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Every decision and assessment I made was made by myself

Ok, we all know the answer. But did you notice how the answer came to you? You didn't need to tell your brain to compute the answer - "4' came automatically and subconsciously. In fact, the converse is true: even if you didn't want to, you cannot stop yourself from computing the answer

Recall what happened the last time you were first introduced to someone. In much the same way, your brain automatically tried to categorise him/her - race, gender, religion, looks, hairstyle, clothing. Your mind works in ways it finds familiar and efficient. For a surprising number of things, it does so without feeling the need to inform you. 

What's 2 + 2?

Try This!

Try This!


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Which photo do you prefer? 

I don't know who you are personally, but I'm sure most of you preferred photo B, even though both pictures are of the same person in the same pose. And there might be many different reasons: the smile looks slightly different, she looks friendlier in , her face is slightly smaller, etc. But the true reason is because the model's pupils in Photo B are 2mm more dilated than A. That's the onl difference between the 2 photos. And yet your brain manufactured a story to explain your decision. And you were convinced by your story. 


Try This!

A final example. Without any instructions, just reading this word caused your pupils to dilate and your heart rate to go up. You recoiled, just a little. Wearing a facial scanner, almost everyone will register micro changes in facial expression. You are more alert and vigilant than 5 seconds ago. And you now have a heightened awareness towards certain words: nausea, sick, smell, stink. These changes are minor, but they happened simply from reading just one word. More importantly, it is not just one reaction, but a network of associative physical and mental reactions.  This is not accidental - your brain works in a network.  

(What is creativity in brain language? How do you become more creative? Find out more here.)

In the above examples, you've seen how your brain functions sometimes (actually most of the time) subconsciously. Your brain prefers certain ways of 

Now you see me clip.
The automatic clicking to answer questions you understand
the card game - cerf
What news catches your eye. 10 minute-challenge: explaining scientific concepts vs explaining scietific concepts

These all happen automatically. 
You form n impression of someone within 100 milliseconds - this is shorer than a blink of your eyes. So it is biologically too fast to happen consciously. What happens is this impression is formed unconsciously, where you have certain mental models and you very rapidly match some behaviour or characteristic to this model (instead of evaluating the full behaviour) 
We have found a list of more than 50 cognitive biases - what are cognitive biases? Systematic tendency for us to think or believe certain things quickly and automatically - away from careful examination and evaluation. 
What can you do about this?
1) Fight the first impression. Once we have formulated this impression, we are very reluctant to change our minds. This relates to the chapter on stories

2) jump to the other side - find contradictory, concrete evidence for the opinion opposite your own.

3) train your subconscious - make it a habit. Once you are aware of subconscious bias, make it a habit to do a particular counteraction. For example, when you see someone doing something different from what you are used to, train yourself, through repeated action, to immediately perform a certain action. For example, when I find mself judging someone of a different race, i would immeditely think about how t would feel if my race was the one that was being judged.  


Our brains are programmed for survival.

Implication: Our instinct for survival kicks in when we feel threatened. For man of us, uncertainty feels threatening. We tend to prefer the safety of familiarity (doing what we have been doing) and conformity (doing what others have done)

cartoon awfulizing.jpg

"Our fears are always more numerous than our dangers"
- Seneca, Roman Philosopher

"People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty"

- Tim Ferriss, Author/Entrepreneur


Our brains are wired to think in stories.

Implication: Stories are an effective way for us to understand the world. But at times, we create stories that are not accurate, or do not exist. And we are reluctant to change the stories we have created.


"The confidence people have n their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence but of the coherence of the story the mind has managed to construct"

- Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate, Psychologist. 


Our brains prefer efficiency over accuracy

Implication: Deep, deliberate thinking is hard work, tires the brain, and takes up a lot of our body's energy. Our brains already process a tremendous amount of information every day, and where possible, chooses efficient over accurate assessment. We tend towards automatic categorisation, and are prone to bias. 


"As you think, so you become... our minds are forever jumping to conclusions, manufacturing and interpreting signs that aren't there.

Epictetus, Philosopher


We are creatures of habit. 

Implication: Doing the same thing over and over again makes it easier; conversely, doing something new is always difficult at the start. You feel this in your daily life, and it is true at the most fundamental, neurological level (each action you take begins from the interaction of neurons. Find out how they are wired here). 


The photographer Peter Funch photographed the same Manhattan corner during the morning rush hour for 10 years. He caught many repeat subjects, and realised that people lived eerily repetitive lives. Check out more of his work here.

"When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. Unless you deliberately fight a habit - unless you find new routines - the pattern will unfold automatically." 
- Charles Duhigg, author "The Power of Habit"

"If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got."

- Henry Ford

A brain wired for survival: 
A brain that avoids failure and prefers safety


Imagine if you lived 10,000 years ago. It's nightfall, and you're lying on a soft patch of grass about to fall asleep. Then you hear a rustling in the bushes.
Your mouth goes dry (as it does today when you are anxious or afraid).  Your heart-rate increases. Unconscious to you, hormones (epinephrine, testosterone) are being cued up and produced. Your eyes dilate to see better. 

You spring up from a sleepy state, ready to make a run for it. It could be a sabretooth tiger, waiting to make you dinner. 

Fear - keeping our kind alive to tell our stories today. 


Fear and anxiety are the free advisors that life bestows on you once you're born. They stick with you tirelessly through thick and thin, always eager to yell advice, so loudly that you cannot but hear it.


Fear and anxiety have played an important role in allowing the human race to survive and thrive -  it was easy for humans to die in the past. If fear had not kicked in, your ancestor would have been wounded or killed by the predator before he/she was even able to make sense of it. Fear and anxiety motivated our ancestors to run and find safer locations to live in. It kept our ancestors from something stupid like jumping across 2 cliffs with a large drop in between.  It is also fear and anxiety that yells at us when we are not well-prepared, warning us that there might be trouble ahead, keeping us humble. 


It's no surprise that biologically, humans are wired to be very good at fear and anxiety. In fact, there is a part of your brain (and quite a major part at that) specifically dedicated to fear and anxiety (together with their close cousins, anger and aggression). This part of your brain is called the amygdala, which functions as a major interchange station for trains, with priority routes to many other parts of your brain. You can read more about the workings of the amygdala, its connections with other major parts of your brain, and about the amygdala hijack - why you can be flooded with fear before your brain even recognises what is happening here. 


Superman Grounded













When you are afraid, you start going into fight or flight mode. Your body starts prioritising what is needed for immediate survival - screw routine body functions, if you don't make it past the next few moments there won't be a routine to return to. You stop digesting food. Cell repair slows or stops. You stop producing saliva, which is why your mouth goes dry when you're nervous just before making a speech or going into a difficult conversation. Your heart rate and breathing increase to ensure better blood flow. A cocktail of hormones like epinephrine and oxytocin are cued up and produced, which amplifies your body's ability to act (and remarkably, in the case of oxytocin, reminds you to seek help).
Don't be mistaken about what happens when you feel fear. Your body is readying itself to help you face what you fear in the way it knows how.

What causes us to feel fear?
1) Fear occurs to us unconsciously. Do you pause to think, hey, very angry looking snake! Maybe I should be scared. Of course not, it would be too late! Fear becomes much clearer when we examine what happens inside your brain. When you are afraid, the fear/anger/aggression/anxiety centre of your brain - the amygdalas (get used to this name, it's gonna keep popping up) lights up. And we've covered all the changes that happen in your body: your blood pressure, your hormones, your heart-rate. But remember how amygdala is like a train interchange with direct routes to different parts of your brain? There is a direct neural link between our amygdala and your pre-frontal cortex, the rational thinking part of your brain. And if we look closely enough or we think things through, sometimes we realise, argh! it's not an angry snake, it's just a prank toy that your annoying friend had thrown at you. Or if you've handled angry snakes enough times, your amygdala does not light as much. Your blood pressure and your heart rate do not increase as much, you realise what you need to do is to stay calm and slowly back away. 

Finally, notice how fear, anger, aggression, and anxiety are processed by the same part of the brain, the amygdala. This is no coincidence. These 4 emotions are closely tied to one another; aggression maybe triggered because one is nervous, angry, or fearful. Being fearful may cause one to react angrily, as a self-defense mechanism. Fear, like all our emotions, happens to us. Mostly, we can't control how it originates. But we can control how it develops by understanding what exactly is causing fear and by choosing the response that dispels it 

2) We fear what we are unconfident or uncertain about. Think back on your ancestors doing something they weren't confident or certain off - hunting a massive animal without a weapon, or eating a berry they've never seen before. Doing so would mean a very high chance of seriously harming themselves. Today, after many cycles of evolution, we have been wired based on these experiences. 

Think about it. Are you ever fearful of something you've done before, and are good? Brushing your teeth, putting on your clothes, indulging in your favourite hobby (whatever it is)? Of course not. You know you can perform these functions easily. You are confident. 

But many of us would have felt fearful and anxious the first time we ventured into something new: using a pair of chopsticks, riding a bicycle, swimming, going on a first date. We were uncertain about these functions, and we were not confident about performing them.  However, once we have demonstrated to ourselves that we are able to perform these tasks, we are no longer afraid. The same applies to more challenging tasks. Some of us struggle with: public speaking, starting a business, having a very difficult conversation with the CEO... You are uncertain and unconfident if you can succeed. But once you have proven to yourself you are able to do it, even for the more challenging tasks, you are no longer afraid. People might start off feeling scared about public speaking, but after speech 3797, you're pro The catch, of course, is that sometimes, we are too scared to start. 

Even if we were certain of something OR confident about something, many of us will still feel some amount of fear. We might be theoretically certain how we should use a pair of chopsticks, but if we have never succeeded in using them properly, we remain unconfident and will still feel nervous if we had to use them, especially when others are observing. You might also be confident about 

3) we fear what is painful. Boxer. climbing 100 flights of stairs or doing 100 burpees. But pain is not just physical but mental. Failure is painful. Being judged is painful. 

This is why you procrastinate. You either fear what you have to do bevause you don't know how to do it (you don't fear brushing your teeth for example), or you fear doing something becaue you know it will be effortful

4) we fear what we cannot control 

Learn more about your amygdala, the amygdala hijack, the thalamus, the pre-frontal cortex, and how your brain works here.


- Fear and anxiety (and anger + aggression) are always 


What has been the 


There even though the part of our brain processing fear has largely remained the same.  Instead of sabretooth tigers, today most of us live in large societies. We fear failure because if there is a chance of failure, i is something we are weak at. Did you have some fear the first time you went on the internet or the first time you drove on the road? probably. But after 100 times, you no longer fear this because we are confident of the outcome.
We fear failure because of uncertaitny. Awfulising. It is easier and nautral for you to think of why you shoudl be fearful than why you should not be fearful.

We also fear failure because of conformity. If someone else has done it before, surely they have put thought into it. What odes it mean if i went against society or what others are doing? And conforming is not always a bad thing. we follow everyone else by brushing our teeth before and after we go to sleep. There's no need for us to re-figure out a path because this works. The problem though is that sometimes we conform even if it doesnt make sense

Video 1
Asch experiment
Miligram experiemnt 
Fear is automatic. It triggers whether we like it or not.
Fear warns us about uncertainty; you don't fear walkin down the street, but you get fearful and anxious walking in a new 

For fear

Your fear is instant.
Example, gif
Example, snake/rope. Rollercoaster. 
You have an amygdala just for this

But what as you can see there is no rational bit to this
You just feel fear
What if your asssssment was wrong?
Man fear of flying

What do you actually fear?
Lack of control

Story telling 
Talk sharot example on climate change

Fear of judgement. We prefer to conform even if it doesn't make sense


Asch Experiment 

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