The Power of Self-explain: the Logic and the Memory

“Do you really know why you do what you do?” It sounds like an intriguing question. As you think deeper, scary thoughts might descend. But that is not what Prof. Johansson was researching on: he focuses on how certain and comfortable people feel about their thoughts and ideas they made.

It might sound weird, that of course rational people intuitively make decisions with explainable reasons behind. But the experiments Prof. Johansson has performed reveal that people do have both the ability and the tendency to “make up” explanations for the choices they have made even if the decision was not the one they had truly made. Or in other word, people’s reasoning systems, which are built on their logic, appeal to be less reliable when supporting their decisions or assertions.

In the first experiment, the research group played a magic to trick people: participants were “told/shown” the face in B picture while they at first claimed to prefer the one in A. The little magic trick deceives them so that they would indeed think they have chosen the face in B. Then the Professor asked participants to explain for their choices. With the help of control groups, the result of the research shows that people’s explanations for “fake choices” are as “real” as the those for real choices according to their emotionality, specificity, and certainty of the answers.

Since the first research might involve considerable amounts of confounds and is naturally subjective, not to mention it is only representing the emotional reactions related to simple face recognition, the group performed another research that explains more: they tried tricking people to vote for a different political party. Similarly, a trick was played to deceive people. Participants were to believe that they filled out a poll that represented against their original political inclination, and were asked to explain. The result was shocking: about 10% of the participants changed their minds at least temporarily as they made up explanations for supporting the other wing.

This research topic stands out because it involves how people reason their opinions partly through inner reinforcements. In the experiments, the participants would only be deceived if they were to believe that indeed it was themselves that made the choice. So their minds expected themselves to be able to give explanations. Plus, there must be a point between the presence of logic (that enables the reasoning) and the presence of memory (which represents participants’ original thoughts). When people interpret what they were said to believe, the logic seems to work alone as the memory part disconnect (temporarily “forget” the original belief). The contradiction is expected to confuse people, preventing them from exporting the reasoning. On the other hand, there are also cases when only the memory part of the brain functions but not the logic part, such as somniloquy(sleep-talking).

Hence, there are present moments when the logic and the memory part of the brain do not co-function at the same time, just as they are not performed synchronously.

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