The Lying Brain: Do We Really Know Why We’re Doing What We’re Doing?

The brain is the foundation of everything we are and do.

It is the seat of our personality, responsible for our emotions and what we feel during the day; but it is also the organ that allows us to chew gum, kick a ball, go out for coffee with a friend, read a book, plan where we are going on vacation, prepare for practical work. for college, to fall in love, to choose the church to marry us, and thousands and thousands more. From the seemingly smallest and most trivial action to the most sophisticated mental processes.

To be able to do all of this, it would be logical to think that the human brain is an organ perfectly prepared to rationally and consciously process all the information that comes to us from the environment. however, the brain does not always work on the information we are consciously processingAnd there are even times when the mental processes that guide our behavior generate lies spontaneously.

Lying brains and deceptions on short circuits

The first thing we need to know to better understand why the brain doesn’t have to work with the objective information that comes to us through the senses is that the brain is divided into two large structures called cerebral hemispheres.

The left hemisphere and the right hemisphere are, in appearance, morphologically equal, as if one were the reflected image of the other. They are located on either side of the head, slightly separated by an external fissure, but connected on the inside by a thick bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum.

Left hemisphere: the rational and analytical part

The left hemisphere it is the seat of analytical understanding, numerical understanding and logical analysis. Here too is the region responsible for the language.

Right hemisphere: non-verbal and emotional information

The right hemisphere rather it deals with the processing of non-verbal and affective information in language, Such as tone of voice, rhythm and the emotional significance of what you listen to.

The corpus callosum is responsible for completing the two hemispheres

As we can see, these differences are complementary. The two hemispheres form a whole; the brain works as a unit, And it is precisely the corpus callosum that allows permanent communication and interaction between the two structures. Another fact that is not minor: the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and the right hemisphere controls the left side.

Let’s take a simple example. If we close on the right and observe the photograph of a tulip, the stimulus preferentially moves to its left hemisphere, and from there crosses the right hemisphere through the corpus callosum. In this way, our brain perceives the image in its different aspects but in an integral way. Get a deep understanding of what you are observing; we can say without a doubt that it is a tulip. We are able to describe and even remember everything we know about this flower.

But … what does this have to do with deception?

A few years ago, a group of scientists noticed a series of strange phenomena in patients with epilepsy who had recently undergone an operation known as corpus callosum removal.

Epilepsy reveals something important to us

Of course, there are different types of epilepsy and different magnitudes, most of which can be controlled with medication. But in severe cases, when the frequency and intensity of attacks are very high and all possible treatments have been exhausted, there is a last resort.

This is a surgical procedure in which the corpus callosum is severed, leaving the cerebral hemispheres permanently disconnected. Of course, this does not cure the disease, but at least it prevents the epileptic seizure that begins in one of the cerebral hemispheres from attacking the hemisphere from the front path through the corpus callosum.

But it turns out that the procedure leaves unsuspected sequelae, a series of side effects that are as strange as they are intriguing. When patients were asked why they made a particular decision and based on the hemisphere where the information was being processed, they could openly lie in their answers, and what was worse, they seemed unaware that they were.

Some examples of “ neurological lies ”

If an ordinary person is asked to perform a specific action, such as closing their eyes, and then asked why they did it, they will naturally respond that they simply obeyed the order given. But that expected, sincere and spontaneous response changed dramatically when the neuropsychologist looked at the newly operated patient and whispered the order to him in his left ear, then asked him the reasons for his behavior, but in his ear. right.

In that case, to everyone’s surprise, the patient gave the wrong answer.

“My head hurts a bit and I need to rest my eyes,” he could say quietly, with the confidence of someone who knows himself honestly and is telling the truth.

“Raise an arm,” could be ordered in his left ear. “Why did you do that?” He was then asked in his right ear. “Well, I’m a little tense and needed to stretch,” the patient replied most brutally.

What was happening?

Let’s do a review. Information gathered from one side of the body travels to the contralateral hemisphere on the opposite side. If some data enters through the left eye or ear, it travels to the right hemisphere, and then enters the rest of the brain, passing through the corpus callosum.

We also know that the tongue is a well-lateralized function, and that it is located, to a large extent, in the left hemisphere. We can say, simplifying the subject a little, that the right hemisphere of the brain is a dumb hemisphere.

If we combine these two knowledge, we have the answer to the problem.

When the hemispheres are disconnected from each other …

If the bridge connecting the two halves of the brain is dynamite, the epileptic seizure is limited to one of the hemispheres. But the same will then happen with any information that comes in through the senses.

All the instructions that the experimenter could give to the patient were trapped in the right hemisphere. In other words, this side of the brain knew the real reasons for performing the requested action, but when the patient was questioned, he could not verbalize it, because the areas of language are in the other half.

In return, the left hemisphere can speak, but ignores what is going on. He followed the individual’s behavior, because when he touched the tip of his nose or stood on one leg, both eyes were watching what he was doing, even though he couldn’t understand why.

However, and here is the surprising thing, far from humbly admitting his ignorance, accepting that he has no answer to everything he observes, the left hemisphere tries to give an explanation, Which in principle may seem reasonable, but is actually a long way from the real reasons that gave rise to the behavior.

“Why did he start to sing?” The patient was asked after giving the order to the right hemisphere.

“Suddenly this melody came to my mind,” replied the left hemisphere. Or: “I think I feel especially happy today.”

To the question: “Why is he scratching his head?”, The patient with the split cerebral hemispheres looked in astonishment at the man in the white robe who was assessing him and replied, with a certain disdain: “Because it stings me , what else? Could it be? “.

Beyond the anecdote

In light of these results, it is legitimate to think that one of the many functions of the left hemisphere is interpretation of reality. The justifications these people make for their actions are the result of the brain’s efforts to make sense of what it looks at.

The human brain has evolved to help the individual better understand and adapt to the complexity of a changing world. For this reason, one of its main functions is to interpret reality, formulate and use theories that can explain the vicissitudes that we see. exposed throughout our lives.

Sometimes these theories are true and fit well with reality, but everything seems to indicate that most of the time it is just simple speculation which is nevertheless considered valid by the personAs its acceptance helps to create certainty in a world full of mysterious phenomena. This is how the feeling of control over the uncontrollable arises.

In this way, the left hemisphere is a tireless maker of rationalizations, illusory arguments created to meet its own expectations and make this world a little more predictable. And what is valid for external stimuli, i.e. everything that enters through the sensory channels, is also valid for internal stimuli, i.e. thoughts.

Custom-made realities … or just lies

The brain collects information from the world through the five senses, but it is also true that it does not need sight or hearing to generate thoughts. And thoughts, moreover, are the raw material of mental representations, that accumulation of explanations by which we justify everything we are and do, to ourselves and to others.

We have an explanation for everything but … Is this the real explanation? Or is it just one possible interpretation among many?

Why do we buy one brand of jam and not another? Why are we going to the other Apple cafe and not the one around the corner? Why did we choose a two-door vehicle and not a four-door vehicle? Why do we love Mozart and not Beethoven? Why do we prefer Mar de las Pampas to go on vacation instead of the mountains of Cordoba? Why are we marrying Fulana and not Mengana? Why did we decide to study law and not medicine?

These are all questions that we can usually easily answer easily, but are our answers reliable?

We don’t quite know why we do what we do, And what is worse, we rule out outside influences that may have caused us to do this or that.

At other times, the exact opposite happens: we overestimate factors that are barely related, giving them weight or power that is not. This is what often happens when we undergo a certain treatment, with a certain amount of positive expectations.

Just believing that therapy will help us feel better about ourselves, lose weight, or control the anxiety that plagues us, gives us a much greater improvement that could objectively be achieved. And the more time and money invested, the more we will be convinced of the profit obtained.

in conclusion

How can we be sure, having gone through these experiences, that the explanations we go through life with are just the product of a part of our brain that is willing to think everything and obsessed with discussing what is going on?

Well, dear reader, now you know we can’t take our own beliefs and thoughts too seriously, And that includes all of those “certainties” about oneself and about others.

The history of mankind explains the disastrous consequences of being carried away by fanaticisms and seemingly incontrovertible ideas. We should always try to keep in mind that our world view, the way we see the world, is only one possible “interpretation”, but not necessarily true or the only one. To the extent that we allow ourselves to doubt and are encouraged to delve into questioning, we will slowly but inexorably approach the truth.

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