In ‘What Makes Your Brain Happy’ science writer David DiSalvo attempts to explain why what our brain wants is often not what our brain needs. Why is it so hard for us to overcome addictions? And why do we insist on being right, even if we are presented with evidence to the contrary? DiSalvo points out that the theoretical mental structures our brains use to organize information, the so-called schemata, are responsible.
A schema (singular form of schemata) is like a mental map of concepts which are connected by association. “Dog” for example, goes with “Barking” and “Pet.” As these schemata develop, the parameters for what information can be added tighten. This is especially true if this new information does not ‘fit’ the schema, the brain then reacts as if threatened. In order to overcome this paradox, DiSalvo argues, we should be more aware of our biased brain. “We need to accept that none of us has absolute truth and that we all see the world through our own imperfect lens, which is what allows us to engage in fruitful dialogue, rather than vituperative attacks and counter-attacks.”