Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Hypothesis On Why People Don't Like to Think

Yes, another irregular appearance, but I'll dash on with the subject since it's interesting, and if I want to write more I've got to write more, no? I really should post reflections like these.

Now to some degree or another it's well-known that culturally we're in a very anti-intellectual period. People don't like to think. School quality is going down as are grades, people are lacking essential cognitive skills on a wide measure, and, most of concern, people by and large don't want to exert themselves mentally, choosing the path of least mental resistance instead.

But is it as simple an explanation as choosing the path of least resistance? My idea is still simple, but a little different.

I hypothesize that people don't like to mentally exert themselves these days because it literally feels good not to; that, in a low-level intellectual state, their brain actually rewards them with endorphins the less they mentally exert themselves. I don't think this is natural of humans, but rather a lasting consequence of bad epistemology.

Epistemology is the field of philosophy that studies how man obtains and validates knowledge, and on a concrete level a given epistemology is going to determine how effectively or ineffectively one learns. An invalid epistemology will stifle and paralyze the mind while a good one will aid and empower it, setting free virtually unlimited powers. Accepting without detail that schools are declining in quality, for the sake of argument, it goes without saying that schools teach in accordance to very bad epistemological methods. For instance, in my math class during senior year in high school my teacher was totally unable to attach certain math concepts to real-life applications, which made what she was teaching, in that context, literal nonsense.

As such, these bad epistemological methods make learning far harder than it needs to be or actually is, so kids, teens, and young adults walk away with the sincere complaint that they can't remember the content of their classes, and with the unfortunate resentment of learning in whole, wherever it applies. When people bearing this kind of resentment leave school they tend to leave learning altogether, not enjoying fine books, the application of their minds, or anything intellectual.

I think this results in people receiving feel-good signals from their brain when they don't exert themselves because the irrational epistemological methods they've practiced are unnecessarily intense and practically futile, wasting a lot of effort for a whole lot of nothing. On a biological level, I think the body might recognize that, through irrational schooling, the brain is frequently wasting resources by trying to build up synaptic connections and neural networks that quickly waste away soon after, and which happens over and over again throughout the schooling years.

This could be best likened to adopting an irrational exercise regiment that is severely uncomfortable, time consuming, leads to no physical benefits neither in health nor appearance, and doesn't even lead to pleasurable aftereffects. If a government agency were to force children to perform exercises like that for years then of course they wouldn't look forward to it, would hate the duration of it, and quit it as soon as it was no longer mandatory. If what they were forced to do actually dictated their whole conception of what exercise is, then they may forfeit tending to their physical fitness altogether, believing it to be an uncomfortable task that leads to little worthwhile.

I've noticed this type of feeling in my own character a few years ago while I was still "recovering," you could say, from my schooling as a fresh college dropout. It disturbed me to notice that every time I relaxed my attention my brain would release endorphins and give me this kind of feel-good ooey-gooey feeling, which blurried my eyesight, shut off my listening abilities, and generally shut off my cognitive functions. I could see that it was my brain making me feel good for relaxing its efforts, as whenever I did it while watching television I would almost always walk away with no memory of what went on in the show I supposedly just watched; I just shut my brain off and watched the dancing colors.

It disturbed me enough to do something about it, so whenever I noticed my brain releasing endorphins like that I would immediately come to and sharpen my attention, quizzing myself on character names and whatnot to ensure my brain was actually on. Eventually it got to the point where I no longer feel it, and I have to wonder if it's actually impossible for me to experience it again, as if I exerted myself to the point there is no return to that state, for whenever I relax my cognition too much I actually feel horrible; no endorphins are released. Being cognitively lax makes me miserable, moody, and negative, whereas testing my powers are what now, in opposition, releases the endorphins, and the harder I work my brain the overall more better I feel.

So could it be that a large portion of Americans enjoy the sense of not thinking because they practice irrational epistemologies that lead to little to no intellectual benefits, thereby making it so they literally feel better in shutting off their willful cognition? I'd say it's a big factor. 

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