The behavioral scientists have made many fantastic achievements to unscramble the complex maze of human behavior. We act from a complicated system of causes, derived from biological programming, experiential histories, and external context. These core players are the building blocks forming beliefs, desires and hopes. By understanding the basics of our complex construction, I hope we can improve our performance, integrating more love, forgiveness and fairness, while compassionately accepting personal shortcomings of judgment, dependency, and misguiding emotions. A weapon against ignorance is knowledge. We must be on a continual quest for gaining knowledge.
We advance through learning not blind allegiance, limited education, or hateful dogmas. Science masterfully shines into small hidden corners, revealing secrets; but our hopes for human progression can’t rely on scholarly geniuses. Our hope relies on the spreading of knowledge among the masses. A madman can’t ruin a great nation; but a madman supported by ignorant masses can.
“We advance through learning not blind allegiance, limited education, or hateful dogmas.”
Gaining knowledge is a process of reorganizing our brains. We gain knowledge from interactions with external and internal environments. J. Burger van Lill wrote “the human mind and self are persistently constructed and reconstructed by means of continuous interactions in a complex network of systems, which included the whole body with all receptors, senses, and the brain, existing within a complex physical and social environment” (2019).
Widening Our View
We protect ourselves not by narrowing our view to a single news network or a highly refined Google searches, but through broad exposure to many sources. Opening our minds to arguments both for and against causes and beliefs. We create a foundation for understanding by curious explorations of history.
Twitter feeds and Facebook walls are too limiting. As wise as we think we are, we are susceptible to blinding biases and dangerous dogma. We all suffer from these maladies of the mind. If we were a little more discriminating, we wouldn’t be as susceptible to the cunning influences of foreign interference.
Gaining knowledge is more than gather information. One our greatest problems is we selective choose which information to gather and which nuggets of facts to ignore. We customize our learning, oddly, to prevent learning. We seek to support what we already know rather than allowing open investigations to teach us something new, perhaps, even conflicting.
By understanding biological limitations, and the socializing power of bias, we can gain some freedom from restrictive perceptions. The influence of childhood traumas, our biological programming will always be present, coloring the world we experience; but we can acknowledge the presence of bias and examine alternate perspectives.
Knowledge and Emotions
Knowledge naturally tames emotions. Learning originally developed to support the effectiveness of emotions. Lisa Feldman Barrett, a University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, explains, “your brain is wired with a powerful conceptual system for emotion. It began purely as an information-gaining system, acquiring knowledge about your world through statistical learning” (2017, p. 110). Knowledge may assist with regulating emotions.
We Need to Continuous
We must continue to feed the machine (our brains), purposely gaining knowledge to assist in the tenuous but fascinating journey of living, recognizing the perverting of progression accomplished by exciting fears, giving life to hate and intentionally trying to limit the spread of knowledge.
We can transcend the proclivities of our biased minds by following paths that develop skills, abilities and habits. We must live with our futures, no matter who we blame. Mindfully choose to live a constructive life, building on lessons from history, and the great discoveries of the present.
Barrett, Lisa Feldman (2017). How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. Mariner Books; Illustrated edition.
van Lill, J. Burger (2019). Gaining knowledge about the complex human lifeworld. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe.