QA | 3 June 2013
Our brain operates like a grid system, Neuroscientist Joseph LaDoux has suggested that our short term memory will only hold around 7 items at a time. So in order to free up memory we connect new concepts and ideas with old experiences and hard wired knowledge. We make connections that will determine our views, opinions and perceptions of new occurrences.
Have you ever been abroad and forgotten to take an electrical
adapter? I have. So what was the first thing I packed the following
week for my next trip? My adapter, of course. My past experience -
hard wired preference - influenced my future actions.
It is because of our brains functionality that we form stereotypes, but sometimes they aren't always accurate. We maintain that many of our self-constructed facts are in reality nothing more than opinion.
When I found out that I was scheduled to work in Lithuania, my brain started making connections as my actual knowledge of the country was limited. Based on the films I have watched over the years, I stereotyped the look and feel of a former Soviet state, in addition I recalled my mother's ski resort stories from Bulgaria; although they are not geographically next to each other I considered it to be Eastern Europe. So, I envisaged a grey city with poor food and accommodation. How wrong could I have been. The city I was staying in was bright and historical, with excellent cuisine. The office was extremely modern and welcoming, with people getting from desk to desk on non-motorised scooters. The team I worked with were engaging and forward thinking. The sun didn't stop shining for the week I was there.
This experience encouraged me to consider how often I stereotype? How often I am incorrect in my thoughts? What damaging effects are my past experiences having on my future perceptions ? How I often do I talk myself into feeling bad about life events that have no cause to generate such feelings? Although I am not a religious person the Buddhist mantra suggests that our lives occur one event at a time, it is us that attaches the meaning to these events.
So, for the next week I am going to try to dispel all of my negative pre-conceived ideas about people, places and events. Is this little experiment going to be a success? If not it will certainly encourage me to challenge my thinking.