Should we be worried of Brain auto mode?
I was cycling today and in my path, I came across a group of people, my first reaction the moment I saw them was to flee (natural reflex to avoid the track). Neglecting this I continued on my path crossing them and nothing happened. They were just some random people hanging out.
After coming a bit ahead I started thinking why did my reflex be to avoid it, felt it was something deeper. To put it simply it is a reflex that has stayed with me and all of us from our forest-dwelling ancestors. A time when survival was not easy, our ancestor who decided to flee at the first sign of danger survived and passed on his/her genes than the one who was curious enough to stay, even if the possibility was 1 out of 100 that one time meant the end of that genealogy.
So in a way, all surviving humans had ancestors who decided to be more cautious than daring, this trait even after so many years has continued to stay.
That raises another question why do we still have our forest-dwelling ancestors' reflexes/reactions? To put it simply imagine watching a youtube video at the normal speed, and then the same at 2X speed. The normal speed is what all the species follow, thousand of years of trial and error, continuous mutation all in the pursuit of survival.
Well, we humans kind of skipped all of that and went ultra-speed, and the reason is 1400 grams of organ right behind our eyes, yes it's the human brain, the most complex object in the whole known universe. The brain has allowed humans to tame nature and its surrounding in a way no species ever has. Though technologically we have come this far, psychologically we couldn't do the skip or fast forward, most of our brain functions are primitive. It is a whole wide topic on how brains function on the primitive OS (operating system).
Our topic here is why my reaction to flee in a very non-hostile scenario?
If we take the cues from above the possible reasons are
- My brain was predetermining the situation as something hostile
- The best chance of survival is to flee as it increases the odds of surviving
Now the question is why this scenario in particular?
To add a more psychological perspective, the easiest way for us to navigate in a social environment is to have some predetermined homework done by our brain, for example, let's say you go to a showroom to buy a car, you meet the salesperson and you know what/how to react, the same applies for the salesperson, even though in reality you do not know the person at all, what is actually happening here is you have a predetermined image of the person influenced by the way he/she dresses, body posture, voice modulation, the environment. This applies to the salesperson as well when he/she contacts you. This makes the contact and communication easy, we do this with all the strangers we meet and interact, you can see this pass on to social media as well (now the study on the way our brain is finding means to communicate with a virtual person is still in its novelty, we are yet to uncover how our brain is changing, probably topic for another time)
Coming back to the Car showroom, imagine in the same scenario if you find the Salesperson not matching this image like a completely messy, not well-groomed, not confident in his/her pitch, your brain will go like “Alert — this is not the image I had in mind, something is amiss, let us avoid him/her”. This is what happens all the time our brain is on auto mode and would auto react to a situation which it has pre-determined. This is actually needed to avoid an OS breakdown.
Now pre-determination comes from a lot of factors like our social upbringing, our genes, our media consumption (yes even the kind of movies you watch).
Coming to why I reacted in such a way, well since my childhood I have been an introvert and often naturally used to avoid social gatherings. I was a very fearful kid (guess still am) and certain images have been imprinted in me as my definition of trouble makers (Bikes, cigarettes, loud music, body posture, group of people in a secluded area).
Now I do not say that people having these traits are troublemakers, I wanted to just highlight how easily our mind can trick and it is only when we do a deep dive and a lit bit of self-awareness that all these out of date instincts can be made visible and maybe rewrite some of those auto programs.