Experience vs. Sense

I read Should We Buy Expensive Wine earlier today and was struck by something that seems so innocent and simple, yet can help us all understand a little more about how we use our brains. Here’s the segment of the post by Jonah Lehrer (highlights by me):


I know there are many who don’t think hard enough about how we use our brains, and once I read this (specifically about experience and sense) it clicked for me as to how we take our senses for granted in how they shape our thoughts. Senses take in the ‘real’ – what is seen, heard, etc from the outside world. The brain needs to firstly process this information, then experience comes into play to help shape what we think – in this case, cost has been shown to alter the ‘perceived’ taste of the wine.

Be careful next time you ask someone for their ‘experience’. You may get more than you bargained for! πŸ™‚

 

Changing Habits – 3rd update

As you may recall, I have been on a mission to try and change some habits, starting with a greater use of my left hand. I’ve had a few more days of catching myself doing something automatically and changing something of my behaviour to help reprogram my brain. The teeth brusing, breakfast eating and mouse usage are all coming along nicely, with my left-hand use increasing and becoming easier (teeth brushing now only feels ‘partly’ weird, as opposed to freakingly weird!)

The biggest changes I’ve had over the past few days is my reaction to things that don’t go my way. There are oftentimes (when I am deep in my thoughts) that I ‘snap’ at someone or something around the house, almost always for something trivial and small. Well, I vowed to reduce the number of ‘snapping’ incidents this week, and so far I think I’m doing OK. There are still times where my subconscious (or as Steve Levinson mentioned in the comments section of the “When Is A Habit Not A Habit?” blog post, “what we do automatically“) simply takes over and before I can catch it, the snap has occured. I know this is part of the Fight vs. Flight response governed by the amygdala, but taming this and consciously making decisions more and more can only benefit my life in lots of ways, such as:

  • Keeping me motivated to stay on my current ‘fitness’ path instead of simply doing something easy like sitting in front of a ‘screen’
  • Helping reduce the amount of stress I cause in my family (by snapping less and thinking more) – this will also help me get rid of thoughts as quickly as they come
  • Helping me make better decisions in times of crisis, bad news, unexpected news, etc.

I am sure there will be other habits I can change, and the key to this seems to be ‘attention’, more-so than time. Steve mentioned:

When it comes to changing habits, I’m convinced that attention is a far more important factor than time is.

In a way, I came to this conclusion myself a couple of days ago BUT Steve put it into words. I’ll be trying to pay more attention to these things over the coming days and letting you know how successful I am. In what ways are you attempting (& succeeding?) in changing your habits? Leave your comments and let me know πŸ™‚

Changing Habits – Days 2-4

This is an ongoing experiement to change some of my habits, initially through relying more on my left hand to perform many tasks I’d usually do with my right hand. You can catch the first part (+ some great comments) in my Changing Habits – Day 1 post.

I have not had much trouble switching to my left hand, but am having to fight the compulsion for the right hand to take control – I’m finding when I don’t focus on the task (i.e. let my mind wander onto one of the many other things I think about), the right hand creeps in like a burglar just lying in wait to steal your goodies!

My exercise in eating is not a problem, breakfast is slower now (which is a good thing as I was gobbling down my cereal too quickly), teeth brushing is still awkward, I have yet to try writing/painting with my left hand (or either foot, for that matter – refer to the comments here for more info)

One thing I can do very very well is use my knife in my left hand – because I always have! When we were growing up, my brothers and I realised that the fork was the most powerful weapon to fend off other people stealing food from your plate – you’d want to arm your strongest hand with the fork to perform the task of defence, should a stray hand wander across your plate. I will endeavour to switch this behaviour around and use my knife/fork the ‘correct’ way to help break some habits and form new neural pathways!

This long weekend will provide some non-work activities for me to continue the experiment and broaden my habit-changing experiences!

Oh and the zucchini seeds I popped into the ground are starting to sprout! πŸ™‚

Changing Habits – Day 1

Spurred on by a comment from Tim Brownson on his blog topic When is a habit not a habit, I decided to document & share my thoughts on reprogramming my brain through the focused, deliberate changing of some of my everyday ‘habits’. Notably, my efforts will initially be to use my left hand more than my right (yes, I am right-handed).

There are some things which cannot be changed due to the nature of some of our technology/society (by way of example, the throttle on a motorcycle is controlled by the right hand; for efficiency, it’s easier to use my right hand to open the car door (for those that drive on the left-hand side of the road).

I initially started a few weeks back sporadically brushing my teeth using my left hand, as awkward as it was. Then I started to think about other areas of my daily life where I could do the same task, only in a different way. Here are my findings so far:

  • Teeth Brushing – with my left hand, it seems far more awkward to go side-to-side than up & down. I can brush my teeth to my satisfaction. I am more engaged with the task and often have to consciously think which way to brush next. Everything seems automatic when I use my right hand
  • Computer Mouse usage – I had toyed with using my left hand for the mouse a month or so ago but gave up after a few mins as it was just way too awkward, and I wasn’t getting much work done – my fine motor skills had deserted my left hand and taken a holiday to the Bahamas. Today, I stuck it out and began to work more efficiently than before. For those who are interested, I have only moved my mouse to the left and kept the button assignments as-is for a normal right-hand-side mouse.
  • Getting dressed – You may not realise it but most people get dressed in the same order ever day. I now consciously stop myself and ‘switch’ around the order, most easily seen when getting into/out of a pair of pants/shorts, as well as putting on socks & shoes (sub your clothing items where appropriate). (I caught myself in a habit that I had picked up more than 15 years ago – when I had a foot injury, it was easier to get my foot into/out of pants by supporting my left leg with my right hand).
  • General observations – My right hand feels like a hanger-on. It’s awkward, not really knowing what to do. Some other things I have on my list: Any kitchen-related task (pouring milk, stirring tea, chopping, etc), Opening doors (using keys). I’m also vowing to be more positive/less negative and letting little things slide, but this is a whole other topic in itself! πŸ™‚

I’ll be trying everything in a different way for the next few days. What other things do you think I can try doing differently over the next few days?