Ch1 L16 (why we are reluctant to think)

  1. So far, we’ve discussed that in order to survive, we need to solve problems and due to limited energy, our brain has developed minergie [1] the tendency to spend minimum energy to get things done. Thus, the fastest and least effortful solutions are prioritized.
  2. Minergie has formed our reactions in two ways: First of all, it creates habits which are quick and less effortful [2]. That’s why in different areas, we’ve developed relevant habits. If a solution is successful [3], we save then repeat it, until it turns into a habit. Then after many generations, it would be recorded as a genetic code. Secondly, emotional tags can economically [4] modulate our reactions [5]. Facing a tiger should release more stress-hormones than seeing a cockroach.
  3. In the post about habits [6], we discussed the triune brain which explained the three developmental stages of the brain. Loosely speaking, we can say that the three areas are associated with instinctive, emotional and rational reactions. It’s very important to know about the trade-off: we lose the speed to gain more accuracy. How can we define accuracy? Pragmatically, the accuracy of a solution, in a healthy system [7], can be determined by its age. The longer a solution exists, the more credible and accurate it becomes [8].


  1. So, thinking can change the hierarchy of meaning, offering more providential solutions. On paper, that sounds amazing; yet we may rarely use thinking to solve our problems. Because, thinking is a taxing job; around 20% of our daily energy is burnt by the brain, doing routine jobs [9]. It’s estimated that chess grandmasters spend about 6000-7000 calories on a tournament day, only playing chess [10] which is equivalent to the energy you need to run 60 miles [11]. Instead of using the incredible brain, what do we do? we use the solutions given to us.
  2. It’s obvious that many problems have been evolutionarily or socially solved for us. You normally don’t think about the homeostatic regulations of your body; besides, you don’t think about building a house if you are not a civil engineer, they will do it for you. So, if we see our life from this perspective, we need to solve problems mostly in a limited area.
  3. Apart from that, many general solutions or skills such as tying shoelaces, have been taught to us. So, we don’t need to think about many problems and their solutions because they have been solved for us.
  4. In fact, if we look at our life, it’s been planned out for us. We study for roughly 16 to 26 years, then we find a job followed by getting married, having kids and raising them; besides, we save money for their education, our retirement and so on. If you have any questions about anything, there are many people or institutions to answer it. So, you just need to implement their solution.
  5. That’s what Immanuel Kant [12], in his famous and enlightening article “What is enlightenment?” [13] has described as being under someone’s tutelage. What he described as the reasons for immaturity “cowardice and laziness” have been discussed in the earlier post [14]. In my opinion, many people go for the easier solution because they need to spend less energy. How often would you cook if your daily meal was provided for you, not even excellent food, but good enough to be eaten?
  6. To form independent opinions depends on the social restrictions and the cost you’d like to pay or not. If in a society punishments (in many cases shame) are severe, then many people even don’t start trying to develop their ideas. Besides, if someone’s confidence is low, so their solution would be running away from problems which may be called cowardice [15]. So, cowardice, in my opinion, is influenced by society more than genes.
  7. Another important reason that we might use other’s prescription is that we can wash our hands of responsibility. If things go wrong, we can easily point at the instructor and say that we just followed the instructions [16]. Milgram’s experiment revealed this fact that people can cruelly torture each other if they’re instructed so [17].
  8. Milgram’s experiment was conducted after WWII when the Nazi officers were being tried and many of them claimed that they’d just followed the orders. That’s the answer Hannah gave to the court when she was accused of letting many innocent people burn to death. She said that we were the guards and our duty was to keep them inside the church (that was used as a prison). [18]

Screenshot 2018-10-09 14.14.08

  1. We’re gonna continue the discussion about why we are reluctant to think.


[1] Link to the post about minergie.

[2] Link to the post about habits.

[3] You might think about negative habits. We’re gonna talk about them in the next posts and why brain considers them as successful solutions.

[4] You can find the definition of the economy as the skill to match our (unlimited) demands with (limited) supplies in the first post where we talked about minergie.

[5] Link to the emotional evaluation.

[6] Again link to the post about habits.

[7] Unhealthy or dogmatic systems are biased so they might not let more accurate solutions do exist. An ideological system is one of the best examples.

[8] We can see one of its examples in the realm of science and technology, how old theories or products are replaced by new ones.

[9] Link to the post why does the brain need so much power?

[10] Link to Professor Sapolsky’s speech about our uniqueness in which he mentions spending 6000-7000 calories on playing chess at 10:12.

[11] Link to the fact that running 1 mile burns 100 calories, so running 60 miles burns 6000 calories.

[12] Link

[13] I strongly recommend you to read the article “What is enlightenment?” which you can find in the link.

[14] Link

[15] Link to the post about fear and fight-flight response.

[16] I had a student who told me that she wanted to be an accountant. When I asked why she said that because my parents thought that I would be good at it (since she was one of my top math students). I told her you accepted to follow their advice because you’re afraid of taking responsibility for what you really wanted. Because, if you fail as an accountant, you can easily blame your parents.

[17] Link

[18] The scene and the picture is from “The Reader“. The fact that Hannah was illiterate was the main reason that she had to accept that offer to be a guard in Auschwitz.


Categories: Introduction

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