Saturday, May 8, 2010

Suppressing Depressing Thoughts

Have you ever heard the phrase: "Jangan benci Cikgu, nanti susah nak masuk ilmu ape yang dia ajar, fail exam nanti!". Here's a scientific look:

As I mentioned in one of my post, memories are stored in chain. When we learn, we can't take in only the knowledge into our memories, but also other things associated when we study the knowledge, for example, who was teaching it, the place where you study it, the book you read it in, or even the color of the writing (that's why colorful notes work better for remembering). We store a whole chain of memories instead of just the memory of the knowledge. The same is with recalling what we've learned. When we recall what we've learn, a chain of memories are brought up into consciousness. If the first time you heard about 'Napolean Bonaparte' was when teacher A taught you, recalling facts about Napolean will automatically bring up the image of teacher A who taught you about it.

Now, here's a brain fact:

"Our brains tend to repress the memories that we find depressing"

We can see this in people who survived from post-traumatic disorder. People suffer post-traumatic disorder after going through traumatic, or painful and depressing experience. Throughout the phase of the disorder, the patient is continually in a state of depression because he or she can still remember the traumatic experience. When doctors asked about the traumatic experience, the patient can recall the event in vivid details. But our brain has a defense mechanism to overcome this depression: by attempting to forget or repress the bad memories forever. After the patient is free from the disorder, we can ask the patient to recall back the memories of the traumatic experience. Surprisingly, the patient will forget most of the experience, the details become blurry, and sometimes, the patient don't remember at all! The brain was successful in repressing the bad memories.

The details of the events was forgotten because it was chained to the memory of the traumatic event, and our brains tend to repress the memories that are depressing. So, the event, along with all the details was somewhat 'erased' from our minds.
The brain hasto do this in order for us to survive. If we voluntarily keep on replaying the bad memories, our brain will fail to impliment this defense mechanism, something wrong will happen to our brains. This can lead to schizophrenia, or in common words insanity or craziness. People who chose not to forget or let go off their traumatic memories are the ones most likely to become crazy or insane.

In learning, it is hard for us to recall what we've learned when the memory of the knowledge is chained to something that we hate or find depressing. This is especially true when we hate the person that is teaching us the knowledge, or even if we hate the environment we're studying in. Firstly, when we hate the teacher, we would most probably choose not to bother what he or she says. So one thing is that less memory is stored. Secondly, even if we do listen and try to remember what the teacher says, the memory of the knowledge is chained with the memory of the teacher. Remember that we recall in chains, so we can't recall what the teacher says without recalling the memory of the teacher. Since our brains will try to repress things that we hate or find depressing, the knowledge, along with the memory of the 'hated' teacher, will be repressed and forgotten.Same goes to the environment we study in. If we find the place or school we study in is depressing, it takes a lot more effort for us to take in and recall what we've learned. Everything is chained, so if we hate one part, the brain will try to repress the whole chain of memories, including our much needed knowledge

Thursday, May 6, 2010

On Intelligence

A quick update on what I've learned recently. Lately I've been doing much reading, which left little time for writing, but don't worry, its not like I'm going to stop writing. Isn't writing with more knowledge better?

I read in the book 'On Intelligence' by Jeff Hawkins about, well, as the title suggests: Intelligence. It states that intelligence can be defined by a simple equation:

Intelligence = Memory <-> Prediction

I'm going to elaborate a little on this. Memory is everything we store in our brains. It could be our own experience, what we've heard or seen, or what we've read. Prediction is the ability to guess accurately what will happen next. In the equation above, intelligence is the interrelatednesss of memory and prediction. We predict things based on our past memories, based on what we've experienced before. Like a medical student can predict that this patient has this disease because he read somewhere in the textbook that the symptoms of this disease fits the patient. In mathematics we learn by steps until we can solve a mathematical question. The first thing we do is memorize the steps. We repeat and memorize the steps until one point where we don't have to memorize anymore and start predicting. "Oh, I've seen this equation before, and I know how I can solve this". You start predicting and automatically know what to do next and get to the answer.
We predict at every, and even in the simplest levels, and its all based on memories. An example of everyday life is predicting your friend's voice. Your brain does this predicting unconsciously so you don't realize its happening. Even before your friend starts saying anything, your brain predicts how his voice will sound like, and when he starts to speak, your brain will acknowledge the prediction. Let's say if suddenly your friend starts to talk, and what comes out is not his voice but your Uncle's voice. Now wouldn't that be weird? Your brain feels that its prediction is violated, it will become confused, and you will start paying attention to the difference.


So basically, the more you read, the more you experience, the more memory you have. Predictions are based on past memories, hence the more memories, the more predictions you can make. Now that would make you more intelligent right? Not necessarily. Reading a lot stores a lot of memories, but without the ability to predict, the memories are for nothing. Prediction is based on past memories, but not just one or two memories. Prediction is based on the combinations of memories, because nothing in this world is exactly the same as you read it in a book, or exactly the same as your past experience. The most intelligent people in the world are not the ones who remember the most, but the ones who can relate from one memory to another, and make predictions from it. In business, the market is never stable. An intelligent businessmen won't make an investment based on what happened to the market yesterday. He makes prediction of the market tomorrow, based on the market yesterday, the day before, weeks, month, even years before. He predicts a pattern, does an analysis, and invests according to the pattern.

A good doctor is not a doctor who sit in his room all day reading textbooks. A good doctor is a doctor who routinely meet different patients with the disease, note the similarities and differences between them, detects a pattern, and predicts whether the next patient has the same disease. He predicts the course of the disease, and expects what manegement to be given next if this happens, what management to give if that happens. These predictions can't be found in textbooks. The occurences of disease is different in each and every area. A disease might be common in one place but not another. So a doctor bases his predictions not only by the textbooks he reads, but also from the area and environment of the place he works in.

Do you know the mere difference between reptiles, mammals and humans? Reptiles and other non-mammals don't have a neocortex, the layer of the brain where memories are scattered and stored. So they can't remember, so, intelligence is out of the way. Mammals have neocortex, but covers a relatively smaller area than humans brains. So, they can store memories. However, their neocortex is only 3 layers, in comparisons to humans which have 6 layers of neocortex. This difference, it shows, prevents the ability of mammals to predict. Humans, having 6 layers of neocortex, is blessed with the ability to predict.

That makes us different from animals. Non-mammals don't have memories, you can teach an iguana to use a hammer for a million years and it won't even recognize that you've been its teacher for a million years. Mammals like monkeys have memories. When taught to hammer nails again and again, they will soon learn to hammer nails, but they can't predict. So all they know is that hammer is used to hammer nails. Humans are blessed with the ability to predict. We've seen and known that hammers are used to hammer nails, but we also know that it can be used for other stuffs. Like breaking open things

So basically, without memories, we are iguanas, without the ability to predict we are monkeys, and with both the ability to remember and predict, we are intelligent human beings.

Conclusively, to be intelligent, we need to gain a lot of memories, and smart to associate them into predictions. As the equation goes:

Intelligence = Memory <-> Prediction

So go read and experience a lot of things in the world, but always intelligently associate what you've learned with one thing or another. Prediction, after all is the key to success in life. Successful businessmen predicts the market, successful architects predicts the future buildings, successful fashion designer predicts the future fashion trend, successful engineers predicts the future technology...the lists goes on and on...