You make decisions logically, don't you? Of course you do! And yet...what about those bets you made? What about when you go shopping? Are you making buying decisions based on rationality?...Or your emotions?
Neuroscientists are now discovering more about the brain and how it processes information and makes decisions. While much remains to be learned, apparently we may not be as rational and in control of our senses as we think we are.
The closer scientists look, the clearer it becomes that we are much like our animal ancestors. To understand the brain better, think of it in terms of three layers:
1. reptilian or primitive 2. dog 3. human
Three Brains in One
The reptilian brain consists of the top of the spinal cord and the base of the brain. It consists of those parts we share in common with reptiles and fish. It is responsible for many of our automatic systems for survival, such as breathing and hunger.
Wrapped around these structures is the ancient limbic system which is very similar to the brains of dogs and other mammals. It is the seat of basic emotions such as fear, aggressiveness and contentment.
And encasing these older structures is the modern cortex, the folded gray matter sets us apart from other mammals. Although many animals such as dogs and chimps have cortexes, the human cortex has grown to a huge size. It manages all sorts of things, like hearing and seeing, reasoning, abstract thinking, and our personalities.
We call the prefrontal cortex the ‘executive’ part of the brain because it considers all the input from the brain and makes decisions for goal planning and completion. Or, at least it makes decisions when we let it – when we don’t let our dog brain take over.
Stay tuned for part two on your brain and how it makes decisions: