Saturday, August 2, 2014

Are We in Control of Our Brains? Probably Not

My brain and I have a somewhat adversarial relationship. It's not nearly as bad as when I was 16, when the principal could ask me why I ninja kicked a plate-glass window and I could honestly say I wasn't sure, but it still sometimes feels like that ball of flesh rattling around in my skull isn't on the same page as me. 

I know I'm not alone, and that the "me versus my brain" thing has long been a rather popular trope in comedy. But it still seems totally crazy, right? I mean, on a fundamental level, our brains and our consciousness are tied together, so viewing one as independent of the other would appear to be a bit absurd. But it's not as crazy as you or your brain might believe.

I've been thinking about all this brain stuff lately, not because of any terrible impulse decisions I've made recently—my brain and I seem to be in accordance on those—but in reaction to the wave of uproar that's passed through the web in the last month or two.

There have been two main reactions to emotion-based research, such Facebook's various studies or OkCupid's similar efforts. First, there's the general outrage that companies whose only product is their users would try to better engage and monetize those users. 

While the complaints are certainly valid, it is pretty curious to see people rally en masse against singular examples of corporate manipulation of emotion, when it's literally happening all around us at all times of day. But hey, as another emotion study found, anger is indeed more viral than joy.

For the rest of the story:

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