I am trying to make sense of what was presented & briefly discussed today, and I think I need to clarify for myself, at least, what we usually term ‘Man’s intrinsic qualities’. (Thank you Zhiyao for getting me interested in looking all this up) Are prejudice / aggression / selfishness / greed (i.e. qualities that cause big problems) inherent or developed traits ? Ans : These are developed traits that stem from a single instinct : the instinct to survive So, it is possible that prejudice is not natural in itself, but because Man’s instinct to survive kicks in, Man could respond to any potential threat (for example, from a group of people we find different from us) in defensive or pre-emptively aggressive ways (such as discriminating against them) Does this imply that we are forever prone to behave this way ? Apparently not. The mind can be trained to respond differently, provided reasoning is constantly applied and positive experiences are accumulated. But do we have enough reasoning & positive experiences for us not to develop problematic traits ? And can this cognitive shift in individuals be translated to more widespread positive social changes ? Therein lie the obstacles to eliminating problems and problematic traits or attitudes. —————————————————————————– For the curious, here is a glimpse of my indulgent, serendipitous journey to my answer above : 3 parts of the brain : http://www.solhaam.org/articles/humind.html http://www.brainhealthandpuzzles.com/brain_parts_function.html
(A) Reptilian Brain / Hindbrain
Innermost in our brain is what is called the reptilian brain, its oldest and most primitive part. The reptilian brain appears to be largely unchanged by evolution and we share it with all other animals which have a backbone. This reptilian brain controls body functions required for sustaining life such as breathing and body temperature. Reptiles are cold-blooded animals which are warmed by the daylight sun and conserve energy by restricting activities when it is dark. The biological clock (controller) for their activity-rest cycle is located in the eye itself . At this level of evolution, behaviour relating to survival of the species, such as sexual behaviour, is instinctive and responses are automatic. Territory is acquired by force and defended. Might is right.
(B) (Old) Mammalian Brain / the limbic system / emotional brain
- Next to evolve from the reptilian brain was the mammalian brain. An enormous change took place as mammals evolved from reptiles, the mammalian brain containing organs :
- For the automatic control of body functions such as digestion, the fluid balance, body temperature and blood pressure (autonomic nervous system, hypothalamus).
- For filing new experiences as they happen and so creating a store of experience-based memories (hippocampus).For experience-based recognition of danger and for responding to this according to past experience. And for some conscious feelings about events (amygdala).
To this extent the mammal is more consciously aware of itself in relation to the environment. Millions of neural pathways connect the hippocampal and amygdala structures to the reptilian brain and behaviour is less rigidly controlled by instincts. It seems that feelings such as attachment, anger and fear have emerged with associated behavioural response patterns of care, fight or flight.
(C) Human Brain
The last and most advanced brain to evolve to date is called the Neocortex, neomammalian or rational brain. We share this part of our brain with other higher level mammals like the primates and dolphins, although in humans the neocortex is the largest. It takes up 2/3’s of the human brain. This is where we find the brain power to develop language, abstract thought, conciousness and imagination. Let there be no doubt, this is what grants us our status on the food chain and allows us to be human. The Neocortex is divided into two hemispheres, right and left. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa. Also the hemispheres are divided in terms of what kind of thought they process or produce. The right being more concerned with the artistic, spatial and musical. While the left is more concerned with the colder, linear, rational and verbal aspects. Located in the Neocortex are:
The Frontal Lobe
This is the most recent evolutionary addition to the brain. If the brain had a White House it would be here. It is the true center for command and control in your body. The Frontal lobe is responsible for functions such as reasoning, problem solving, judgement, impulse control. This coupled with the fact that it’s the last to develop when we are young adults, probably answers a lot of questions for many parents out there. It also manages our higher emotions such as empathy and altruism. This lobe is also involved in motor control and memory. The other parts are : The Parietal Lobe The Temporal Lobe The Occipital Lobe Broca’s Area The Corpus Callosum