How our brain creates habits

The publishing house “Mann, Ivanov and Ferber” a book by Professor of the medical school of the University of California Sean young’s “Habits for life” on how to apply scientific knowledge and to change own life. “Pravmir” publishes an excerpt from the book about how our brain forms habits.

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The brain is surprisingly effective. It is designed so that people acted without thinking, and rewards for adherence to the established order. In Chapter 5 we learned that a person willingly continues to do that for him easily.

The brain works the same way — tries to simplify the task. For example, if you always something to see or hear or feel (even unconsciously), the brain will retain this information to facilitate recognition. When a person learns a new activity, the brain rewards these efforts with the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine that make you want to do it again.

Sean Young

The brain, like a car, works in two modes: manual and automatic. Manual requires concentration and effort. In automatic mode, on the contrary, the brain acts without thinking, referring to available information.

Remember how the computer stores the user name and password for access to your favorite site. Because of this you can visit the page without thinking or even concentrating on something else.

The brain is constantly looking for ways to simplify tasks and turns recurring behavior habits followed without hesitation. When habit is formed, the brain reaches homeostasis is a kind of stable equilibrium and can relax, and the habit becomes a default behavior.

The bad thing is that habits — for example, drug addiction can be very harmful, and change their sometimes incredibly difficult.

But there is good news. With the right approach to change unwanted patterns is possible, and when the habit transformirovalsya, include powerful forces that make the new behavior sustainable.

The process of creating sustainable changes in the brain can be called rooting. If the brain considers it necessary to retain the information or behavior — usually because faced with this regularly — he roots them to make it easier to remember or repeat.

For example, newborns prefer the maternal voice to the voices of other women. The fact that he was the first days in the womb, taking root in a child’s brain becomes familiar, safe and recognizable sound that brings joy.

In one study, children were given pacifiers, which in a certain position included the mother’s voice and the other a stranger. Children quickly learn to suck the pacifier thus to reproduce the voice of the mother.

When we brought our daughter home from the hospital, I have applied their knowledge to breeding her with our dog Nora Jones. I attached the player’s voice to the dog, to make it seem like it’s coming from her. Nora I gave the bone, wrapped in a baby’s nappy, so she thought, got a treat from my daughter. And soon a little melody gladly cuddled with Norah Jones, and the dog took on the role of the mother, protecting melody from unwanted guests, such as the postman.

The special relationship of the child with the mother’s voice is not only the man. Scientists have discovered that in the brain of animals before birth root certain sounds. Each of the two groups of eggs lost its musical tone. When the Chicks hatched, they reproduced these sounds. It turned out that the formed preference: hearing a familiar sound, chickens are less worried and squeaked.

But the brain tends to giperaktivnosti and does not stop. In addition to recording information about the sounds, smells and visual images, it learns and repetitive actions. If every day to go to work on the same route, the brain will encode this information, to ease the way. The farther the better to digest the route and the less you have to think about how to get to your destination. The brain uses this scheme everywhere, even when people are not aware of what he sees or does.

The secret of learning is based on repetition: recurring steps, especially if they are performed everyday in the same place at the same time, show the brain that you need to remember, to understand this behavior in order to reproduce it automatically.

Actually quite amazing how much information the brain learns in the future to save time.

Something at first glance seems useless. For example, in one study two groups of Americans were shown images of Chinese characters. Hieroglyphs flashed too fast, and people did not notice them, however, the brain was fixed. The first group of each unknown character was shown only once, and the second five times, thereby subconsciously they become more familiar.

Then participants were given pictures with the characters — like those that were shown, and new — and were asked to rate how much they like each of the characters. In the second group of familiar characters preferred more often than the first. Although people didn’t even realize that I saw these images, the brain had time to assimilate information to get to know them it’s easier. In addition, due to familiarity with them, the characters were perceived as more likable.

This effect explains why repetitive advertising subconsciously causes people to love and buy the goods: familiar — learned brain with positive associations.

More broadly, the uptake by brain of duplicate information explains human behavior and helps us to understand the reasons behind important social, political and medical problems, including discrimination, racism, political extremism and depression.

Consider, for example, racism. From birth the human brain is designed to learn familiar things. Children not only prefer the voice and face of the mother to other voices and faces, but give preference to people of their race. Although neonates is not apparent, already at the age of three months infants clearly distinguish representatives of their own racial and ethnic groups.

This psychological effect is maintained in the future, including in adulthood.

If the child constantly sees people who look like him — for example, the skin, the brain absorbs this information, and such people are perceived as their own, and to communicate with her rather than with those who look different. That’s why we are drawn to the familiar, whether it be race, religion or style clothing.

It may seem that this logic justifies racism, therefore, to avoid misinterpretation, let me clarify this issue. The very fact that racism has a psychological explanation does not mean that people inevitably become a racist.

Knowing how the brain is formed preferences, they can steer and adjust. The above research supports the need for diversity in schools and society: if people from an early age communicates with others, unlike people, he doesn’t feel close to them the risk and discomfort.

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