CHANGING THE WORLD ONE NEURON AT A TIME
Our brains hold the key to answering life’s most pivotal questions, yet so few of us take the time to understand the three pounds of gray matter residing within our skulls. When we encounter an issue, we often seek an external solution; however, the solution may in fact lie within ourselves. Understanding why we think the way we do, known as cognition, can help us get one step closer to solving significant issues present in our modern day society.
Any preconceived notions or prejudices we may have are known as cognitive biases.
While cognitive biases serve an adaptive purpose, they also cause us to remain trapped in our own highly subjective perspectives. Remaining fixed on a singular pattern of thinking threatens the validity of our judgements. For example, because of confirmation bias we tend to only seek and accept information that aligns with our pre-existing views. Instead of viewing a situation objectively, we view it in a way that only confirms our own beliefs. This can be problematic in scenarios such as medical diagnoses, scientific hypotheses, or policy making where an objective conclusion is necessary. Our natural cognitive biases can prevent us from opening up to new ideas, which can hinder our personal growth as human beings as well as our ability to think reasonably.
Actively confronting our convictions and recognizing our subconscious biases are crucial for us to develop our critical thinking skills. Especially in today’s digitally-driven world where oftentimes instead of originally coming to our own conclusions, we are now quick to turn to the Internet for an immediate analysis. Consequently, we end up allowing ourselves to rely on only a handful of sources we identify with to provide us all of our information and opinions. In order to challenge our cognitive biases, we must open our minds to various ways of thinking, by pursuing multidisciplinary learning approaches, forming new habits, and befriending a diverse range of people. Ultimately, this all creates novelty for the brain, sparks new connections between neurons, and changes our thinking patterns.
Due to our cognitive biases, understanding not only the way we think, but also opening ourselves up to other people’s thinking processes is all the more crucial. Learning from other’s perspectives exposes us to new approaches to solve an issue, which fosters opportunities for creative problem solving and inventive ideas. Furthermore, understanding others’ perspectives builds the foundation for developing deeper empathy and emotional intelligence, which are critical in fields such as healthcare when interacting with patients and colleagues. Contrary to our biological nature, we have to seek out the discomfort in learning ways of thinking that are different from our own. Expanding our own perspective can lead us to be better members of society, better learners, and even better innovative leaders.
Every transformation, positive interaction, or groundbreaking idea, starts with a connection in our brain. Only when we take the chance understand our cognitive processes and broaden our worldviews will we then be able to solve issues within a system or society.
Change starts with our thoughts, and before we can help people, we have to be able to understand them. By finding new approaches to thinking, we can enable our brains to find innovative solutions and can thus change the world one neural connection at a time.