am” Descartes’ famous quote has become the definition of personal identity. From the beginning, philosophers have mused over the concepts of existence, self and infinity. You don’t have to be a philosopher, scholar or psychiatrist to understand self-awareness, we all experience it and observe it in our children. It is a fascinating journey that continues to delight and baffle.
My three-year old granddaughter likes it when I say the wrong word to describe something. She knows it’s a game. Each time she patiently and enthusiastically corrects me with a laugh and a smile. She doesn’t realize that she is using all of her amazing brain talents – she just thinks she’s having fun!
Share your comments or amazing brain stories and we’ll compare notes.